Just Another Little Murder, by Phil Cleary

Phil Cleary is well known, especially in Victoria, as a footballer, coach, and media personality, as well as the man who won Bob Hawke’s seat in Federal Parliament. His new book, however, is about none of these things. It is about Cleary’s quest for justice and understanding in the wake of an event which rocked his family.

In August 1987, as she got out of her car to go to work, Vicki Cleary was brutally stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend, Peter Raymond Keogh. While this was earth-shattering enough for her family, the ensuing trial offered no sense of closure. Instead the family listened in disbelief as the court found that Keogh was not guilty of murder, on the grounds that he had been provoked by his victim. Instead, he would serve less than four years in jail for the lesser crime of manslaughter.

When Cleary began a search for understanding of how this could have happened, he learned that Keogh had a long history of vilence and sex crimes against women and children. He also found evidence of what, to him, was a legal system which had worked to protect Cleary and had let down not only his sister, but also countless other women, victims of Keogh and of other men like him.

Just Another Little Murder is not an easy book to read. The reality of the crime it explores and the justice system it exposes, serve to make the reader uncomfortable. This is what Cleary wants – to remove his readers from their comfort zone and to make them feel his rage. In this way, the book is highly effective.

Just Another Little Murder is a challenging but important book.

Just Another Little Murder, by Phil Cleary
Allen & Unwin, 2002

Listen for the Nightingale, by Zenda Vecchio

Kathleen’s life is without purpose. Her Mother, who never wanted her, has recently married and, as well as a step-father, she now has a little ‘sister’, Sally. To top it off she has just started at private girls school, where she is mostly alone and unliked.

When the serpent comes to beckon her with promises of happiness, she is lured by his talk of death. Suicide, she thinks, will put an end to all this. But another animal comes too – a nightingale which she will hear sing if only she can be patient.Kathleen will have to choose -the comfort of death with the serpent, or the comfort of life with the nightingale.Neither offers a quick path to happiness.

Listen for the Nightingale is a gentle young adult novel which looks at the issue of suicide as well as those of family, friednship and child abuse, among others. Whilst being challenging and thought provoking it is not a dark or depressing story. What is offer is an insight into the thoughts and life of one teenager with problems which lead her to consider suicide.

Listen for the Nightingale, with its ultimate message of hope, is a novel which would be well suited to classroom study, but is equally valuable for personal reading.

Zenda Vecchio is a South Australian author. Listen for the Nightingale is her first published novel.

Listen for the Nightingale, by Zenda Vecchio
Greater Glider Productions, 2002

Babel, by Barry Maitland

When Professor Springer, one of England’s leading philosophers, is assasinated on the steps of the London University where he works, DCI David Brock is called into investigate. His usual partner, Kathy Kolla is on leave.

Springer has been outspoken in his views against fundamentalism, and suspicion is cast on London’s Arab communities. When Kolla is drawn into the investigation, it becomes more complex. Is the murder as straightforward as it seems, or could it relate to the deep divisions between different factions in the university?

Brock and Kolla must solve the mystery before further violence gets out of hand.

Babel is crime fiction as it should be written – danger and intrigue combine with characters of substance and just the right level of surprise.

Barry Maitland was born and raised in Britain. He came to Australia to teach Architecture at the University of Newcastle, but has since retired to work full time on his writing. This can only be a good thing for the lover of quality crime fiction.

Babel, by Barry Maitland
Allen & Unwin, 2002.

I'm Big Enough, by Sally Odgers

Joey Hopalong swears he is big enough to hop alone Wallaby Grove. His mother believes he is big enough. She kisses him goodbye and says she will see him when he gets there. But none of the animals Joey meets along the way believe that he is big enough to do it by himself.

First he is joined by Platypus, then by Wombat and Possum. All are sure he needs their help. It is only when they meet Kookaburra that Kookaburra proves to the other animals, and to Joey, that Joey is indeed big enough to hop alone.

I’m Big Enough, by Sally Odgers, is a gently humorous tale with a subtle message about differences and growing up. The delightful illustrations by Llyod Foye capture the colours of Australia’s landscape, with golden browns and greens prevalent.

Sally Odgers is a talented Tasmanian author who produces quality books for all ages. I’m Big Enough reaches her always high standards. A treasure.

I’m Big Enough, by Sally Odgers, illustrated by Lloyd Foye
Koala Books, 2002

Life Bytes, edited by Alwyn Evans

A girl lost in the outback, a group of boys raising a pair of undies on the school flagpole, an Italian youth migrating to Australia – subjects as diverse as the young writers who chose them. What binds these stories however, is their quality and the fact that they were written for entry into the annual Tim Winton Young Writers Competition.

Following the success of the first compilation of prize-winning stories from the contest, Destination Unknown (2001), Life Bytes brings together 13 first class stories. At times it is hard to remember the stories were written by primary aged children – with both the subject matter and the writing style often showing a maturity unexpected in pre-teens.

The Tim Winton Award, sponsored annually by the City of Subiaco, offers children across the Perth metropolitan area the chance to develop and demonstrate their creative writing abilitites. Life Bytes, showcasing some of the best entries submitted in the award’s ten-year history, is a great read, especially for those who work with young people.

Editor Alwyn Evans is a contest judge and editor and author of children’s books.

Life Bytes, edited by Alwyn Evans,
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002

The Zoo Room, by Louise Schofield

Max and Kelly have a strange Aunt who works at the zoo. When Aunt Zelda is around, wierd and wonderful things happen. So when Aunt Zelda invites the family to the Zoo Room to celebrate Max’s birthday, no one knows what to expect.

At the Zoo Room, there are strange things afoot. The waiter is a bear, the fellow diners are birds and beasts, and there is no sign of Aunt Zelda. Choosing from a menu of fried bugs and beast of the day proves a little challenging. The restaurant is a thrilling combination of excitement and danger. When the meal is over, the children are not sure they really want to go home.

The Zoo Room is a fun story with fantasy and frivolity blended in a way to appeal to five to eight year olds. The illustrations of Malcolm Geste capture both the fun and the mystery of the tale. Kids will love searching for the elusive Aunt Zelda, who can be found peeking at her nephew’s adventure. A fun read.

The Zoo Room, by Louise Schofield, illustrated by Malcolm Geste
Sandcastle Books, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002

The Bravest Penguin of All, by Rina A. Foti

It is the day of the Great Penguin Swim Race, and all the penguins are very excited, especially Little Blue Penguin. She is determined to win.

When the other penguins hear this,they laugh. No-one so small has ever won the race.But Little Blue Penguin is not deterred, telling herself over and over that she can do it.

When the race begins, the bigger penguins splash and splatter Little Blue Penguin and tell her to get out of the way, but still she keeps going. She can hear the cheering of the crowd, driving her on.

When the cheering stops, Little Blue Penguin senses something is wrong. A Killer Whale is lurking nearby and all the racers are in danger. Is Little Blue Penguin too small to save her friends?

The Bravest Penguin of All is a delightful story which will charm youngsters (and their parents) with its gentle message. Beautifully complemented by the illustrations of Cathy Abadie, in the blues and greens of the Antarctic environment, and supplemented by a page of penguin and Antarctic facts, The Bravest Penguin of All will appeal to 4 to 8 year olds and is also suitable for classroom collections.

The Bravest Penguin of All, by Rina A. Foti, illustrated by Cathy Abadie
Koala Books, 2002

The Singer of All Songs, by Kate Constable

The wall of ice that surrounds Antaris is impenetrable. No one can get in or out of the land without the powerful chantments of the priestesses who live within the wall. So, when Calwyn finds an unconcious stranger lying inside the great wall, she can’t believe her eyes. Somehow this stranger has achieved the impossible.

Calywn decides to help the man, and is drawn into the biggest adventure of her life – a quest which may impact not only on her own future, but on that of the whole of Tremaris.

With Darrow (the injured man) she meets and journeys with Tonno and Xanni, fisherman brothers, Mica, who can call the wind, Halasaa, who can talk to the beasts without words, and young Trout. Together the group hopes to defeat the evil sorcerer Samis, who seeks to master all Nine mystical powers of Chantment and so be the Singer of All Songs, and ruler of Tremaris.

This refreshing fantasy is a gripping read, with appeal to both female and male readers, from teen to adult.

Kate Constable has previously had stories published in various literary magazines. This is her first novel.

Outstanding.

The Singer of All Songs
, by Kate Constable
Allen & Unwin, 2002

The Writer's Guide, by Irina Dunn

If you have ever dreamed of writing – of being able to call yourself a writer – then The Writer’s Guide is a good starting point.

Having been the Executive Director of the NSW Writer’s Centre for ten years, Irina Dunn is well aware of the kinds of problems and decisions likely to confront an aspiring writer. From what to write, to how to get it published, from basic equipment to self-promotion, Dunn provides detailed, sensible advice, backed by a comprehensive listing of useful resources.

Aimed at those who wish to write either for pleasure or as a source of income, Dunn’s counsel is frank. She explores the realities of the publishing industry in Australia and New Zealand, providing insight into the prospective highs and lows for a novice writer. For those with little expereince of the industry, this inside look is valuable.

Included in the book are over a hundred pages of resource listings. There are lists of reputable literary agents and manuscript assessors, poetry and children’s book publishers, literary festivals and internet resources. Some of these will be of immediate use to a new writer – others will be great for future reference.

The Writer’s Guide provides what its title suggests – a guide for writers to understand the intricacies of the writing life. An excellent resource.

The Writer’s Guide
, by Irina Dunn
Allen & Unwin, 2002

A Charm of Powerful Trouble, by Joanne Horniman

Lizzie and Laura grow up in a house that oozes secrets from every brick, every crevice. Yet it is a life full of wonders. Surrounded by nature and by human nature the girls learn to live and to love as they follow the path toward adulthood.

Both girls look for answers in the secrets of their mother’s past. Self-possessed, she seems to be unaffected by the events of her life, yet will not speak of her past. When they beg for stories she will tell them only one – the tale of her mystical visit to her great-aunt when she was sixteen. Yet, given time, the girls will learn to understand and to learn from their mother.

This is a story about love and intimacy in many different forms – about friendship, family and lovers. Threads overlap and intertwine with a richness that binds them into a delight of sensual emotion. Most female readers will find hints of themselves in one or other of the three generations of female characters.

A Charm of Powerful Trouble is Joanne Horniman’s first novel for adults. She has previously written for children and teenagers, a fact echoed in her empathy for the teens in this book.

A powerful read.

A Charm of Powerful Trouble, by Joanne Horniman
Allen & Unwin, 2002