Their Doorstep Baby, by Barbara Hannay

Claire and Adam Townsend are happily married. VERY happily married. After eight years they are still very much in love and in lust. But one thing prevents their lives from being complete – the lack of a child to complete their family.

With no medical reason for her failure to fall pregnant, Claire becomes increasingly depressed. The pressure on their previously stable marriage is immense. Then, when a baby is left on the doorstep of their isolated Outback home, Claire thinks her prayers have been answered, but Adam is not so sure.

Their Doorstep Baby by Australian author Barbara Hannay released in May in the UK, in June in Australia, and in September in the United States. The Outback setting, uniquely Australian, is used to tell a story which will tug at the heartstrings of all who are mothers and all who long to be.

Hannay offers characters with believable emotions and responses, in a predicament bound to test the strongest of relationships. She moves the story along with an excellent sense of timing and tension. A great read.

Barbara Hannay can be visited on the web at www.barbarahannay.com. You can also read an extract from Their Doorstep Baby

Their Doorstep Baby,by Barbara Hannay
Mills and Boon, 2002 ISBN: 0 263 83007 1

Carrion Colony, by Richard King

We are here to etch the faint name of England upon the dust.

Set in the early nineteenth century, Carrion Colony explores the beginnings of white Australia in the mythical colony of Old and New Bridgeford. As they adapt to life in this harsh and alien clime, officers and convicts are stretched beyond belief just to survive.

Among the characters are a doctor so terrified by the native flora, he is determined to eradicate it, a madman who has been isolated on a rock in the middle of the bay and a Governor who chooses to exercise his medical skills only when it suits, among other flawed and eccentric characters.

This is a colony where mayhem and violence are the norm, where there is nothing too far fetched to be considered a legitimate part – for everything in this colony is far fetched.

Richard King, winner of the 1995 Vogel Literary Award, exercises his skills as an absurdist writer. Unfortunately, he is perhaps too absurd, for in its efforts to be clever it becomes too clever for the average reader.

This is a novel where plot and character are pushed aside in the pursuit of art. Perhaps one needs to be finely schooled in the art of the absurd to truly enjoy it.

Carrion Colony, by Richard King
Allen & Unwin, 2002

Murder in Montparnesse, by Kerry Greenwood

There is nothing that inspires Phryne Fisher more than a mystery. When her wharfie mates Bert and Cec come to her for help, Phryne becomes involved in solving a mystery more personal than she first expects.

Bert, Cec and their five mates, celebrating the end of World War I in 1918, have unknowingly witnessed a murder in Paris. Ten years later, two have died in strange circumstances and the remaining five men fear for their own lives.

While Phryne delves into these events in a quest to find the killer, she must deal witht he memories of her own time in Paris. Her former lover Rene Dubois returns to haunt both her dreams and her reality.

At the same time, Phryne’s houshold is in turmoil. Her lover, Lin Chung, is about to be married and her trusted staff are threatening to leave her employ.

Murder in Montparnesse is the twelfth title in the Phryne Fisher series by Australian author Kerry Greenwood. For those not familiar with this sassy, self-styled detective of 1920s Melbourne, there are some unanswered questions about her background, however as the novel progresses these become less important.

Phryne Fisher moves in a world of class and culture, but hovers on the edge of shadow and intrigue. She is equally comfortable with fine art and cocktails as with house breaking and vengeance – on the side of justice, of course.

Murder in Montparnesse is a delight for lovers of crime fiction.

Murder in Montparnesse, by Kerry Greenwood
Allen & Unwin 2002

Eating Out Again, by Natalie Scott

The art of a good short story is to provide the reader with a total experience in a form much more brief and concise than in a novel. Australian author Natalie Scott has developed this art to become a master of the form.

In Eating Out Again and Other Stories Ms Scott shares twenty stories which readers can savour individually, or devour in a few sittings.

And savour and devour are fitting words, for, as the title hints, there is a recurrent motif in the collection, of food being shared. Many of the stories take place in restaurants or cafes, with tensions and intrigues playing out over a table shared by the players.

In Kissy-Kissy a man meets his ex-wife in a restaurant to discuss their son. In The Loft, a woman reaches a deciding point in her marriage over dinner with her husband, and in An Apple From the Teacher, a teacher deals with a child who does not have lunch to bring to school. This recurrent theme is complemented with a selection of recipes from the stories included at the back of the book.

A second common thread is that of the challenges of aging. Characters in several of the stories are faced with the realisation that they are no longer young, and need to confront where they are in their lives. Many characters have been betrayed by other players and are facing the need to rely more on themselves.

Ms Scott’s first short story collection, Eating Out was the winner of the National Library Australian Book Award in 1997. She has also published novels for both adults and children.

Lovers of the short story will be impressed by the quality of this outstanding collection.

Eating out Again and Other Stories
, by Natalie Scott
Otford Press, 2002

Lancashire Legacy, by Anna Jacobs

If you are a fan of the historical saga , then you are surely familiar with the name Anna Jacobs. Jacobs is undoubtedly queen of this genre in Australia, with her stories about her native Lancashire and Australia, her adopted home. Fans of Ms Jacobs will not be disappointed with Lanacshire Legacy, new out in paperback.

The heroine, eighteen year old Cathie, loves her family, but wants desperately to escape the bush home that she shares with them. Life in the bush is hard, and Cathie longs to return to England, to make contact with relatives in Lancashire and to have an adventure.

When Cathie’s Uncle agrees to pay her fare, Cathie travels to England, where she finds that the adventure she has is far removed from the adventures she had hoped for. Attacked on the docks after her arrival, Cathie loses her memory. Rescued by a man with problems of his own, she struggles to remember her past and to find the answers she is seeking about her father and brother. As she does so, she becomes a part of the family of her rescuer, the handsome Magnus Hamilton, towards whom she feels an increasing attraction.

As she learns about her past, Cathie discovers that she is moving in a society where rich established families have the power to destroy her own chances at happiness, and that of those around her, including Magnus, her young brother Francis, and three half-brothers she didn’t know she had.

As we follow the journey of Cathie’s self discovery we also revisit the life of her mother, Liza, who was introduced in Jacobs’ earlier title, Lancashire Lass. Whilst the novel continues the story of Liza and her family, the first title is not prerequisite reading for a full enjoyment of the second. Be warned though, that having read Lanacshire Legacyyou will want to learn more of this family and will, like this reviewer, be looking out for more stories in the future.

Lancashire Legacy, by Anna Jacobs.
Hodder & Stoughton, 2001 (Paperback edition 2002)

Believers in Love, by Alan Clay

Sax is exhausted, from lack of sleep, and from hiding from the vast whirl of experience. Then in one day he meets Zoe and takes his daughter Sarah to Bondi beach to build a sandcastle. Both events change his future.

Sax and Sarah are discovered on Bondi beach and whisked off to build a sandcastle for a festival in New Zealand. This adventure seems set to launch them on other, equally as exciting adventures, along with Zoe and Adam, the festival organiser.

Not all adventures are exciting, however, as Sarah finds out. Her Dad and Zoe are getting closer, and her fairy, Firefly, isn’t always there when she’s needed. For Sax and Zoe there’s the confusion of their feelings for each other, and the discovery that not every project goes as planned. For Adam, the knowledge that politics is not always fair lands him in Australia with the others.

Believers in Love, the third offering by quirky Australian novelist, Alan Clay, is about love, laughter and life. The story is liberally interspersed by anecdotes taking an alternate look at life, sometimes foorm the point of view of the book’s characters, other times from beyond, but always with a depth which gives pause to the reader before the story continues.

This is not just a story; this is an exploration of emotion and philosophy.

Alan Clay grew up in New Zealand, studied clown in Sweden and for the past ten years has resided in Sydney, where he runs Playspace Studio, Sydney’s Physical Theatre Studio.

Believers in Love, By Alan Clay
Artmedia Publishing, 2001

The Great Australian Book of Limericks, by Jim Haynes

Ask any Australian to tell you a limerick and chances are that they’ll happily oblige. Whilst not an Australian invention, the limerick is certainly a much loved poetic form in this country. Now, in celebration of the art, Jim Haynes brings together over a thousand limericks in one volume.

The Great Australian Book of Limericks is more than just a collection of limericks – Jim Haynes provides an insight into the history of the form and prefaces each section with his humorous commentary. In the opening chapter The Limerick: A Brief and Inaccurate History, Haynes explores the question of when and where the limerick originated –

One expert says, ‘If you please,
I think old Aristophanes
First mastered the trick
Of the true limerick,’
But not every expert agrees.
(p10)

as well as looking at the progress of its popularity.

The remainder of the book presents limericks classified by type and subject matter. With twenty categories there is a huge array of limericks, from the childish and charming:

There was a young man who asked ‘Why,
Can’t I look in my ear with my eye?
I’m sure I can do it
If I put my mind to it,
You never can tell till you try.’
(p20)

to the Obscene and Odious, with categories in between including a section devoted to immortalising every Australian Prime minister from Barton to Howard in Limerick form.

This is not a children’s book – many, many of the limericks are suitable only for adult readers. Alongside offerings from Edward Lear are bawdy, risque and downright rude offerings.

Author Jim Haynes has a background as a teacher of literature and history, with two Masters degrees in literature. He has won the Comedy Song of the Year title at the Tamworth Festival four times, including Don’t Call Wagga Wagga Wagge and Since Cheryl went Feral. As well as regular television and radio appearances he has been awarded the Bush Laureate of the Year Award for his collections of poetry, I’ll Have Chips and An Australian heritage of Verse. The Great Australian Book of Limericks is sure to be another favourite.

The Great Australian Book of Limericks, by Jim Haynes. RRP $19.95
ABC Books, 2001.

Fairy Tales for Grown Ups, by Jennifer Rowe

If you grew up with your head full of handsome princes, magic frogs and happy endings, then the child within you is probably still craving a fairy tale. And if you didn’t, then you probably love a good laugh. Either way, Fairy Tales for Grown Ups is a little book which is likely to appeal to you.

This collection of seven slightly twisted fairy tales combines fantasy with a wicked sense of humour. In The Magic Fish a woman is offered three wishes by a goldfish she meets in a dentist’s waiting room – on the condition she sets the goldfish free. The dentist who owns the fish appears in a later story, Angela’s Mandrake, where a pretty merchant banker called Angela searches for happiness in her life.

In The Lonely Prince, the heir of a fast food chain also searches for happiness, – desperate to be loved for more than just his prospects. Is pizza and cheap wine the way to test the love of his beautiful suitors? The heroine of The Fat Wife also searches for happiness after her husband trades her in for a younger, slimmer model. Is it possible to be fat and victorious?

These new-millenium characters with their modern dilemmas are gorgeously supported by a cast of frogs and trolls and dragons, set amongst happy endings and hilariously funny twists.

Jennifer Rowe, best known for her serious crime novels, proves her versatility as a writer with this wickedly funny offering. Fairy Tales for grown Ups would make an excellent Christmas gift.

Fairy Tales for Grown Ups, by Jennifer Rowe (rrp$12.95)
Allen & Unwin, 2001.

A Taste

Once there was a young woman whose name was Annabel Smudge. She was small and slightly untidy-looking with gentle, widely spaced hazel eyes, curly, mouse-brown hair and a sweet, hesitating voice. She was not exactly simple, but she was not what most people would call a bright spark, either. Six days a week she worked as a cleaner in a factory that made staples, paperclips and metal edges for hanging files. Monday to Thursday evenings, after cooking dinner for her live-in boyfriend, Lawrence, who was an out-of-work security guard in delicate health, she would hurry to her local shopping centre to wash dishes at Tony’s Good Eats, the café beside Pompey’s Family Hair Salon…

Luna-C by Jutta Goetze

In small town Lima (NOT Lima, Peru), two friends dream. Phoebe and Dale are singers who dream of being discovered – of being something, somebodies, away from the small town of their childhood where they work as strawberry pickers.

When Luna-C visits the town, that dream becomes stronger. Drawn to the band and especially its lead singer, Ric, Dale decides to pursue her dream of being a professional singer. Afraid of losing her friend and hoping for adventures of her own, Phoebe (Fee) joins her.

Making it in the city isn’t as easy as it seems. Initially unwelcome guests in the house shared by Ric and other members of Luna-C, Jane and Dan, Dale and Phoebe have to fight to be accepted. Making their mark as singers is even more difficult.

The other members of Luna-C have problems of their own. Jane is an alcoholic who struggles to cope with the real world, Dan is a drug dealer, and Ric attracts more women than he knows what to do with, including both Dale and Phoebe.

Luna-C is an absorbing tale of friendship, love and life in the alternative music scene. At times funny, at others tragically sad, it carries the reader along on its waves of emotion. Ostensibly a book for young adults, it will appeal to much older readers as well.

Jutta Goetze is an Australian writer of varying genres – including screen writing credits, a series of picture books and junior fiction titles. This is her first novel for young adults.

Luna-C, by Jutta Goetze (rrp$17.95)
Allen & Unwin, 2001

A Taste

And then its my turn. Me, in the spotlight. I can’t see anything out there, except what’s in my memory from the rip in the curtain; and memory turns the audience into cut-out silhouettes. I sing as low as I can, to be as manly as I can be, but as soon as I open my mouth one of those cows in the paddock outside bellows. That’d be right, upstaged by a cow. My slippers are too big and my belt’s slipping and so are the notes – they’ve suddenly eluded my range and have dropped into some cacophony of sound that isn’t mine, yet it’s coming from my mouth …

The Artist is a Thief

Jean-Loup’s task seems simple. A Melbourne-based financial advisor, he has been sent by ATSIC to Mission Hole Community to conduct an audit of its art centre. But Jean-Loup soon realises that nothing in this community is as simple as it appears.

The community’s most noted artist is Margaret Thatcher Gandarrway, whose works have achieved international recognition and attracted high prices. But something disturbing has happened. At the unveiling of her latest painting, the picture was found slashed and with the words “the artist is a thief” scrawled across it. The shock of this act and the implications of the message has sent shock waves around the art community. Is Margaret Thatcher Gandarrway a thief? And what exactly is it she has stolen?

When Jean-Loup Wild arrives at the community to investigate the running of the arts centre and to try to reinstate its credibility following these events, he meets with unexpected obstacles and opposition. On his first night in the community he comes across the murdered corpse of the person most likely to help in his investigation. No one else in the community even wants to talk to him, let alone help him.

Not only is the investigation proving difficult, but Jean-Loup has to face personal conflicts as well. he has a personal link to the community – his mysterious older sister Duchess whose history he would like to trace and who is partially the reason for his accepting this job. He also finds himself increasingly attracted to Petra, the beautiful Aboriginal woman who helps him in his investigations.

As he confronts his past, Jean-Loup must also confront the present. He must try to unravel the mystery of the murder, the elusive Margaret Thatcher Gandarrway, and the message on the painting, whilst working on a playing field where everyone but him seems to know the rules. Whilst piecing together the puzzle he gets to know himself and the society in which he live son a more intimate level than ever before.

The Artist is a Thief, winner of the The Australian/Vogel Literary Award, is a philosophical detective novel with a difference, sure to provoke thought as it entertains.

The Artist is a Thief, by Stephen Gray
Allen & Unwin, 2001.