Hollywood, Salman Rushdie, Chris Wallace

Hollywood, Salman Rushdie, Chris Wallace

Normal text size Larger text size Very large text size

It’s February and like other businesses across the country, the book industry is gearing up for a new year. Next month we have a pile of tempting bits coming our way.

The lazy days of holiday reading may be over, but there’s a huge selection of books to get you rolling the rest of the year.

The Booklist is a weekly newsletter for book lovers from book editor Jason Steger. Get it delivered every Friday.


A Routine Infidelity, Elizabeth Coleman

Pantera Press, $29.99, February 1

You know you’re in for a good time when you find out the private detective’s offsider is none other than Miss Marple…a miniature schnauzer. Screenwriter and playwright (Secret Bridesmaids’ Business) turned novelist Elizabeth Coleman has written for numerous television shows including Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and The Secret Life of Us, but here Edwina – Ted to her chumps – investigates the shenanigans of her sister and somehow stumble upon a very big con and more. I feel a series coming on.


A land of eternal light, Paul Dalgarno

Fourth Estate, $32.99, February 1

It’s a big year for the former journalist. First up is his second novel – his first was Poly, as in polyamory – then comes Prudish Nation, in which he surveys writers and thinkers about Australia’s attitudes to non-conventional relationships. In the new novel, Margaret, proud of her legs and her figure, is dead, but that doesn’t stop her from living to the best of her abilities and revisiting events, places and people from her life. Death is having a bit of a moment in fiction and Dalgarno adds wit and poignancy.


Cold People, Tom Rob Smith

Simon & Schuster, $32.99, February 1

In 2008, Tom Rob Smith’s first novel, Child 44, was the first thriller to be longlisted for the Booker Prize. It was a brilliant imagining of a dedicated communist cop on the trail of a serial killer in the Soviet Union in the 50s. Rob Smith once told me that he loves to write stories in any form he can, so he has written novels, plays, television, including the brilliant London Spy and The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Cold People has a group of people desperately fleeing to Antarctica, the only safe place left after an alien force has seized the planet.


The God of No Good, Sita Walker

Ultimo, $36.99, February 1

In the course of her memoir of family – full of strong and wonderfully drawn women – divorce, growing up and love, Brisbane author Sita Walker writes: “Love and pain are the two fangs of the same snake. You cannot be pierced by one without also being poisoned by the other.” But her memoir is about more than just love. As a member of the Bahai faith, there is also her growing doubt and gradual drift away from God. By jumping forward and backward in time, Walker makes her story readable, relatable and valuable.


Hungry Ghosts, Kevin Jared Hosein

Bloomsbury, $32.99, February 7

The Trinidadian novelist has written a book of rich and poor, the exploited and the vulnerable, of trauma and mystery, set on an island not entirely unlike his own. Events are thrown into disarray when wealthy landowner Dalton Changoor disappears, leaving his wife Marlee in the dark. Tongues wag when she gets a poor worker, Hans Saroop, to provide protection. Hosein creates a heady stew that has post-colonial and religious ingredients in the mix, not to mention a cast of vivid characters.


MUP: A Centenary History, Stuart Kells

The Miegunyah Press, $60, February 7

Melbourne University Press was the first university publisher to be established in Australia and quickly gained a reputation for books of substance and quality, perhaps its most famous publication Manning Clark’s six-volume History of Australia. Stuart Kells knows his way around the book world like the back of his hand and although published by a MUP imprint, he shows no aversion to delving into the various controversies that have plagued the publisher over the years, such as Peter Ryan’s criticism on Clark and the end of Louise Adler’s time in charge.


Shirley, Ronnie Scott

Hamish Hamilton, $32.99, February 7

The second novel from the founder of The Lifted Brow is very different from the male focus of The Adversary. Narrated by the titular character and again firmly rooted in Melbourne, Shirley and David navigate a relationship that gradually crumbles as pressures, both internal and external, build. Ronnie Scott inhabits his female character completely convincingly and his picture of a shaky mother-daughter relationship is deftly handled.


Victory City, Salman Rushdie

Jonathan Cape, $32.99, February 21

The best dump for Salam Rushdie after last year’s brutal attack in which he was stabbed multiple times and lost an eye and the use of one hand must surely be the publication of his 15th, blistering novel. In 14th-century India, nine-year-old Pampa Kampana becomes the mouthpiece for the goddess Parvati and, during her 247-year life, the creator of Victory City. Rushdie’s magical realism has a strong female character at its heart and champions the power of stories, storytelling and words, “the only victors”. A message that is close to his heart.


Hollywood: The Oral History, Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson

Faber & Faber, $49.99, February 21

The two authors of this book have plowed their way through the substantial archives of interviews conducted for the American Film Institute since 1969 to tell the story of the industry from the silent days to today’s big-budget blockbusters. You’ll hear testimony from almost everyone – over 3,000 actors, directors, producers, with some notable absentees like John Ford and Cary Grant – but more importantly the likes of make-up artists and designers. It’s a monster of a book, almost 800 pages, but it has a big story to tell.


Political Lives, Chris Wallace

New South, $39.99, February

Not many writers would give up writing a biography that would undoubtedly have sold many copies because they did not want the destabilization of a government on their conscience. But that’s what Chris Wallace did with her life of Julia Gillard. Perhaps this history of how biographers treated their first ministerial subjects and the consequences of their finished products is the result of that decision. It is a kind of exegesis of political biography and biographers, and a fascinating look at Australian political life.

The Booklist is a weekly newsletter for book lovers from book editor Jason Steger. Get it delivered every Friday.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *