Ben Eltham

When I was a teenager, I attended a theatre workshop organised by Australian Theatre for Young People. Nick Enright, who led the workshop, told a story about seeing the opening-night production of David Williamson’s The Removalists (1971) from backstage. Twenty years on, Enright’s description of the look on the audience’s faces as they contemplated the ...

As the River Runs by Stephen Scourfield

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April 2013, no. 350

Stephen Scourfield’s As the River Runs is set in the Kimberley of contemporary Western Australia. A loose sequel to the award-winning Other Country (2009), As The River Runs retains Scourfield’s focus on the scenery and characters of the Western Australian outback, but moves the action forward twenty years to the present day.

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The Marmalade Files by Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann

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November 2012, no. 346

The Marmalade Files is a novel by Canberra press gallery veterans Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann. Set in 2011, it is a fast-paced political thriller with decidedly modest ambitions. Probably intended as a thriller or a light-hearted romp through Canberra’s back rooms, The Marmalade Files fails on both counts. It is a sort of bastard potboiler, weirdly confused in its intentions and shackled by an authorial voice that amounts to little more than a patina of hackneyed stereotypes.

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Left Turn: Political Essays for the New Left edited by Antony Lowenstein and Jeff Sparrow

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September 2012, no. 344

Few would suggest that global capitalism is in rude, unqualified, health. Greece has just voted on whether to stay in the Euro, global markets continue their rollercoaster trajectory, and millions of workers in advanced Western economies remain jobless. With much of the rich world halfway into a lost decade, capitalism is suffering another of the periodic and devastating crises that seem an ineradicable aspect of its nature.

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Making News is Tony Wilson’s second novel for adults. It is a romp over the fertile ground of tabloid media, celebrity sports stars and family crisis. Lucas Dekker is the bookish teenage son of Charlie Dekker, a high-profile Australian soccer star who has just retired from the English Premier League. Lucas’s mother, Monica, has graduated from footballer’s wife to bestselling self-help writer, comfortably eclipsing her husband’s earning power in the process. When Lucas wins a young writer’s prize to become a columnist for tabloid daily The Globe, it seems as though he might follow in his mother’s literary footsteps.

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John Birmingham’s After America is the second book in what is clearly intended to be a trilogy of page-turners – a follow-up to his Axis of Time trilogy, the swashbuckling alternative history which saw a US carrier battle group transported back in time to the middle of World War II. After America, the sequel to Without Warning (2009), is set in a decidedly dystopian alternative present, the result of a mysterious energy wave that wipes out most of the human and animal life forms in North America in 2003. As one might expect, chaos ensues. A global ecological catastrophe has accompanied the human disappearance, a civil engineer from Seattle (the only big US city to survive the wave) has been elected president, Israel has launched nuclear strikes on its Middle East neighbours, and groups of well-organised pirates from Lagos have taken over New York City.

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Robert Wainwright and Paola Totaro’s Born or Bred? Martin Bryant: The Making of a Mass Murderer is a tendentious and poorly written book about a fascinating topic. Riddled with clichés and full of baseless speculation, it displays neither great sensitivity nor penetrating insight. Despite the important subject matter, Wainwright and Totaro have written a shallow and dubious book.

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