Robert Drewe

This collection of twelve stories by the author of The Savage Crows and A Cry in the Jungle Bar seeks to explore and define what Drewe sees as a part of our national psyche, the preoccupation with the coast and with the ‘careless violent hedonism’, as one of the characters puts it, of beach life. In ‘Looking for Malibu’, David Lang, who appears in several of the stories, defines it for a then fellow expatriate in a discussion about criminals on the run. ‘If their enemies were middle-class Australians they’d know where to look for them,’ he says. ‘You know something? When Australians run away they always run to the coast. They can’t help it. An American vanishes, he could be living in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, the mountains, the desert, anywhere. Not an Australian-he goes up the coast or down the coast and thinks he’s vanished without a trace.’

... (read more)

In 2004, New York-based publisher Akashic Books released Brooklyn Noir, a collection of short fiction written under a specific brief. Stories had to be set in that neighbourhood and feature noir themes: simmering familial revenge, cheating and double-crossing, sexual betrayal, domestic discord, murderous trysts, down-at-heel detectives ...

... (read more)

Robert Drewe’s first short story collection, the widely acclaimed The Bodysurfers (1983), opens with a story of the Lang family – children Annie, David, and Max, taken by their recently widowed father for a Christmas Day lunch at a local hotel, where it becomes apparent that their father is on intimate terms with the hotel manageress.

... (read more)

Pre-teen and early teen years had me and many others enjoying Ross Campbell’s witty column in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper about the goings-on in ‘Oxalis Cottage’, a fictionalised version of his Sydney home. Robert Drewe’s often hilarious columns for The Age and The Weekend West are a kind of modern equivalent, and a selection of ...

Robert Drewe’s first memoir, The Shark Net (2000) – an account of ‘memories and murder’ – opens in the transforming ‘different sunlight’ of a courtroom, a light that seems ‘harsher, dustier, more ancient looking’, making the figure in the dock somehow ‘uglier, smaller’, ‘like a criminal in a B-movie’, the very ‘stereotype of a crook’.

... (read more)

What can we make of the fact that, of the forty-seven stories selected by Robert Drewe for this year’s The Best Australian Stories collection, thirty-three are written in the first person? The influence of Creative Writing classes has to figure in any stab at an answer. It would be interesting to do the rounds of the universities to discover whether the teachers of such courses actively encourage the use of ‘I’, or if it happens obliquely, resulting from the way that writing exercises are structured. One wonders, too, if that old saw, ‘write what you know’, is discussed in the first week of these courses, and if such a practice contributes to the writer’s feeling more comfortable and secure when deploying the first person.

... (read more)

The scope of this novel could hardly be more ambitious. It ranges from the landing ten thousand years ago of prehistoric men in primitive rafts on the shores of what would one day be known as the Kimberley, to the apparition of a young asylum seeker off a leaky, sinking boat in roughly the same locality during the present inhospitable times. In other words, it meets the challenge of major issues both immemorial and contemporary.

... (read more)

‘When Australians run away, they always run to the coast.’ Robert Drewe has already debunked the myth of the bush as Australia’s heartland, and in The Bodysurfers pictured us living and loving on the very rim of the continent, precariously perched in salty, sweaty, and essentially temporary hedonistic bliss between the threat of the empty outback, the incendiary bush, and the menace of the ocean with its sharp­toothed predators and secret stingers.

... (read more)

‘If you can’t say something nice,’ my mother always said, ‘don’t say anything at all.’ (I pinch this opening gambit, shamelessly, from Kate Grenville’s Self-Portrait in the last ABR, and hope she does not mind; imitation is the sincerest form etc.) Apropos of parental expectations regarding niceness-or-silence, however, I am reminded of a remark of Elizabeth Jolley’s: ‘I think my mother wanted a princess, and she got me instead.’

... (read more)