6 December 2015

Summer Read 2015-2016

I feel honoured to have The Unbroken Line selected as part of the State Library of Victoria's Summer Read. It's particularly rewarding because the books are selected by Victorian librarians and recommended to library-goers over December–February. Its wonderful to know that the book will have a home on the shelves in libraries throughout Victoria.

For more information visit the State Library of Victoria

8 October 2015

Interview with Justin Hamilton - Round 2

Justin Hamilton Can You Take This Photo Please?
I had a wonderful time catching up again with Justin Hamilton on the 207th episode(!) of his podcast Can You Take This Photo Please? The last time we spoke was when Blood Witness was released so he kindly invited me back two years later to chat about The Unbroken Line (and a great many other things as well). It's always a real pleasure to talk with Justin as his approach leads to a free flowing conversation and in depth discussion that only a podcast can allow for.

The interview can be streamed here:

Or downloaded via iTunes:

24 September 2015

Talking Crime Fiction at Richmond Library

I'll be hosting a conversation around Crime Fiction in October at Richmond Library. It should be an interesting evening for those only just interested in crime to more seasoned literary sleuths. I'll chat about my own writing experiences and about the kinds of books that push my buttons while opening up the conversation to what attracts other attendees to the genre.

Tuesday 13 October
Richmond Library 
415 Church St, Richmond

It's a free event but please register through EventBright

3 September 2015

Interview with the Melbourne University Law School

Photo: Melanie Lazarow
Much has changed at my alma mater since I studied law there around the turn of the millennium. The year after I graduated a slick new law school was opened south of campus — the sandstone replaced by a glass-fronted high-rise — the camellia bushes in the law quad no longer its centrepiece but rather a marble-floored lobby. Where once law lecturers occupied an attic, their new offices more closely resembled those of modern city firms.

My nostalgia for that time is mixed. The exams were hard, the cases often seemed impenetrable, but the ideas, the ethics and history all spoke to me. Perhaps it was inevitable that I'd write about the law and not practice it (and forcibly maintain the law schools original home in my first novel).

Undeterred, Melbourne Law School has interviewed me as an alumnus and you can now read about by my spotted history online:

31 August 2015

Abbey's Books pick The Unbroken Line

The wonderful people at Sydney's Abbey's Books have been doing a fantastic job of getting behind The Unbroken Line selecting it as one of their bookseller's picks and Books For Dad with Father's Day imminent. Here's a highlight

Harris has his heart in the right place, but his head needs some work as he is drawn to pursue matters that place him in compromising, threatening and brutal situations. These personality traits give Harris a complex character which frustrate his desire, and of those close to him, to have some semblance of a normal life while going about the necessary work for his clients.

You can read the full review by Abbey's Books bookseller Craig Kirchner and make the most of a special deal they're offering on The Unbroken Line if you order online.

23 August 2015

New print reviews

I've just caught up on some print reviews that Penguin's media clipping agency forwarded on which were a lovely surprise. Constant googling The Unbroken Line can only deliver so much and not everything is on the internet these days (which is hard to believe).

This rollicking legal story flies along at breakneck speed. Those familiar with Melbourne will also enjoy mention of the suburbs, streets and bars Hammond describes. Verdict: A ripper.
– The Daily Telegraph and Courier Mail

a racy read with well-chosen prose and an interesting plot that hooks the reader from the start
 Weekly Times

There have also been some wonderful readers responding to The Unbroken Line over on Goodreads with the book currently averaging a 4-star rating. It's always a privilege to have readers (especially ones who give good reviews online!).

24 July 2015

Catching up - book launch and other updates

The book launch for The Unbroken Line was held last Thursday 16 July. It was a wonderful evening and the support and enthusiasm for the new book was&nbsp very gratifying. After I read briefly from the first chapter, Angela Savage interviewed me on a range of topics including the challenges of a second novel, my aspirations for Will Harris as well as some of the historical and legal influences I drew on for this second outing. Angela brought some fantastic insights as a fellow crime writer and it was a real pleasure to share the stage with her. Again, as with the Blood Witness book launch, the resulting sales at Readings put The Unbroken Line on their Top 10 Best Sellers list of the week. A fantastic show of support from all those who came on the night - thank you to all.

Last Sunday the Fairfax papers interviewed meNot only was this a real thrill, it resulted in great weekend exposure in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. I really enjoyed Karen Hardy’s article as it discussed some broader aspects of the future for the Will Harris series including the TV option (more news on this down the track).

Also excellent were recent blog reviews and radio interviews with some wonderful people from community radio. With all this going on it would be fair to say that word of The Unbroken Line is absolutely getting out there. Fingers crossed for plenty of sales.

"promoted as “the Australian John Grisham”... the author is probably deserving of the comment on the cover of the book!"

"If Blood Witness breathed fresh air into an otherwise stuffy sub-genre, The Unbroken Line brought it into uncharted waters"

4 July 2015

First reviews for The Unbroken Line!

"a heady tale of local intrigue that spans contemporary Melbourne and
a grim part of Australia’s history"
– Readings

"a plot steeped in colonial history and inherited power and corruption"
– Newtown Review of Books*

"a taut and intelligent thriller that poses big questions about legality, morality, privilege and justice without sacrificing pace or suspense"
– Angela Savage

"a smart and slick page turner with enough pulp to make the whole thing a very fast paced, enjoyable read"
– The AU Review

"a well crafted and gripping legal thriller. Perfect for fans of John Grisham and Michael Connelly"
– Booked Out

"an intricate story that zips along pausing for moments where Will’s frustration at the limitations imposed by following the rules is palpable."
– Still not fussed*

*some spoilers in the review

17 June 2015

Event: In conversation with Angela Savage

As is pretty clear recently on this blog, I have a new book coming out and to celebrate it's release an event has been organised at Readings Carlton.

Angela Savage and I will be having a conversation about The Unbroken Line. With Angela being a fellow crime writer we're likely to stray into some general talk about the genre or at the very least have a showdown over Agatha Christie. I'll also be signing copies of the book which the good folk at Readings will be selling.

The details are:
Alex Hammond in conversation with Angela Savage
Thu 16 July 2015 at 6:30pm
Readings Carlton — 309 Lygon St, Carlton, Victoria, 3053

Readings have set up an event registration link which you can also use if you feel inclined.

9 June 2015

Goodreads Giveaway

If you're interested in a autographed copy of the new novel (and are a Goodreads member) follow the link below to go into the draw. Competition closes the day after The Unbroken Line is officially released at which point the good folk at Penguin will ship the winning copies from Melbourne to parts afar (as long those parts are still in Australia).

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Unbroken Line by Alex Hammond

The Unbroken Line

by Alex Hammond

Giveaway ends June 25, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

21 May 2015

The Unbroken Line - extract


It had been six weeks, almost to the day, since he'd had a drink. Remembering the last glass summoned images of that desperate night – the blade glinting under streetlights before it rose again, steaming with his blood in the winter air.

Will Harris took another sip from the champagne Eva had ordered for them.

'It must feel good to be out of that wheelchair,' Eva said, no doubt seeing the veil of memory descend across his face.

The restaurant had been Eva's idea – a date to reboot the fraught circumstances of their meeting; a balance against her holding his wounds closed until the ambulance had arrived.

'Adversity may have a way of bringing people together,' she said, 'but more often it fucks them up.'

Will nodded. 'It does. No changing the way we met,' he said. 'Just what we do from here.'

Earlier they had watched as the setting sun bathed orange light over the pale gums that grew along the banks of the Yarra. From their place above the canopy they could see the turgid water as it traced its way through the wealthy suburbs towards the darkening city and on, again, into the black inevitability of the ocean.

With the arrival of dusk a low line of bats had emerged into the air and even now, as they waited for dessert, the procession continued. 

Released June 24 2015

Pre-orders now available at:
Angus & Robertson
The Nile

E-book released June 24 2015. 

12 May 2015

The Unbroken Line book trailer

It would seem I'm fortunate to have friends in the right places – both film-makers and composers. This is the result!

Released June 24 2014. 

Pre-orders now available at
Angus & Robertson
The Nile

E-book released June 24 2015.

28 April 2015

Blurb is a lock

As we near publication the final few milestones are rattling by. Right now the final stages of proofing are drawing to a close. As well as pre-order pages going up on bookstore websites, the back cover blurb is now locked in! It's taken a bit of nutting out as there are always challenges – like outlining the premise without giving too much away – but both my editor and I are very happy with the final result:

The violence of the past casts a long shadow – a dark legacy with lethal consequences.

When defence lawyer Will Harris is attacked by masked men with a clear message to back off, he has no choice but to listen. If only he knew what they were talking about.

Under siege as his fledgling law firm struggles to get off the ground, Will agrees to defend the troubled son of a family friend. But the case is far from clear-cut, and the ethical boundaries murky. Instead of clawing his way out of trouble, Will finds he's sinking ever deeper.

At the same time, his search for his attackers unearths an unexpected source that points him towards Melbourne's corridors of power. But motives, let alone proofs, are hard to find. It is only when those close to him are threatened that Will realises how near he is to the deadly truth.

Gripping, sophisticated and strikingly atmospheric, The Unbroken Line creates a remarkable portrait of power, revenge and corruption, rooted in a vivid and unmistakably Australian setting.

Praise for Blood Witness

'A slick, fast-paced legal thriller set in Melbourne but with a genuine international flavour and with enough twists to surprise even the most avid fans of the genre.' - West Australian

'Fast-paced and gripping.' - Courier-Mail

'An entertaining and interesting thriller and a great start to a new Australian crime series with lots of potential.' - Book'd Out

Released 24 June 2015.

Pre-order now

Find out more at Penguin Books.

13 February 2015

Cover reveal – The Unbroken Line

I'm excited to be able to reveal the cover for The Unbroken Line the new Will Harris novel.

I love Adam Laszczuk's design for this cover. It captures the menacing urban environment through which Will Harris walks. There's a sense of the legal institutions that Will comes up against and the long shadows they cast. Astute observers will note the columns' shadows break the 'Unbroken Line' of the title, a hint of the infractions to come. It's striking, evocative stuff.

More info can be found at Penguin's official page for the novel including its publication date of 24 June 2015.

2 February 2015

The year ahead

2014 was a busy writing year with a number of projects on the boil most of which are starting to come to fruition. In no particular order they are:

Blood Witness TV option
That’s right! Blood Witness has been optioned to be turned into a TV series. Very exciting times, and still a ways to go before it arrives on the small screen, but I’m very much looking forward to this process. I wrote a spec pilot based on the novel and had the good fortune to pick up a producer who is a big fan of the book. We’ve already workshopped the screenplay, a very rewarding experience, and are looking in the first half of this year to find an interested network. Watch this space for updates as I get them.

The Unbroken Line (Will Harris #2)
Hawk’s Covenant has been retitled as the very stylish The Unbroken Line – a title that ties in wonderfully with the plot and themes of the novel. I’ve just completed its redraft in preparation for a July release this year. I’m very happy with the state of this book – it’s more ambitious than Blood Witness while still exploring the central theme of law vs justice.

I’ve also seen the provisional cover and can say that it’s fantastic. Adam Laszczuk has done an amazing job on the design and as soon as the final cover can be released I will throw it up on the website. Expect ominous shadows and grey urban dread – perfect for a Melbourne-based crime novel.

Will Harris #3
Just before Christmas, I finished the draft one of the third book in the Will Harris series (no title as yet). I’ve found that each successive book gets harder in terms of my own self-criticism and what I’m willing to accept for my characters, plot and writing. Dorothy Parker really did nail it when she said ‘I hate writing, I love having written’. ‘Hate’ is perhaps too strong a word for my experience – there are still those days when the whole thing sings – but I do miss the naiveté of my first writing attempts when everything I put down felt like solid gold (it wasn’t, of course).

I’ve also recently completed a film screenplay and two treatments that are currently doing the rounds (via my agent) to producers. Again these are exciting, if nerve-wracking times, but so far the feedback has been good. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, they’re all crime stories and I’m enjoying playing with the expectations and boundaries of the genre.

28 January 2015

eBook discount

Blood Witness is currently discounted for Australian eBook readers as part of Apple's (very flattering) Rising Stars of Australian Fiction: http://ow.ly/HTb7D

Images of book covers

12 August 2014

Ned Kelly Award nomination for Blood Witness

Ned Kelly Award logo
Last Saturday as I sat anxiously waiting for the 2014 Ned Kelly Awards for Australian crime writing to come in I received an anonymous email. Not unlike something out of a crime novel it showed only the sender's mobile number, had no subject and only included a text attachment.

Opening it up it read simply "Congrats on your short listing for Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel!"

Frankly, I wouldn't have wanted to find out about the nomination any other way! There's something to be said for a bit of theatrical mystery when receiving fantastic news.

They mystery was quickly solved with a few exchanges over Twitter. Turns out it was fellow crime writer and 2014 nominee for Best Crime Novel, Angela Savage who was there on the ground at the Bendigo Writers' Festival filing reports to all the nominees who couldn't make it. (Thanks Angela!)

I couldn't be happier with the nomination. It's this sort of recognition that makes a real difference to the solitary life of a writer, particularly when it comes around to gathering media and reader interest in subsequent books. It's also very legitimising when staring down the disillusion that comes with commencing each new novel.

The judges described Blood Witness as "original and tightly written" — which is quite the accolade. It's also wonderful to have been nominated among such excellent company: Peter Cotton for Dead Cat Bounce,  Candice Fox for Hades and Ellie Marney for Every Breath.

The full short list is available on the Australian Crime Writers Association's website.

The winners will be announced at the Brisbane Writers' Festival on Saturday 6 September — you bet I'll be attending!

3 June 2014

Casey Winter Arts Festival and Wodonga Literary Supper

What better way to spend a night in from the cold than talking about crime fiction? I have two June events coming up as detailed below. If you’re in the area drop by! Both events are free and full of interesting stories and lively discussion.

7pm Monday 16 June
Casey Cardinia Library
McMahon Boulevard,
Endeavour Hills, VIC, 3802
Ph: 03 9700 7177
Further information

6.30pm Thursday 26 June
Wodonga Library
126 Hovel Street,
Wodonga, VIC, 3690
Ph: (02) 6022 9300
Further information

8 May 2014

Commercial Fiction Workshop at the Emerging Writers' Festival

I'm excited to be invited back to the EWF this year to present a workshop on writing commercial fiction.

Titled To Market, To Market: Commercial Fiction with Alex Hammond I will be working through my own experiences with commercial publishing and the tips and techniques I have learned along the way.

I'm planning on running the workshop with lots of discussion around three key areas:
- Before you write: thinking about the target audience, doing your homework, originating ideas
- While you write: a toolbox of (hopefully) helpful considerations around narrative and character
- Getting your manuscript into the right hands: a few insights around approaching publishers

When talking about "commercial fiction" I'll be using the traditional (if problematic) literary/commercial split — that commercial fiction is more strongly geared to narrative (although I maintain character is just as important in commercial as it is in literary fiction). Also, although there are some exceptions, genre writing falls into the commercial camp (crime, romance, speculative fiction, horror, etc). I'll touch on this briefly at the start the session when looking in to target audience and marketing expectations —something I feel is critical to be aware of before you start writing.

It should be an interesting and lively hour and a half. I'm looking forward to it.

Event details are: 
6.30pm Thursday 29 May
The Wheeler Centre, 176 Little Lonsdale St
Bookings are open now

17 April 2014

A couple more appearances

As part of the State Library's High Road to Reading promotion I'll be appearing at the following for an author's talk and book signing:

11am Saturday 10 May 
Kilmore Library 
12 Sydney St, Kilmore
Free Event
Ph: 03 5782 1322

6pm Tuesday 20 May 
Yarraville Library 
32 Wembley Ave, Yarraville 
Free Event
Ph: 03 9688 0294

1 March 2014

State Library Summer Read Recap

I had a great time reading from Blood Witness at the State Library of Victoria. The weather was excellent as were the conversations I had with people during the day. I particularly enjoyed the set up with its book crates, A-frames and beanbags – it really utilised the lawns in front of the library in an interesting and attention grabbing way.

6 February 2014

Summer Read on the SLV lawn

Image by Diliff
I'll be speaking, well reading, at another event for the SLV Summer Read — this time it's out on the State Library forecourt. I promise an exciting excerpt and perhaps a little, light characterisation — if you've ever wanted to hear what I think Will Harris and Chris Miller sound like then here's your opportunity.

Time: 12.10pm and 1.10pm
Date: Wednesday 19 February
Location: State Library forecourt, 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Free event

I'll be reading from the novel for about 20 minutes and will be available for signings and to chat after. Copies of the novel (and all other 9 Summer Read books) are available through Readings State Library.

Further information about the event is available on from the State Library of Victoria.

19 January 2014

East Gippsland Library visits

As part of the SLV Summer Read program I'll be heading out on the road to speak at libraries across East Gippsland. This whirlwind tour includes 4 libraries over two days and I'm looking forward to the road trip through a part of Victoria that I haven't been to in a very long time. Podcasts, music and audio books are lined up and ready to go!

I am also looking forward to meeting people and discussing my background in the law and how I came to write Blood Witnesses as well as the challenges of writing contemporary crime fiction. There will be the opportunity for a Q&A as well as sales and signing of the book.

Details are as follows:

2pm, Tuesday 4 February – Paynesville Library

6pm, Tuesday 4 February – Bairnsdale Library

11am, Wednesday 5 February – Orbost Library

3pm, Wednesday 5 February – Lakes Entrance Library

18 December 2013

Ending the year on a high – selection for the SLV Summer Read

Very exciting news today with the announcement that Blood Witness is part of the State Library of Victoria's Summer Read for 2014. The annual program sees ten judges select ten books that are either written by a Victorian, are set in Victoria or are about Victorians. It's a very diverse mix this year and it's wonderful to share the list with Stephen Carroll, Andrea Goldsmith, Alexis Wright and Anna Krien.

One of the great things about the Summer Read is that its focus is on Victorian libraries which participate through running book clubs and other events. To this end over 200 copies have been distributed throughout the state to both metro and regional libraries. Even better, it looks like I will have the opportunity to meet many library users throughout the first half of next year at a few speaking events. As these come up I'll be sure to list them on the blog. Hopefully I'll make it to a few of these book clubs and hear first hand what people think of the novel.

Another excellent surprise was learning that Blood Witness has made the Emerging Writers Festival Christmas Wish List for 2013. I really enjoyed my time at the festival and am looking forward to attending in 2014. Again, a privilege to share the list with so many other writers so many of them also debuting.

8 October 2013

Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch

I found Herman Koch's The Dinner highly engaging almost until the very end of the novel. Which was where the trouble started. But I'll get to that. The premise is immediately digestible – the parents of two boys meet over a five-course restaurant dinner to discuss a terrible crime their sons have committed. It came as no surprise that Christos Tsiolkas of The Slap fame provided the cover quote on the Australian edition. His novel had an equally engaging set up and dealt with the unchecked secrets within a family and the damage they inflict.

However, that is where the comparisons end. Where Tsiolkas's novel is essentially social realism (with occasional notes of melodrama), Koch is writing what initially appears a satirical piece. His background as a playwright is also evident in his using one location and a small cast of characters.

Where things start go awry is Koch's unsubtle efforts to conceal the crime from the reader. It's a testament to his skill as a writer that the book is engaging even though Paul, the first person narrator, actively withholds information. And it's the promise of discovering this crime (and a very dry sense of humour) that keeps the narrative moving along.

Alas, once things are out in the open, despite best efforts, the final third of the novel doesn't hold up. The humour falls away, Paul's motivations are exposed as being those of a borderline sociopath and the satirical promise of broader social commentary evaporates into a strange kind of a-political libertarianism. Ultimately The Dinner is missing a consistent or evolving approach to its over-aching social analysis, something that Tsiolkas and Michelle Hollebecque, a writer who also deals with curmudgeonly apolitical-ness, do much better.

None of this is to say that I didn't enjoy The Dinner. I read it in two days, but I ultimately felt as though my expectations were raised but never fully satisfied.

3 October 2013

Releasing the Hawk

Image by ayngelina
This week I turned in my second novel, Hawk's Covenant, to my editor. There was a celebration involving a vodka trolley, but I've never been able to loiter in the here and now.

And so begins the mildly nerve-wracking process of waiting to hear back from my editor. I don't think it’s possible to be a writer and not care what people think of your work. It's the whole point of writing in the first place – intriguing readers, telling good stories, writing engaging non-fiction. If you didn't care, you're unlikely to want to be published. It's anathema to the process. Bothering is what it's all about.

Hawk's Covenant is also the first sequel I've ever written. I've documented some of the challenges previously. And no doubt I'll probably write more about it as I grapple with the unique challenges the ongoing series presents. More recently I've been thinking beyond the logistics of getting the narrative balance right – how much to reveal from the previous book, how much to conceal. I've been occupied more with the more ephemeral elements of the follow up such as tone and metre and how much the language series should evolve, how much it should remain consistent. No one wants a duplicate of the previous book, but keeping some of the expectations of the readers is important and series needs to feel as such, an ongoing story particularly I think when it comes to style.

But for now I wait, I catch up on reading, I make notes for book three. There's always something more to do, something new to commence — no loitering.

26 September 2013

Blood Witness eBook discount

Until Tuesday 2 October the Blood Witness eBook is only $4.99. The promotion been getting some great coverage on Google Play and iTunes and is available across all platforms. 

Here are some direct links for those keen to add a the tale of two-fisted lawyer torn between following the law and seeking justice to their handheld, electronic reading device:
Amazon UK
Google Play
JB Hi-Fi

12 September 2013

Where TV's Broadchurch Hits and Misses

It's not that I didn't like Broadchurch. It was engaging, had a fantastic setting and the performances were great. That said, I didn't feel as though it achieved its full potential as a crime series and was in some ways compromised by its desire to achieve the widest possible audience. I'll do my best to articulate this while remaining spoiler free.

I paid for an iTunes subscription to season one but I only got around to watching the first season when it was available in its entirety. This resulted in my watching the entire thing in a mad glut, covering all eight episodes in the space of a week. While a viewing frenzy is absolutely my preferred way of watching a series, it does bring with it a heightened awareness of the narrative flow. With no intervening weeks to break up each episode I may be a bit more critical than had I had to wait week to week. That said, I do think a series should hold up uninterrupted.

Broadchurch both cleverly and frustratingly covered a wide base. It was just gritty enough to appeal to viewers of darker crime shows like LutherWire In The Blood and Prime Suspect while retaining a degree of cosy and unthreatening small town series like Inspector Morse and Midsomer Murders. While this broad appeal was very successful making the series a hit it did feel as though it was pulling its punches, and ultimately suffered for it as a result. Although described as 'the British The Killing'  the series lacked the hard, emotional edge of its Danish cousin. It was also missing a degree of complexity relying only its exploration of the story of the family of the victim (very The Killing) to fill out what was ultimately a fairly standard whodunnit. A second plot line, the time spent early on a possible second thread about journalists, never really bares fruit. Had the media frenzy around the murder been done properly it would have made the primary events of the police investigation feel more pressing, more urgent. 

These central criticism aside, there were many excellent flourishes throughout the series. The deliberate juxtaposition of the bright, sea-side town as the setting for a dark(ish) crime story was ripe with possibility and well exploited. So too was the central tension between the two police detectives — the grizzled outsider who steals the promotion of the chirpy local cop. All great stuff and good pointers on how to re-mix the familiar into an interesting crime story. 

Despite its flaws Broadchurch is watchable, and perhaps even more interesting as a lesson in what to do and what not to do in making a crime story feel fresh and exciting.

10 September 2013

Interview with Justin Hamilton

I was fortunate enough to be invited by Justin Hamilton to chat about my writing process on his podcast Can You Take This Photo Please?.

Usually Justin talks to other comedians about their creative process, careers and insights into the industry but he said he was keen to mix things up bit. So his listeners got me, discussing the publishing and editorial process, the writing of Blood Witness and the finer points of Miller's Crossing.

It was a great to chat to Justin who was very hospitable and easy going interviewer. The whole thing felt more like a casual chat than a scripted interview and it was great to talk in detail with someone who had read the novel so closely.



24 August 2013

Selling Your Book in the Digital Age

In just under a month I'll be talking a NSW Writers' Centre event – Open Access: Selling Your Book in the Digital Age. Interstate travel! This has me feeling very jet set.

The day-long symposium is on Saturday 21 September and focuses on the specifics of how writers go about promoting themselves in the ever shifting landscape of publishing.

My session is from 11am to 12pm (although the entire symposium runs from 10am–4pm). I will be speaking on The Author as PR Machine - specifically my role in the publicity and promotion of Blood Witness.

Other authors at my session include David Henley, Brendan Shanahan and Allison Tait. Other sessions include how to improve your sales, publicity campaign case studies, identifying target audiences... Looks like a comprehensive and practical program. I'll definitely try and attend as many sessions as possible myself.

Date: Saturday 21 September, 10am – 4pm
Cost: Full Price: $90; Member: $65; Conc Member: $55

12 August 2013

More coverage from around the country

I was really chuffed with this wonderful radio review from local Devonport bookseller Tim Gott down in Tasmania. I still find it surprising to think that the novel is out there in the wild around the country and unsolicited reviews like this one are genuinely exciting.

I was also thrilled to see that my interview with May-Lou Stephens from the ABC in Queensland has been placed up on their website. Mary-Lou was fantastic to talk to and showed a real insight into the novel. I really relished the opportunity to talk with her.

2 August 2013

On the radio, at the library

Over the last few weeks I had the opportunity to talk to a number of radio hosts across the country as part of the Blood Witness promotions. What surprised me was the depth of reposes to the novel — no one interview was the same — with questions ranging from specific plot points to larger thematic conceits.

3MDR 97.1 FM The Good Life - 15 July 2013
(At the 1:24:30 mark)

3CR 855 AM Published...Or Not - 30 July 2013
(First up in their latest episode)

Left to right: Angela Savage, Nick Place, Peter Cotton and myself
Meanwhile, on Tuesday 30 August I appeared as part of the Night of Crime and Mystery panel as part of a Yarra Libraries event in the Fitzroy Town Hall. Angela Savage hosted and myself, Peter Cotton and Nick Place spoke as debut crime writers. There was a fantastic turn out with the discussion ranging from what makes a good crime novel, where the inspiration for our characters came from, the impact of social media on crime reporting and the recent J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith affair. Thanks to both Claire and Lorraine from Yarra Libraries for running the event and to the Brunswick Street Bookstore for selling copies of our novels on the night.

25 July 2013

Launching the book

Last week a lovely crowd of friends and well-wishers came along to Readings Carlton to help launch Blood Witness. The evening was hosted by Alan Brough and went fantastically well. Alan was a wonderful interviewer, his questions were both wry and insightful and we covered a range of topics such as:

-  my shock as a child when I read William Golding's Lord of the Flies and discovered it was not the boy's own adventure story I thought it would be

- Melbourne being a perfect setting for a crime novel as its the kind of city that can only really be explored at street level

- the bane of the contemporary thriller writer being the mobile phone which puts characters in constant, easy contact with one another

Thanks to all those who came along and for making the evening a success. It was great to see so many familiar faces and I felt that we managed to give the book a deserving send off. It's now formally launched and out there in the wild.

(All photos by the ever-amiable Angelica East)

22 July 2013

A Night of Crime and Mystery

The publicity campaign for Blood Witness is keeping me busy and has been a great learning experience. It's had a lot of firsts - first radio interview, first press interview, first time in a recording studio and of course the first reviews.

With all the activity I almost forgot to post about my next speaking engagement:

A Night of Crime and Mystery

Angela Savage (book out now!) will be hosting a discussion of the essential elements of a good crime novel with three debut, Melbourne crime writers – Peter Cotton, Nick Place and myself.

Date: Tuesday 30 July
Time: 7pm
Location: The Reading Room, Fitzroy Town Hall, 201 Napier Street
Bookings are essential

Everyone's books will be on sale and there will time set aside for signings after we wrap up on stage.

It looks to be an excellent evening.

For more info: Facebook event listing

13 June 2013

Blood Witness Book Launch

The lovely Alan Brough has kindly agreed to host the launch of Blood Witness at Readings in Carlton.

The launch marks the culmination of all the work that has gone into the novel. It's very gratifying to have it published and exciting to finally send the book out into the world. The specifics are as follows:

Date: Tuesday 16 July 
Time: 6.30pm
Location: Readings Carlton, 309 Lygon St
Free event

Alan will introduce the book and conduct a short interview. I will also read a brief extract from the novel. Drinks will be provided and of course I'll be happy to sign copies of the novel.

If you feel disposed you can always mark your intention to attend via the event's Facebook page (it will help give Readings a sense of numbers for the night):


28 May 2013

Finding Genre Presentation from the Emerging Writers' Festival

The story of how I found my genre is interwoven with the story of how I came to be published. Blood Witness, my first published novel, is the fifth I’ve written. And it’s taken me up to this fifth book to begin to refine my work to the conceits and expectations of the thriller genre, more broadly, and crime, specifically. My story is less one of trying a range of genres than one of honing in on what publishers look for in a commercial thriller. For me, my genre is as much a commercial consideration as it is a passion.

So why thrillers?

I was asked this question recently and found it surprising that I struggled to articulate a response. It’s not a case of thrillers being the genre that I read the most. I am as passionate about literary fiction and speculative fiction as I am about  crime or thrillers. I think it is more because I am drawn to strong narratives and intricate plotting. This is not unique to the thriller but it is certainly a key requirement. No one ever speaks of thrillers as meandering, pensive or abstract. For me, the thriller is as much about writing style as it is about genre. If I were to turn my hand to the other genres I am drawn to – historical or speculative fiction – these would follow the form of a thriller.

The first three books I wrote had thriller elements within them but were to varying degrees naïve or wilfully ignorant of the expectations of publishers. These early books tried to be cross-genre pieces with a foot in both the literary and commercial camp. They had slight gothic fiction elements, were heavy on delving into research and history and spent equal time on plot, character and setting. Not necessarily bad as an end goal, but when starting out they worked against me. Being published is about building a relationship of trust and the author makes that first offering — ‘trust me I know what I’m doing.’

I was fortunate that my fourth book captured the interest of Penguin. They didn’t offer me a contract straight away, rather we had a few discussions about how to improve the text and what to do to make it more finely honed as a thriller. Ultimately, it didn’t lead to a contract but this was a vital experience in developing my genre.

Most critically it lead me to change my tack. I stopped being a believer in the adage “write what you feel most passionate about”. My goal was always to be published through a traditional publisher. So I added in an important caveat: to write about what I was passionate about while trying to be aware of market trends and being more rigorous fulfilling the conceits of the genre I was writing in.

I chose crime because it is arguably the most successful area of genre fiction in Australia. Outside of Young Adult, few Australian authors see much success locally with my other interests, namely horror, fantasy or science fiction. But the local appetite for crime is well established – Peter Temple, Shane Maloney, Michael Robotham, PD Martin, Angela Savage, Kerry Greenwood, Gary Disher,  Peter Corris . . . So I did my homework. I read crime thrillers almost exclusively.

The book I wrote coming out of this was Blood Witness.

It drew heavily on my legal background. I honed it as a page-turner. I kept my chapters to less than 3,000 words. I plotted it thoroughly before I started writing. I revisited the structure of other crime thrillers and researched legal databases online for accuracy and setting notes. It was earmarked as book one on an ongoing series (something that appeals to commercial publishers). I included some vital crime novel tropes – two cases that dovetailed, the twist dénouement, the ticking clock and tried to present them in new and interesting ways. I scuffed up my lawyer protagonist by making him a boxer. All core elements of the genre that readers would recognise. ‘Trust me I know what I’m doing.’

And almost a year to today, I received an email from Penguin about meeting to discuss their publishing my novel.

But the story doesn’t end there as far as finding my genre was concerned.

Penguin had some notes and considerations on how to position the book in the marketplace. I should say that I am in no way adverse to discussions on marketing. I enjoy them actually, as the goal has always been to try and have as many people read my work as possible. A strong marketing position would only help with this.

While my main character is a lawyer the book is not a courtroom procedural, and there is an element of the hardboiled to him – pounding streets and faces to get the results.

Was it a crime thriller? A legal thriller? Or a straight up thriller? Each of these categories would bring with it a variation on the book’s title (which we were negotiating), the cover, its strapline and the approach taken by sales and marketing teams. Crime thrillers are already well established so that’s a plus. But there are very few solely legal thriller writers in Australia and this could act as a key point of difference. But in terms of the widest reach, would positioning it as a more general thriller work best? ‘Trust us we know what we’re doing.’

This was where I let the experience of the publisher step in and how I finally came full circle to calling myself a thriller writer.

Which is as good a point as any to address the final question posed by this session: are some genres better represented than others at festivals like this?

The Emerging Writers Festival positions itself as “promoting emerging writers in all styles, genres and forms”. While this is true for the most part, I feel commercial fiction is perhaps a little under represented in the festival and with it those big ticket commercial genres – crime, romance, fantasy and science fiction. Arguably this is by necessity. In order to remain relevant to the broadest range of writers these types of festivals can’t become too niche in their focus on genres. Besides where would one draw the line?

Looking more broadly there seems to be a uniquely Australian cultural cringe over commercial fiction. One need only observe the quietly-simmering resentment of commercial heavyweights Bryce Courtenay, Matthew Riley and Di Morrissey when interviewed in 2010 by Jennifer Byrne. In fact the very distinction 'literary' seems to bring with it a judgement of higher value and merit. This is about as useful as assuming that 'commercial' means a book will sell by the truck-load.

That being said, I do feel a few more sessions on the broader concern of commercial fiction would well serve a large section of the writing community. The readership is clearly out there so I dare say the ‘writership’ is out there as well.

21 April 2013

Emerging Writers' Festival Program Launch

Last Wednesday night I dragged my foggy, draft-writing brain off to the Emerging Writers' Festival program launch at the Wheeler Centre. It was a great evening with four guest writers being challenged to write outside of their genres as part of a 'discomfort zone'. The results were all very funny. Here's hoping this becomes an annual event.

The other incentive for heading down was to grab a copy of the program fresh off the press so I could read up on the presentation I will be involved in.

The panel is Finding Genre, part of the Writers' Conference component at the festival. It's at 11am on Sunday 26 May at the Melbourne Town Hall. Hosted by Mel Campbell the other panellists include Alison Croggon, Jane Harrison and Wayne Macauley.

We'll be discussing such things as how writers find their genre, why some genres are better represented than others at festivals and whether the passion for genre is there from the outset or develops over time. I feel very flattered to be involved particularly given the caliber of the writers I will be appearing alongside.

I am jotting down any stray thoughts I have about crime/legal thrillers as they occur to me. Should have the added advantage of forming the basis for something I can put up on the blog after the panel is done.

7 April 2013

Hawk's Covenant underway

This week I started on the sequel to Blood Witness. After a first day of 'how the hell does this work again' I've been fortunate enough to hit a kind of rhythm. Here's hoping it holds.

I've never written a sequel before. I find I'm asking questions of myself around how much to review from the previous book and how much to leave as unanswered questions. I suspect I will revise quite extensively on the first edit once I've read through the entire novel. But for now I'm using only the information that's absolutely necessary and spreading exposition through a gradual drip feed of dialogue and observations.

One other interesting thing that cropped up during some quick research on a lunch break was a fantastic blog that the National Archive has been putting together on banned books. A great insight into the somewhat dubious rationale used to restrict works of literature:


Oh, and there's this, on the more light-hearted side:


27 March 2013

Bookseller visits

It’s been a busy two weeks. I flew to Sydney and discussed international rights with my agent, helped shoot the book trailer (my job being to not to get in the way) and spent two days of visiting booksellers around Melbourne. Exciting stuff!

The Bookseller visits went particularly well. Penguin focused the visits on handsellers, those store owners who have a strong rapport with their customers and will make recommendations based on enquiries and reading habits. We visited a range of stores — independents, chains and franchises. I don't envy the somewhat daunting task that booksellers are faced with but that they remain encouraged and enthusiastic in the face of adversity is inspiring to say the least.

I traveled from store to store with two of Penguin's senior sales staff. They would introduce me to the storeowners and I would hand over a proof copy of the book. At this point I would try to form meaningful words as I talked about the book. It was actually a great opportunity not only for me to put a face to my novel, but as a soft entry into promoting it. I've started to distill some sound bites for future use. I've already had a few booksellers email me with positive feedback on the novel. Already very exciting and we haven’t even started promoting the book yet!

25 March 2013

The publishing process

The first half of this video from Random House UK is quite interesting. It maps out the process a novel goes through in order to be published. In broad terms it correlates to my recent experiences with Blood Witness — editorial, covers, promotion. The second half, where they natter on about eBooks and social media is less clearly articulated and feels more like positioning Random House's e-publishing credentials. Still, it's an interesting video that shows the scope of what the world's biggest publisher does when it brings out a new book.

10 March 2013

Publication date drawing closer

Everything is moving along quite rapidly now with Blood Witness. Edits, cover proofs, marketing and publicity meetings and visits to booksellers being scheduled. It's an exciting and busy time.

With a fast-paced legal thriller much of the editorial work has been focussed on moving the narrative along and making sure that continuity is in place. It can be surprisingly easy losing track of the multiple timelines and plot threads. I feel very fortunate that both my editors have an excellent eye for these things.

It would be dishonest of me if I didn't admit to some amount of anxiety and fretting. The reality of having my first novel published means that soon all the words will be locked in place. No more tinkering, no more revisions.

Discussions around the cover have included where it fits into the market, whether to include the Melbourne setting, ways in which we might more strongly position the legal thriller aspect of the novel... It's all very marketing heavy but a lot of my professional life has been spent in the Comms and Marketing area so these sorts of conversations are genuinely interesting to me.

The bookseller visits are an intriguing one. Two days of travelling around Melbourne with a rep from Penguin to introduce myself to the good folk who will hopefully pick up the novel for sale. A chance to put a face to the book and chat a bit about it. I don't really need an excuse to hang around in bookstores, but it's nice to have one.

Meanwhile, in the background, I'm working on finalising the structure for the book's sequel, Hawk's Covenant. My (self-imposed) start date for commencing writing is fast approaching and I need to get that house in order.

So all in all there's quite a bit going on. Every step of the way I'm still slapping myself, feeling very fortunate at the dawning realisation that I'm about to be published. It's exciting times indeed.

31 January 2013

Neil Cross on Dialogue

Finally got around to watching Luther (more raving on this to come). The show's creator, Neil Cross, writes like a demon and is fast becoming one of my favourite writers. In terms of career aspirations I'd love to be where he's at: novelist and screenwriter. This piece on dialogue rang very true with me. Particularly his conceit that it's not at all about 'sounding realistic', writing good dialogue is about craft and progressing character and narrative.

24 January 2013

The right copyright?

Currently I'm working on a few loose ends for Blood Witness to include with my next round of edits — acknowledgements, a pass at a back cover blurb, finessing my biography. One interesting curve ball that has come up is the question of rights for my quoting a verse of T.S. Eliot's 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'. Despite having written a book about lawyers, it seems that this sort of obvious legal issue slipped my mind. So much for credibility there. Thankfully this is where my editor came in with a note about the quote.

There's a bit of confusion due to online sources claiming that Eliot's earlier poems, including Prufrock, are out of copyright in the UK and US and thus legally available online.  See the T S Eliot Society, Project Gutenberg  and sinister whipping boy, Google Books.

It's a question I expect should be relatively easily resolved by following up with Harper Collins, Eliot's rights holders in Australia. Hopefully the answer will be that there is no copyright or if there is that it's not too cost prohibitive. As the copyright holder of  Blood Witness I would have to personally pay for rights to use the quote — another legal issue but one I was aware of for a change.

18 January 2013

How did we get here?

Recently I looked back over my web search history during the time I spent redrafting Blood Witness. Aaah, the old rabbit hole of online research... It can be as simple as looking up a new synonym for a repeated word and the next thing I know I'm on a medieval cheese forum. More often than not I'm scratching some obsessive fact itch. But occasionally some interesting things come up:

The growth of bank notes over gold coins contributed to the decline of highwaymen.

Asphalt can be naturally occurring as in the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.

Catholic Canon Law is still taught at over 37 Universities around the world.

There were female bushrangers.

26 November 2012

Influences: Bret Easton Ellis

Perhaps I have fallen into that reader’s trap by thinking I have a special understanding of a writer that no one else could appreciate. Whenever I mention I find Ellis’ books dryly humorous and his writing to be dark, social satire I often get blank stares. I’m also sure that for other readers this would seem a very obvious thing to say.

Ellis has a fantastic voice and the sort of existential, coming-of-age anxieties expressed in Less than Zero makes it for the 80s what The Catcher In the Rye was for the 50s. Lunar Park I enjoyed particularly because it is a kind of supernatural/crime story that delves into recurring narcissistic behaviour handed down from father to son. His craft is undeniable and his ability to transport you, rapidly, through a series of emotional responses in a coolly unaffected way is compelling. If I could absorb even some of his poetic metre I would be a very happy writer indeed.

16 November 2012

New title is go

After a series of productive conversations and email exchanges, my editor and I find ourselves in a happy place having agreed on an appropriate title for the first Will Harris novel:


The balance between finding a point of difference for this book while appealing to the expectations of an existing readership was a challenge but I'm very happy with the result.

Of course, this will result in a cascade of activity - from my updating the somewhat nebulous descriptions on this site to in house positioning meetings at Penguin to my agent updating their catalogues.

Personally, I find it quite the relief to no longer have to pause, slack jawed at the first question anyone asks when they learn that I've written a book — "What's it called?"

Now I have an answer.

9 November 2012

Review: Savages by Don Winslow

There is no question that Winslow is a confident writer at the top of his game. At best this manifests in engaging characters, a strong narrative voice, smart explanations of complicated ideas, strong themes and gripping pacing. At worst this results an offhandedness that could alienate readers — fourth wall asides,loose plotting, sudden shifts in tempo. On the whole these are blemishes for a book that is definitely deserving of the high praise it has received. 

Winslow is a smart, edgy writer whose playfulness with language and ear for dialogue made me relish reading this book. That said, the final quarter of this novel felt rushed, and while I accepted the somewhat wild ending, I would have liked a little more time to come to terms with it. At some moments, particularly a key gunfight,I felt that critical events were being sketched out - a shame given the time invested in developing the motivations and ambitions of Savages central characters. One other minor gripe, and it's very minor, were the shifts into screen writing format. Winslow's style is very light on at the best of times soI was unsure of his decision to write some sections in screenplay format.Again, minor issues.

Interestingly, Winslow co-wrote the screenplay for the Oliver Stone adaptation of the novel. I'm quite interested in seeing the choices that have been made as without the characters inner monologues, it would be a hard book to do justice as a film.

6 November 2012

New book haul

Some crime of course, always, with some fantasy thrown in there for good measure. Sourced local independent booksellers (except Savages which had to be tracked down via Bookworld).

2 November 2012

What TV's Damages does right

I missed the boat with this excellent TV series when it first came out and only discovered it last week. Fortunately for me it means I can mainline the entire series in a glut of DVD watching. As a legal thriller goes it's managed to innovate some well-trodden ground:

- Unlike 99% of TV legal dramas it's about a class action and not a murder trial. This is already fresh and interesting in terms of what's at risk, the types of characters we meet along the way, how the legal manoeuvrings play out.

- Also refreshing is it focus on pre-trial strategy and manipulation rather than the over-played courtroom drama. Not only is this is representative of actual class actions, where so much of the work takes place prior to trial, but it allows for interesting character development through domestic and personal scenes.

- It knows when to pursue legal realism and when to ignore it for a more interesting narrative. For example, the key conceit that a junior lawyer would have regular access to the head of the law firm is unlikely in the real world, but makes for an engaging mentor/protégée dynamic.

- Less a legal drama consideration, but definitely worth mentioning, is that the two leads are women. I could do with a bit less of Rose Byrne fretting about her impeding wedding, which is hardly breaking any feminist ground, but Glen Close's Patty Hewes is a excellently realised, uncliched character.

I suspect there will be a lot to learn from Damages in terms of new interesting ways to handling well-trodden material, so I'm glad I came to it between novels. Now that's all that left to do is catch up on all those other critically regarded series that I've put off doing for so many years. Number one on that hit list is, ahem, The Wire. Obviously a major oversight and one I hope to remedy through a few well-placed Christmas gift hints.

23 October 2012

Influences: Thomas Harris

I have probably read The Silence of the Lambs more times than any other book and with good reason: it is a near perfect thriller. Harris has grafted the psychological thriller with a gripping crime novel while maintaining strong literary backbone. It’s no mean feat. Not a moment is left wasted, every sentence is wrought. Its psychological elements are grounded, fascinating and bleak. The pacing and structure, masterful. I have picked over this book, broken down its chapters to study its structure and pacing, all in the vain hope that some of Harris will brush off on to me. Clearly it’s a futile goal as I'm no where nearly as stricken as Harris is with his writing. He writes as though he is exorcising demons. Great artists for whom their work is painful release are rare in any life time, when Thomas Harris was at his peak he was one of these.

10 October 2012

Influences: Alex Garland

The Beach by Alex Garland
It’s not entirely literary, or is it particularly earth shattering, but The Beach was the book that inspired me to write my first novel. Garland conjures such a uninhibited adventure story that its few (if any) short comings can be brushed aside as the short comings of its young narrator. The whole novel is rife with unbelievable elements made plausible because of an unassuming, everyman protagonist. Backpackers hardly summon the idea of bold heroics and tribal violence that the book throws at you, but in Garlands hands he makes it work. Garland has a lightness of prose worth studying, while his capacity to push larger themes at you in an unassuming way is enviable. While his follow up novels were met with less success, and Garland only writes screenplays these days, for The Beach I will always be grateful. Garland, in manner of speaking, changed my life.

4 October 2012

REVIEW: The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

 Jeanette Winterson is one of my favourite authors. However, The Daylight Gate felt a little thin. Yes, it is a novella, so it's intended to be a shorter work, but it felt stretched out. The Passion, one of her earlier novellas, which this piece is in some ways reminiscent of being also supernaturally themed, felt more like a larger work bulging against its length. The Daylight Gate feels at times like the opposite, that it should do more, go further.

Winterson has the profound ability to construct beautiful, evocative sentences which she does many times in The Daylight Gate. Rather it is the motivation and character development that felt undercooked. This is particularly pertinent as it is set during witch trials where accusations and motive are key. The novella rockets forwards through a series of tableaux-like chapters. May of these are only a 2-3 pages long so there is little time for the reader to get to grips with the characters before we move on. In fact the more successful chapters are longer, where character and motivation are lead out and where we are afforded the opportunity to form an emotional connection with the protagonist, Alice Nutter.

It's a shame, as the core setting of this book is ripe with possibility: 1612, the north of England under James 1, witches, Papists, heresy... all published under the banner of Hammer Horror. What I was left with was the sense of a missed opportunity. The stars had aligned but somehow the portents were missed.