About Tim Hehir

Tim Hehir writes novels, short stories and plays. His YA novel Julius and the Watchmaker is published by Text Publishing.

Lust in a Hot Climate

Clancy of the Undertow
Christopher Currie
Text Publishing
December 2015
$19.99

9781925240405Clancy of the Undertow tells the story of 16 year old Clancy, middle child of the apparently dysfunctional Underhill family. Living in small town Queensland is no fun for a tree-frog shaped misfit at the best of times but these are the worst of times (sorry Dickens). Do not be put off* by this though. It is not an earnest misery-fest, but a story told with such humour that I laughed out loud and quoted lines to anyone who happened to be in the same room at the time—and they laughed too.

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L’ll Sista from Hell

My Sister Rosa
Justine Larbalestier
Allen & Unwin
January 27th
$19.99

MySisterRosaThose of us unlucky enough to have grown up with younger siblings know how annoying they can be at times. But what if your little sister was more than annoying? What if she was a psychopath? I don’t mean psychopath in the metaphorical or hyperbolic sense but in the actual medical diagnosis sense. What if your ten year old sister was clever, charming, manipulative, callous and completely lacking in empathy? What if you had to ask her to promise not to kill anyone and not to trick someone else into killing anyone?

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A New York Tale

Paradise Alley
Kevin Baker
Perennial
2002

imagesParadise Alley is an epic novel tracing the events of the days of rioting in New York City in July of 1863. It follows a number of characters—refugees from the Irish potato famine, a escaped slave, a newspaper reporter and a child prostitute, to name but a few. Think of Martin Scorsese’s film, Gangs of New York crossed with the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution—only more violent and barbaric.

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There’s No Time Like the Past

The Time Travel Handbook
James Wyllie, Johnny 'Lord' Acton, David Goldblatt
Profile Books
Nov 2015, RRP $29.99

time_travel_handbookThe conceit of The Time Travel Handbook 18 journeys from the eruption of Vesuvius to the Woodstock Festival is brilliant in its simplicity—it is a guide for time travellers, telling them what to expect on their trip to one of 18 historical destinations offered by the travel company.

The trips vary widely, from the peasants’ revolt of 1381 to the Rumble in the Jungle of 1974; from birth of the French Revolution to the loving mayhem of Woodstock. The Handbook gives a minutely researched account of what happened, who you might meet, what you might see, hear and eat, bringing it alive to help you make the best of your trip back in time.

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Through the Eye of a Blackbird

Thirteen Ways of Looking
Colum McCann
Bloomsbury
November 2015

518WCie+KaL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_Thirteen Ways of Looking is a book of three short stories plus a novella.

The book was in the process of being written when the author, Colum McCann, was assaulted and hospitalised after he went to the aid of a woman who was being attacked by her husband. At the end of the book McCann invites readers to go to his website colummccann.com to read his Victim Impact Statement.

McCann’s stories of varying degrees of human suffering are never mawkish or laboured in their execution, but finely written and strangely uplifting. He has not, like some other authors, gone to the extremes of the human condition as an easy source of drama but, I think because he has the insight and skill to shine a light on it. The book is an attempt to connect us more with our fellow human beings rather than an exploitative romp through misery. Continue reading

An Elfish Yuletide Tale

A Boy Called Christmas
Matt Haig, illustrations by Chris Mould
Allen & Unwin RRP $19.99
November 2015

51utTx5pslL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Matt Haig’s Christmas tale for children explains how a Finnish boy named Nikolas became Father Christmas. You know the one, the fat bloke in the red suit who delivers presents to all the children of the world on Christmas night using only a sled and flying reindeer.

The story begins with Nikolas and his father, a nine and a half-fingered woodchopper, eking out a meagre living in the forest. One day Joel the hunter calls at their isolated cottage with a job offer for his father—to join an expedition to go north in search of Elfhelm, the mythical home of the elves.

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What if Tolstoy and Monty Python met at a party, got very drunk and decided to write a novel?

UNDERMAJORDOMO MINOR
Patrick deWitt
Allen & Unwin, RRP $27.99
August 2015

undermajordomo_minorPatrick deWitt’s third novel takes us to an unnamed Russo-Romanian land in the steam age. Our comic hero, a village lad named Lucien (Lucy) Minor, travels to a remote castle to begin his career as the undermajordomo in Baron Van Aux’s eccentric household. On the train he avoids being robbed only to be politely mugged at the castle door. But it is when the door creaks open that his adventures really begin.

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Northern Soul

ANNA OF THE FIVE TOWNS
Arnold Bennet
Penguin. First published 1902

anna_of_the_five_towns_london

Anna of the Five Towns is the first of Arnold Bennet’s five novel series set in the Staffordshire potteries. It has the authentic ring of someone who really knows the town and its people, and this is true for Bennet who was writing about his own beginnings and the people he grew up with. What a wonderful gift for a writer, to grow up amid such writing fodder.

The titular heroine, Anna Tellwright, is the cowed daughter of Ephraim Tellwright, a miser and small-time tyrant. There is a beauty and inner goodness to Anna which puts her at odds with the hypocrisy and shallowness of the God-fearing folk of ‘the five towns’—a string of pottery-producing towns along a winding river.

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Don’t go down them there caves. I said don’t go…oops, too late.

LAST WORDS
Michael Koryta
Hachette Australia, RRP $29.99 E-book $16.99
September 2015

LastWords_smIn Last Words we find private detective Mark Novak sent by his employers, Innocence Incorporated, to the frozen Midwest town of Garrison at the request of Ridley Barnes, the suspect of a 10 year old murder. If he really was the killer he wants to pay for his crime, if not he wants his name cleared.

Reading detective novels is like doing a favourite puzzle over and over again. You know how it will turn out but you enjoy the journey and there is always the tiny possibility that this time it might all end differently. It never does but that does not spoil the enjoyment. Detective novels, like romances are a strange beast. At some point many years ago readers decided what made a readable, and buyable, detective novel. Writers have been churning them out ever since. They seem to come up with endlessly new ways and reasons to murder attractive young women (it is almost always attractive young women) in the same way that song writers seem to keep coming up with new tunes even though there are only 12 notes on the scale. Continue reading

If only history classes had been like this.

MWF-pink_smNovelists C S Pacat and Ilka Tampke will be interviewed by John Weldon at ACMI cinema 1 on Sunday 23rd at 2:30pm. What will they be talking about?

I’m glad you asked. They will be discussing Historical Fantasy.

Long, long ago at the dawn of history I remember nodding off during history classes. I probably did my best daydreaming then too. The school text books and the teachers made it all as dull as warm gravel. I never passed a history exam in my life because I could not remember when people died or when battles were fought, but I remember reading history books for fun when I got home from school and being riveted by historical documentaries and films. It was not until I arrived at adulthood that I realised that history I slept through in school and the history I read about at home were the same, just told in different ways. History is there, there’s no getting away from it so we might as well enjoy it. And a few fantasies won’t hurt…history won’t mind, it’s big enough to look after itself. Get you tickets online at the MWF website.

Beware of Southerners Bearing Gifts

41Bik09kqwL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_TIME WILL DARKEN IT
William Maxwell
Vintage Classics, 2012, RRP $14.99
First published 1948

Sometimes it is not only what a book is about but the way it is written that makes it special. Time Will Darken It is one of those. After reading the first chapter I got on the internet and ordered two more of William Maxwell’s books. I fingertip tappingly await their arrival. If a dead guy can write as well as this I want his books.

First published in 1948, Time Will Darken It is set in a small American town in 1912. It tells the sad tale of Austin King and his wife, Martha, receiving visitors from Mississippi. The Potters, mother, father, son and daughter sow the seeds of the destruction of Austin King, a decent man whose only crime was trying to keep everybody happy and doing it quietly.

The story opens with a quite scene of marital tension before a house party to welcome the Potters. In this, Maxwell gives himself the almost impossible task of introducing a myriad of characters almost at once. Any teacher of writing will tell you that is a no-no…unless you can write like William Maxwell. His words take the reader by the hand and leads him or her from room to room, catching snippets of conversations, auditioning the characters for their roles and hinting at things to come.

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Rust, Dust…and Blood

9781922182838DAY BOY
Trent Jamieson
Text Publishing, June 2015, RRP $29.99

Day Boy is a dark and dusty dystopian tale following a year in the life of Mark, a Day Boy, living in a regional Australian town ruled by The Masters. Following in the bloody footsteps of The Passage by Justin Cronin and The Quick by Lauren Owen it is a literary vampire novel in which the V-word is never mentioned, not in the blurb on the back and hardly, if ever, between the covers–for fear, I think that the V-word may frighten away less adventurous readers influenced by the anti-vampire prejudice arising from the Twilight Saga. Continue reading

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