Highlights of the recent Canberra Writers Festival included:
Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann launching their book, The Shadow Game, the third in their trilogy of The Marmalade Files and The Mandarin Code. Set in Canberra and centring largely on journalist, Harry Dunkley, The Shadow Game, has been described by the Sunday Canberra Times as ‘House of Cards, Canberra style’;
Sydney barrister, Mark Tedeschi QC, chatting with Canberra journalist, Robert Macklin, about how he fits researching/writing into his busy schedule. Focusing on Kidnapped, his story of the kidnapping of Graeme Thorne, a tragic saga which gripped 1960s Australia, Mark described police analyses of the era which helped solve the crime – some of which could be described as precursors to today’s sophisticated forensic and scientific methods. He also outlined events from his next book, Murder at Myall Creek, where many perpetrators were brought to trial for the massacre of 28 Aboriginal women, men and children at Myall Creek. Due for publication by Christmas 2016, Murder at Myall Creek outlines the NSW Attorney-General, John Hubert Plunkett’s efforts to bring justice for Aboriginal people in the face of strenuous opposition from many groups, including free settlers, the military, most of the press and convicts;
Sydney broadcaster, Richard Glover and local ABC presenter, Philip Clark, amused the audience with anecdotes about the fun and vicissitudes of making bricks and building their country house, told in Richard’s book, The Mud House. Stories ranged from the local who thought someone was stealing his water and ‘traps’ he devised to catch the thieves; roof pitches best suited to harnessing water; and the rewards of fossicking in salvage yards for doors, windows and other building materials. The most colourful story (in more ways than one) related to Richard’s work (with a chainsaw) in freeing tree roots in an old septic tank which had been blocked for many years, and the lessons learnt about the need for eye and face protection.
In Press and Politics, journalists Kerry O’Brien and Fleur Anderson and parliamentarians, Fiona Nash and Anthony Albanese kept political watchers happy. Kerry O’Brien took us through various anecdotes about political and parliamentary happenings dating back to old Parliament House days, with topics including: political staffers leaking to the media; problems experienced with today’s 24-hour news churn (less staff but more stories to cover) and the tendency to be superficial; writers with not enough corporate or institutional knowledge to know what is newsworthy; governments’ tendency to bury significant reports which the public has a right to know about; and the frustrations for journalists and the public of politicians sticking to talking points and their unwillingness to go beyond their own agendas.
Well-known Canberra journalist, Karen Middleton, discussed her just-released book, Albanese Telling It Straight about the many political and public experiences and stouches of senior parliamentarian, Anthony Albanese. The story also touches on some very personal aspects of Albo’s life, including the efforts of himself and other people in helping him find and meet his father.
Other Festival participants included Louise Adler, George Megalogenis, Alex Sloan, Sarah Ferguson, Leigh Sales, Annabel Crabb, Laura Tingle, Stan Grant, Dayne and Clyde Rathbone, Richard Denniss, Jennifer Rayner, Omar Musa, Tom Dusevic, Cal Flynn, Bruce Pascoe, Paul Bongiorno, Don Watson and Christine Wallace.