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Anson Cameron

‘What’s your favourite way water can be?’, eight-year-old Em asks her father Merv. Em likes waterfalls, but Merv prefers floods. A flood, he explains to Em, ‘is a type of flat waterfall you can ride on. But it’s serious too. It knows where it’s going and it’s determined to get there.’

Mervyn Rossiter, the exasperating, endearing larrikin hero ...

Stealing Picasso is an art heist caper based on the sensational theft in 1986 of Picasso’s Weeping woman from the National Gallery of Victoria. The crime, attributed to a nebulous gang of militant aesthetes calling themselves the Australian Cultural Terrorists, remains unsolved. Anson Cameron, a Melbourne writer best known for the novel Tin Toys (2000), takes this historical loose end and runs with it, discarding all but the most cursory details of the source story.

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Anson Cameron’s Lies I Told about a Girl may not bend the public record enough to qualify as ‘alternate history’, but it does take off from an intriguing speculative premise. What if the young Prince of Wales, sent ‘down under’ for a term at an exclusive boarding school deep in Victorian logging country, had arrived in 1975, the year of the Dismissal? And what if the prince – known here as Harold Romsey, or YR (‘Your Royal’) – had become romantically involved with a fellow student who happened to be the daughter of the federal opposition leader?

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Confessing the Blues by Anson Cameron & Saigon Tea by Graham Reilly

December 2002-January 2003, no. 247

Comedy, Angela Carter once quipped, is tragedy that happens to other people. Laughter is both an expression of our hard-bitten knowledge of the random cruelty of a universe that stubbornly resists our attempts to control it and an act of defiance in the face of that cruelty. Or, to put it in simpler terms, if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.

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Tin Toys by Anson Cameron & Stormy Weather by Michael Meehan

April 2000, no. 219

These two second novels are rapid follow-ups to acclaimed début novels, Anson Cameron’s Silences Long Gone and Michael Meehan’s The Salt of Broken Tears. Each is, in its own way, resolutely vernacular. Meehan writes about the past and the country; Cameron writes largely about the city, very much today.

In Tin Toys, nevertheless, the characters are very aware of the Australian past. The central dilemmas of Cameron’s novels concern relations between blacks and whites. In Silences Long Gone the narrator’s stubborn old mother refuses to leave her house in a mining town that is being dismantled so that the territory can be returned to its native custodians. In the new novel, the narrator is himself the focus of the dilemma, as the offspring of a white father and black mother (in very peculiar circumstances). He begins life as a black baby, becomes a white boy and ends up a slightly confused young adult. After an opening flashback the narrative is driven by two things that happen to Hunter around the same time. His design for an Australian flag (which he has come up with by complete accident) is selected as a finalist in a national competition and his Japanese girlfriend goes missing in Bougainville.

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