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Martin McKenzie Murray

Early in their new book, Victory, Peter van Onselen and Wayne Errington pose a simple question that has haunted Labor since 2019: why couldn’t they beat the other mob? After all, their foe was an ‘incoherent’ and ‘second-rate’ government that had accelerated graft, cynicism, and factional cannibalism, and that had produced, in the end, a long list of tawdry failures. The Coalition seemed entropic.

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Writers seeking publication are often advised to have an ‘elevator pitch’ ready. These succinct book-hooks are designed to jag a trapped publisher in the wink between a lift door closing and reopening. Has this insane tactic ever actually worked? No idea. But it’s fun to imagine the CEO of Big Sales Books, on their way up to another corner-office day of tallying cricket memoir profits, blindsided by three of the looniest elevator pitches imaginable. A novel narrated by Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles! A faux political memoir about a prime minister and his shark vendetta! An academic satire cum historical mystery mashup told largely through the – wait, wait, wait! – footnotes of a PhD thesis! That CEO will probably take the stairs next time, but kudos to the independent publishers who saw the potential in these experimental works and their début authors. Whatever the path of weird Australian writing, long may it find its way to these pages.

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