Pan Macmillan

Dave Warner, one-time singer and satirist, has been at work as a detective story writer for a few years now, penning long excoriations of West Australia Inc. style shenanigans and, according to reports, working pretty much in the shadow of that L.A. master (with all his fizz and stammer and sparkle), the great James Ellroy.

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‘This is the most urgently needed book of our time’, says the back cover of this short, non-fiction work of advice to adolescent males, whose subject is how successfully to become a real man. (This boast contrasts strangely with the counsel given not to brag.) My son, the one aged twelve, described the book as being about ‘the need to grow up into little John Marsdens’.

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The fifth book in a planned series of seven would not be surprising if it were science fiction or fantasy. But Burning for Revenge is neither, rather its connections are with the much more currently unfashionable genres of adventure and war stories. And what a war adventure series it is. This fifth volume, in hardback, has been on the bestseller lists in this journal and daily newspapers since its publication – not usual for young adult books. The first, Tomorrow When the War Began, is fourth on Angus & Robertson’s Top 100 Books Voted by Australians – after Bryce Courtenay, but before the Bible!

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Secrets by Drusilla Modjeska, Amanda Lohrey and Robert Dessaix

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November 1997, no. 196

That old rhyme sits unpondered in the memory of every woman or man who grew up to speak English or chant it in the many incantatory rituals of childhood. It is locked in there, partnered with the rhythmic thud of a skipping rope and spirals drawn on your palm to test endurance, in the exquisite torture test that was part primitive ordeal, part initiation into a social community that had its mysteries and its taboos and its transgressions. Children move naturally in this world of internalised rhythms, of things unexplained, of enigma and excitement.

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Australia in the imagination of its first European mapmakers was a curious place where odd creatures dwelt. Now that a metropolitan culture emanates from cities to encircle the continent with farms, roads, towns, and nature reserves, the spaces marked ‘exotic’ have shifted. But they’re still here. I know, because I’ve recently moved from Melbourne to Tasmania. Why are you doing this? Asked West Australian colleagues when we talked at a conference in south India. Tasmania’s a great place for a holiday, but how could you live there? It’s so far from everywhere, and you’ll have no one to talk to.

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Creep Steet by John Marsden & The Secret by Sophie Masson

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July 1996, no. 182

The two books reviewed here, although very different in many ways, do have one thing in common – they have something to do with a secret, which the readers, and the protagonists, all come to know.

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Over the past four months, three homeless men have been murdered in Melbourne, apparently without motive, and Detective Sergeant Dennis Gatz is determined to apprehend the killer. The action starts immediately with Gatz in big trouble for shooting at three fleeing thugs in Banana Alley during an all-night stakeout. Leon Cranston Harle is killed and his mates, Warren and Troy Stimson, swear to seek out this homicide cop and avenge ‘Harley’s’ death. Gatz’s superiors are not too happy about the whole incident either.

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