Some years ago, a crime-writing friend of mine was at a writer’s festival with Lee Child. After a few drinks, my friend asked Child how he’d gone about preparing to write his Jack Reacher novels. Child’s reply was something along the lines of not putting pen to paper before he’d spent six months reading all of the successful crime novels he could find, and before parsing out exactly what made them popular with readers. Once this was done, he sat down to write. The rest, of course, is history.
If Child were setting up shop here in contemporary Australia, the chances are strong that one of the key elements he’d take from commercially successful novels of recent years would be a rural setting. This makes sense, in that it’s partly Australia’s vast and varied landscapes that make the country unique and of interest to overseas readers in particular. Neither does the rural turn of much recent Australian crime fiction point toward a formulaic bent – there exists a great variety of representation of character and place.