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2018 Long & Short Lists

Congratulations to Jock Serong on winning the 2018 Colin Roderick Literary Award for his book, On the Java Ridge.

On the Java RidgeThe writing leaves you breathless and there are passages that are brilliant. Serong brings together thriller, political critique, and adventure story in a way that might be reminiscent of James Bond, were it not that governments turn out to be the evilest of all.

About

On the Java Ridge, skipper Isi Natoli and a group of Australian surf tourists are anchored off the Indonesian island of Dana. In the Canberra office of Cassius Calvert, Minister for Border Integrity, a federal election looms and a hardline new policy on asylum-seekers is being rolled out.

Not far from Dana, the Takalar is having engine trouble. Among the passengers on board fleeing from persecution are Roya and her mother, and Roya’s unborn sister.

The storm now closing in on the Takalar and the Java Ridge will mean catastrophe for them all.

Find out more at Text Publishing.

Judges' Report

The writing leaves you breathless and there are passages that are brilliant, for example - ‘Now he understood the gravity. Now he could trace the river backwards to him at the source:’ in speaking of responsibility; ‘The pile of bodies on the island, that didn’t even enter the political calculus. … they’d died as they lived: on the wrong side of an invisible line.’ Serong brings together thriller, political critique, and adventure story in a way that might be reminiscent of James Bond, were it not that governments turn out to be the evilest of all.

Jock SerongAbout the Author

Jock Serong’s debut novel Quota won the 2015 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel. In 2016, his second novel, The Rules of Backyard Cricket was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. His third novel, On the Java Ridge was published in 2017. Formerly a lawyer, Jock is now a feature writer and was the editor of Great Ocean Quarterly.  He lives with his wife and four children in Port Fairy, Victoria.

2018 Short List

Bird CountryAbout

A boat trip in a squall to scatter the ashes of an old man, who was not loved.

A young father, driving his daughters home across grass plains, unable to tell them that their mother has died.

A speech that doesn’t include the aching pain of trying to save a cousin’s life.

A mother hiding her fugitive son in a cockatoo cage as the river rises.

A man pouring his life into finding the perfect stained glass after his wife has left him.

A woman longing for the right person to tell about her sister’s death, while she works nightshift at a roadhouse.

These are moving and evocative stories about love and loss and yearning - and the things we don’t say.

Find out more at Text Publishing.

Judges' Report

These stories are striking for their range and variety. Starting with a tale about a father, son and daughter-in-law heading to sea to scatter the ashes of the grandfather, it then puts together unlikely connections in Ash Miss, which shows the connection between a budgerigar, a mistreated boy and a crippled woman. Together the stories cover the range of human conditions with sensitivity and humour.

Claire Aman

Tony Birch is the author of Ghost River, which won the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing and Blood, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. He is also the author of Shadowboxing, and two short story collections, Father’s Day and The Promise. Tony is a frequent contributor to ABC local and national radio and a regular guest at writers’ festivals. He lives in Melbourne and is a Senior Research Fellow at Victoria University.

Common PeopleAbout

These remarkable and surprising stories capture common people caught up in the everyday business of living and the struggle to survive. From two single mothers on the most unlikely night shift to a homeless man unexpectedly faced with the miracle of a new life, Birch’s stories are set in gritty urban refuges and battling regional communities. His deftly drawn characters find unexpected signs of hope in a world where beauty can be found on every street corner – a message on a T-shirt, a friend in a stray dog or a star in the night sky.

Common People shines a light on human nature and how the ordinary kindness of strangers can have extraordinary results. Find out more at UQ Press.

Judges' Report

A suite of realist stories with varying characters and situations, the range impressive. The delineations are firm but fine; one interesting characteristic is the way they could be set at any time, details suggest the present (being made redundant, the NGV) or the sixties and seventies (a Torana); grief is a common thread. ‘Raven and Sons’ is funny, ‘Colours’ has a nice non-realist twist ending, and ‘Frank Slim’ is brilliant.

Tony Birch has focussed on ordinary people and the dispossessed in these stories and treats his characters, no matter how distressing their circumstances with dignity and compassion. They may be common people, mostly ignored in Australian society, but Birch alerts us to what really matters.

Tony Birch

Tony Birch is the author of Ghost River, which won the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing and Blood, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. He is also the author of Shadowboxing, and two short story collections, Father’s Day and The Promise. Tony is a frequent contributor to ABC local and national radio and a regular guest at writers’ festivals. He lives in Melbourne and is a Senior Research Fellow at Victoria University.

soonAbout

Partly inspired by the true story of Wittenoom, the ill-fated West Australian asbestos town, Soon is the story of the death of a haunted town, and the plight of the people who either won’t or simply can’t abandon all they have ever had. With finely wrought characters and brilliant storytelling, it is a taut and original novel, where the people we come to know and those who are drawn to the town’s intrigue must ultimately fight for survival.

Judges' Report

A stunning work of sustained tension, especially the ending of this book. Although in many ways a standard realist novel, the book blends Sci-Fi and thriller, as well as being very, very well written. There are astute observations on character, and a plausible, weary, narrator. The book’s entwinement of two stories that do not come together until the final pages that link abandonment, and revenge. If the greatest evil we commit is indifference to the suffering of others, whether loved ones or those in the news, this book will make you think for days about the price we should pay for lack of care.

Lois Murphy

Lois Murphy has travelled widely, most recently spending six years exploring Australia in a homemade 4WD truck, working mainly in small or remote towns, before settling in Darwin for a number of years. She has won a handful of prizes for her writing, including the Northern Territory Literary Award and the Sisters in Crime Best New Talent Prize. The majority of Soon, her first novel, was written while living in a caravan park in Carnarvon. Lois currently lives in Melbourne, Victoria.

TabooAbout

Taboo takes place in the present day, in the rural South-West of Western Australia, and tells the story of a group of Noongar people who revisit, for the first time in many decades, a taboo place: the site of a massacre that followed the assassination, by these Noongar's descendants, of a white man who had stolen a black woman. They come at the invitation of Dan Horton, the elderly owner of the farm on which the massacres unfolded. He hopes that by hosting the group he will satisfy his wife's dying wishes and cleanse some moral stain from the ground on which he and his family have lived for generations.

Judges' Report

This is very recognisably Kim Scott’s work, and reflects his interest in recovering Noongar language. It feels more stripped back, cleaner, clearer than the earlier novels, and consequently both lighter (in style) and weightier (in ideas). There is a strong and compelling mix of vernacular – ordinary language, slang, everyday life – and recuperative: recovering, restoring, revivifying language, culture and people. Taboo shows a desire to speak of and to Indigenous audiences first and foremost. Part of this address is being prepared to show negatives, complexities, ambiguities and conflicts, particularly conflicts about ways of being Indigenous.

Kim Scott

Kim Scott is a multi-award winning novelist. Benang (1999) was the first novel by an Indigenous writer to win the Miles Franklin Award and That Deadman Dance (2010) also won Australia's premier literary prize, among many others. Proud to be one among those who call themselves Noongar, Kim is founder and chair of the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Story Project(www.wirlomin.com.au), which has published a number of bilingual picture books. A Companion to the Works of Kim Scott (Camden House, 2016) deals with aspects of his career in education and literature. He received an Australian Centenary Medal and was 2012 West Australian of the Year. Kim is currently Professor of Writing in the School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts at Curtin University.

TrackerAbout

A collective memoir of the charismatic Aboriginal leader, political thinker and entrepreneur Tracker Tilmouth, who died in Darwin in 2015 at the age of 62.

Taken from his family as a child and brought up in a mission on Croker Island, Tracker Tilmouth worked tirelessly for Aboriginal self-determination, creating opportunities for land use and economic development in his many roles, including Director of the Central Land Council of the Northern Territory.

Tracker was a visionary, a strategist and a projector of ideas, renowned for his irreverent humour and his determination to tell things the way he saw them. Having known him for many years, Alexis Wright interviewed Tracker, along with family, friends, colleagues, and the politicians he influenced, weaving his and their stories together in a manner reminiscent of the work of Nobel Prize–winning author Svetlana Alexievich.

Judges' Report

This is a new genre: a tapestry of voice in prose, a book of revelation about the mining industry, Aboriginal politics, and Territory/federal politics, economics and social thought. Above all, Tracker shows the power of story, in the constantly shifting ground of social relations: the power of analogy, anecdote, metaphor, in personal relations and therefore in political debate and policy implementation. Completely eschewing exposition – unheard of in non-fiction – it demonstrates Tracker’s ‘tactile’ (p. 380) knowledge of people and their position-taking, shows our loss with his death, and shows how much is to be done in making the world liveable and sustainable for Aboriginal people in remote areas. The other notable aspect of the book is how unflinching it is about Tilmouth, the problems he was trying to solve, and his opponents and blockers.

Alexis Wright

Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Her first novel Plains of Promise was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize and published in France as Les Plaines de L’Espoir. She is the author of the novel Carpentaria, which won five national literary awards in 2007, including the ASAL Gold Medal and the Miles Franklin Award. As her next book set into the future, The Swan Book was also award-winning, and the short story collection Le Pacte de Serpent.

Wright's books have been published widely overseas, including in China, the US, the UK, Italy, France and Poland. She was recently named the Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne. Wright is the only author to win both the Miles Franklin Award (in 2007 for Carpentaria) and the Stella Prize (in 2018 for Tracker).

2018 Long List

The long list includes the work listed above plus:

Sixty SecondsAbout

You can never go back - but can you forgive? A gripping story of love and redemption.

The Brennans - parents, Finn and Bridget, and their sons, Jarrah and Toby - have made a sea change, from chilly Hobart to subtropical Murwillumbah. Feeling like foreigners in this land of sun and surf, they're still adjusting to work, school, and life in a sprawling purple weatherboard, when one morning, tragedy strikes.

In the devastating aftermath, the questions fly. What really happened? And who's to blame?

Determined to protect his family, Finn finds himself under the police and media spotlight. Guilty and enraged, Bridget spends nights hunting answers in the last place imaginable. Jarrah - his innocence lost - faces a sudden and frightening adulthood where nothing is certain.

Sixty Seconds is a haunting, redemptive story about forgiveness and hope, inspired by the author's own family experience.

Find out more at Harper Collins Publishers Australia.

WimmeraAbout

An unforgettable literary crime debut that brings the darkness in an Australian country town vividly to life, as it slowly reveals its devastating secrets.

SMALL TOWN. BIG SECRET. An unforgettable literary crime debut that brings the darkness in an Australian country town vividly to life, as it slowly reveals its devastating secrets.

In the long, hot summer of 1989, Ben and Fab are best friends.

Growing up in a small country town, they spend their days playing cricket, yabbying in local dams, wanting a pair of Nike Air Maxes and not talking about how Fab's dad hits him, or how the sudden death of Ben's next-door neighbour unsettled him. Almost teenagers, they already know some things are better left unsaid.

Then a newcomer arrived in the Wimmera. Fab reckoned he was a secret agent and he and Ben staked him out. Up close, the man's shoulders were wide and the veins in his arms stuck out, blue and green. His hands were enormous, red and knotty. He looked strong. Maybe even stronger than Fab's dad. Neither realised the shadow this man would cast over both their lives.

Twenty years later, Fab is still stuck in town, going nowhere but hoping for somewhere better. Then a body is found in the river, and Fab can't ignore the past any more.

Find out more at Hachette Australia.

Barking DogsAbout

Everybody thinks they know this story. But do they? If you took a bird’s-eye view of any sprawling Australian regional town, you’d see ordinary Australians living on their ordinary suburban blocks. Get closer. Peer through a window.

In the town of Mount Barker, you might see Nathan Hearle obsessively recording the bark of a neighbourhood dog, or the Wheeler family sitting down for a meal and trying to come to terms with a shocking discovery. You might hear tales of fathers and their wayward sons, of widows who can’t forgive themselves, of children longed for and lost, of thwarted lust and of pure love. Within the shadows is an unspeakable crime.

Rebekah Clarkson has created a compelling, slow-burning portrait of a town in the midst of major change as it makes the painful transformation from rural idyll to aspirational suburbia. What looked like redemption is now profound loss. What seemed spiteful can now be forgiven. A novel in stories, Barking Dogs is an assured debut from one of Australia’s most respected storytellers.

Find out more at Affirm Press.

The Life to ComeAbout

Set in Sydney, Paris and Sri Lanka, The Life to Come is a mesmerising novel about the stories we tell and don't tell ourselves as individuals, as societies and as nations. It feels at once firmly classic and exhilaratingly contemporary.

Pippa is a writer who longs for success. Celeste tries to convince herself that her feelings for her married lover are reciprocated. Ash makes strategic use of his childhood in Sri Lanka but blots out the memory of a tragedy from that time. Driven by riveting stories and unforgettable characters, here is a dazzling meditation on intimacy, loneliness and our flawed perception of other people.

Profoundly moving as well as wickedly funny, The Life to Come reveals how the shadows cast by both the past and the future can transform, distort and undo the present. This extraordinary novel by Miles Franklin-winning author Michelle de Kretser will strike to your soul.

Find out more at Allen & Unwin Book Publishers.

The Twentieth ManAbout

In September 1972, journalist Anna Rosen takes an early morning phone call from her boss at the ABC, telling her about two bombings in Sydney's busy CBD. It's the worst terrorist attack in the country's history and Anna has no doubt which group is responsible for the carnage. She has been investigating the role of alleged war criminals in the globally active Ustasha movement.

High in the Austrian Alps, Marin Katich is one of twenty would-be revolutionaries who slip stealthily over the border into Yugoslavia on a mission planned and funded in Australia. It will have devastating consequences for all involved.

Soon the arrival in Australia of Yugoslavia's prime minister will trigger the next move in a deadly international struggle.

Find out more at Allen & Unwin Book Publishers.

The ChokeAbout

I never had words to ask anybody the questions, so I never had the answers.

Abandoned by her mother and only occasionally visited by her secretive father, Justine is raised by her pop, a man tormented by visions of the Burma Railway. Justine finds sanctuary in Pop's chooks and The Choke, where the banks of the Murray River are so narrow it seems they might touch - a place of staggering natural beauty. But the river can't protect Justine from danger. Her father is a criminal, and the world he exposes her to can be lethal.

Justine is overlooked and underestimated, a shy and often silent observer of her chaotic world. She learns that she has to make sense of it on her own. She has to find ways to survive so much neglect. She must hang on to friendship when it comes, she must hide when she has to, and ultimately she must fight back.

The Choke is a brilliant, haunting novel about a child navigating an often dark and uncaring world of male power and violence, in which grown-ups can't be trusted and comfort can only be found in nature. This compassionate and claustrophobic vision of a child in danger and a society in trouble celebrates above all the indomitable nature of the human spirit.

Find out more at Allen & Unwin Book Publishers.

StorylandAbout

In 1796, a young cabin boy, Will Martin, goes on a voyage of discovery in the Tom Thumb with Matthew Flinders and Mr Bass: two men and a boy in a tiny boat on an exploratory journey south from Sydney Cove to the Illawarra, full of hope and dreams, daring and fearfulness.

Set on the banks of Lake Illawarra and spanning four centuries, Storyland is a unique and compelling novel of people and place - which tells in essence the story of Australia. Told in an unfurling narrative of interlinking stories, in a style reminiscent of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, McKinnon weaves together the stories of Will Martin together with the stories of four others: a desperate ex-convict, Hawker, who commits an act of terrible brutality; Lola, who in 1900 runs a dairy farm on the Illawarra with her brother and sister, when they come under suspicion for a crime they did not commit; Bel, a young girl who goes on a rafting adventure with her friends in 1998 and is unexpectedly caught up in violent events; and in 2033, Nada, who sees her world start to crumble apart. Intriguingly, all these characters are all connected - not only through the same land and water they inhabit over the decades, but also by tendrils of blood, history, memory and property...

Compelling, thrilling and ambitious, Storyland is our story, the story of Australia. 'The land is a book waiting to be read' as one of the characters says - and this novel tells us an unforgettable and unputdownable story of our history, our present and our future.

Find out more at Harper Collins Publishers Australia.

From the WreckAbout

From the Wreck tells the remarkable story of George Hills, who survived the sinking of the steamship Admella off the South Australian coast in 1859. Haunted by his memories and the disappearance of a fellow survivor, George’s fractured life is intertwined with that of a woman from another dimension, seeking refuge on Earth. This is a novel imbued with beauty and feeling, filled both with existential loneliness and a deep awareness that all life is interdependent.

Find out more at Transit Lounge.