Tag: Australian Literature

Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas

Posted January 25, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 42 Comments

Loaded by Christos TsiolkasTitle: Loaded (Goodreads)
Author: Christos Tsiolkas
Published: Vintage, 1995
Pages: 151
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Paperback

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Ari feels very much alone in the world, a Greek immigrant, unemployed and struggling with his sexuality. That is to say he has a same sex attraction but his friends and family would never approve of that. In Christos Tsiolkas’ normally overlooked Loaded we follow Ari through his struggles as an outsider in this autobiographical novel.

Christos Tsiolkas is a critically acclaimed author with books like Barracuda and my personal favourite The Slap. It is a shame that his debut novel Loaded just doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Was this published at the wrong time? I remember the nineties as a time where homosexuality was thought of as disgusting; granted I was still in high school in a small backwards country town but I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for someone that actually was struggling with their sexuality.

What little I know about Tsiolkas, I’ve come to the conclusion that Loaded was a reflection of his own struggles living in Melbourne with a traditional Greek family that expects so much from you. They went through all the effort to move to Australia in the hopes for a better life; the least you can do is make the most of it. Do well in school, get a good job, marry and have kids. What if this isn’t part of your plan? How would your parents react to this news?

I had to read this book for university, right after studying Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness so I’ve naturally made some connections between the two. Marlowe and Ari are very similar in the sense they both are outsiders, though one deals with this during colonial times and the other is a post-colonial take. Without going too much into the parody of Heart of Darkness, because my mind has really made some interesting connections (some are probably a stretch). The different ways the two protagonists (Heart of Darkness and Loaded) are portrayed as loners in a world that doesn’t feel like home were done in interesting ways.

The whole sense of belonging is a huge part in Loaded; even the way Christos Tsiolkas talks about Melbourne is done as a parody. In Tsiolkas’s Melbourne people are divided into different cliques, much like a diverse multi-cultural city, but there is also are separation into the north, south, east and west. This is interesting to see the separation of power, wealth, religion and culture; sure this normally happens in a normal city, each suburb seems to be stereotyped as a good or bad neighbourhood. In Loaded the division is more extreme, highlighting all these groups of people and showing the reader just how much Ari doesn’t fit in anywhere he goes.

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Eyrie by Tim Winton

Posted December 16, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Eyrie by Tim WintonTitle: Eyrie (Goodreads)
Author: Tim Winton
Published: Penguin, 2013
Pages: 424
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Hardcover

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Tom Keely lives a life in solitude, away from the world. Somehow he has lost his bearings in his middle age and is held up in his high-rise apartment, where he can look down on the world. One day he runs into a neighbour and her introverted son. The woman recognises him from back in the day. This encounter shakes him up in a way he really doesn’t understand and he soon finds himself letting them into his life.

I’ve only read Breath by Tim Winton in the past, which I didn’t think too highly of, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with Eyrie. I know well enough to never judge an author by one book and Winton is acclaimed enough to make me think there is really something in his writing. While I wouldn’t say this book is amazing, I think I can see why people like Tim Winton as an author.

The plot is incredibly simple; there is nothing special about it and it has all been done before. This does however in fact open Tim Winton up to what he seems to do really well and that is exploring characters. He has this ability of taking these characters that seem to make sense on the surface but underneath they are complex. Humans are complex characters, not inheritable good or bad and I think Winton knows how to write this.

In the end I think the fact that the plot was very basic was my biggest problem with this novel, which is strange I’ve read and enjoyed some great novels that have virtually no plot but Eyrie didn’t work as I hoped. I think the fact that everything felt a little predictable (plot wise) made me feel detached. Apart from the plot, everything seemed to work. I know I shouldn’t get so hung up about the plot, maybe if it wasn’t so obvious I might have gotten more enjoyment from Eyrie.

Tim Winton is a decent writer, I’m sure I will find a book of his that I can connect with. I will keep looking; still have Cloudstreet, Dirt Music and others to try. The urban location of Eyrie meant that this book felt less like an Australian novel, luckily the slang saved it there. Anyone know which one will work best for me? I’m making an effort to read more Australian novels and am also looking for recommendations as well.


Breath by Tim Winton

Posted June 12, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Breath by Tim WintonTitle: Breath (Goodreads)
Author: Tim Winton
Published: Picador, 2008
Pages: 224
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In a small logging town near the fictional town of Angelus, on the wild coasts of Western Australia, two teenage boys find themselves taking up surfing with a former professional. Bruce “Pikelet” Pike and Ivan “Loonie” Loon find themselves being challenged into risky surfs in reef and shark-infested waters by Bill “Sando” Sanderson. Breath is the coming of age story that pushes these boys beyond their limits in a regimen of risk and reward.

Narrated by Bruce, now a divorced middle aged paramedic, the novel starts off with him on the scene to save teenagers life. This leads Pikelet to recount his teenager years in the 1970’s with his boyhood friend Loonie and their reckless lifestyle. The two teens pushed the limits of their courage, endurance and even sanity all for the approval from Sando. As they venture beyond the known in the relationships, in physical challenges, and in sexual behaviour.

While this is a typical Australian coming of age story, the influences of Bill Sando and his wife Eva who are both American really play a big role in the novel as well. The Australian and American culture clashing is either an excuse for the peculiar behaviour or just a look at the Americanisation of our country. While this is a novel about surfing, this also looks at how dangerous picking the wrong role model can be while venturing into exploring teenage life and the sexual awakening of a fifteen year old boy.

Now while I won’t go into the sexual relationship of Bill and Eva too much I’m a little surprised at how many books I’ve read recently that seem to look at the dangers of sexual relationships between an adult and a minor. In my ignorance I thought Lolita was the only one but recently What was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal], Tampa and, in Australian literature, Me and Mr Booker and The Yearning all look at this same issue. Now I never intended to read so many books on this disturbing topic but it is funny how you sometimes pick up novel and find similar themes throughout your book choices.

I have no interest in sports; unless you count WWE as a sport, I have been known to watch basketball and American football but as a general rule I would rather be doing something else. So when I read a book about surfing I don’t really care about surfing and how dangerous it is, I just think to myself, why not stay home and read instead. So half this book really felt like it dragged out, I get that they were buying for the approval of Sando by trying to pull off the risky waves but I just wasn’t interested.

I did however like what Tim Winton did with using Sando as a role model/idol for the boys and then proceeded to show just how dangerous that can be. The risks they take without thinking, all for the nod from Sando, was insane and it affected their friendship and sanity. You have the whole sexual desire idolisation happening with Bruce towards Eva as well but as I said before, I didn’t want to go into that. This book primarily looks at the recklessness of the risks we take and how we need to find a balance between being extraordinary and ordinary. Push the limits too many times and sooner or later your luck will run out.

This is my first Tim Winton book and while there were parts I was impressed with I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend this book. This is probably one of his lesser known works and maybe I should try something like Cloudstreet before making my mind up about this author. I do enjoy the lyrical prose for this book and the way he packed a lot of emotions into a book about extreme sports. I’ll be interested to see what he does in some of his other novels as he is known as one of the greatest Australian writers alive today.

For me, I didn’t connect with this book; I see and like what he did with this novel but I just don’t care enough about sports to care what risks the characters take. It felt a little too American for what should be a primarily Australian coming of age story but that is probably the point. I’m sure this is a book that people mainly love or hate but I just didn’t care enough to invest any emotion into this book. So for me it just felt like an average read with nothing worth getting excited about, but on the other end of the scale I can’t really criticise it either.


The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Posted June 11, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Romance / 0 Comments

The Rosie Project by Graeme SimsionTitle: The Rosie Project (Goodreads)
Author: Graeme Simsion
Published: Text, 2013
Pages: 329
Genres: Romance
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Don Tillman is a highly successful Professor of Genetics, but he is also a very socially awkward single man that believes the solution to all his problems is a wife.  He embarks upon a search to find this wife; The Wife Project is a carefully designed questionnaire to find the perfect match for him. In comes Rosie, not a match, but Don finds himself helping her on search for her biological father.

Chick lit always seems to have a quirky woman looking for love, because apparently the message is that strong independent women are incomplete until they have a partner. That is probably a rant for another day but I have to wonder why Nick Hornsby and Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project does not fit into this genre? All the same characteristics are there, the only thing different is the role reversal. My wife jokingly calls the genre dick lit but I don’t know why there is a gender bias in a genre. I thought Seating Arrangements would be considered chick lit but because it had a male protagonist people dismiss it as something different. Not really important but I thought it odd that just because the main character is the wrong gender it doesn’t fall under the same category, which is one of the many problems with trying to categorise books into genres.

Now let’s get back to The Rosie Project; this was an entertaining and quick read that just has too many problems with it. This over hyped book’s major flaw is the portrayal of Asperger’s; much like Addition, a mental health issue (or in this case a pervasive developmental disorder) is the quirky personality. Because underplaying a mental health issue is the answer to making a character quirky; why can’t people just be quirky without having to point fingers? Misrepresenting mental health seems to be the go to move for writers of books, TV and movies and it really isn’t helping people understand these issues. Also while I’m on the topic, why does socially awkward, introverted or quirky have to be considered as problems, why can’t we just be happy for people to be different without having to stick a label on it?

The other major issue I had with The Rosie Project was its predictability; you knew exactly what was going to happen from chapter to chapter and how the book would end. There were no surprises, nothing interesting, just a generic plot. So we have an unpredictable, generic and stereotypical plot; does that leave you with any good points? Not really, just that it was entertaining and there was some decent comedy but in the end I was glad to be done with the book. Remember that old Jack Nicholson movie As Good As It Gets? I have to wonder if this is just a modernisation of that movie, there were so many similarities. I also found a lot of similarities to Addition so I’m not sure if there is anything original left in this book.

For those that don’t mind something so formulaic and predictable, this book is entertaining and you don’t really need to pay attention. I ended up skim reading most of this book and I still felt like I didn’t miss anything, because I guessed what would happen before I read it. I know this book has gotten a lot of buzz lately and I’m still that bitter and cynical old man but I really don’t get it; I don’t see what was so appealing.

Good on Graeme Simsion for taking the world by storm with this novel, the buzz in Australia has started to die down but now the hype is starting around the world. I see it was one of the books been heavily advertised at BEA from Australia (the other being Burial Rites). For that I’m glad it’s doing well, it is nice to see Australian books getting talked about all around the world. Much like The Book Thief, I don’t see why there is so much buzz but I’m still happy when an Australian author reaches the international stage. I’m sure there will be a romantic comedy coming from Hollywood soon, so maybe that is a good reason to read The Rosie Project.


The Hunter by Julia Leigh

Posted May 28, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

The Hunter by Julia LeighTitle: The Hunter (Goodreads)
Author: Julia Leigh
Published: Penguin, 1999
Pages: 188
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Under an assumed identity of Martin David, Naturalist, M arrives to hunt down the last Tasmanian tiger rumoured to exist within Tasmania. On the edge of the wilderness, he will soon slip into an untouched world of silence and stillness. Hunting the last thylacine, an animal extinct since the 1930’s, but a sighting has been reported.

Julia Leigh, born in 1970 in Sydney, Australia, has received critical acclaim even though she has had a very small writing career so far. The Hunter in 1999; a novella in 2008, Disquiet; and then she wrote and directed the 2011 movie Sleeping Beauty (not to be confused with the fairy tale). I tend to think that most of her acclaim came from people expecting great things from her after she was selected to be the protégé of Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison in 2002 as part of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts international philanthropic programme.

The Hunter is an interesting novel because it follows a post colonial narrative which is unheard of for an Australian novel. When it comes to Australian adventure novels, most of the time characters just get lost in the wilderness not go hunting dangerous animals.  This leads to an interesting portrayal of the thylacine, which I will look at later. The Hunter may be a stripped back quest narrative but it feels very American and masculine for an Australian female author. American in a sense that the hunt narrative could be compared to Moby Dick, Old Man and the Sea and even The Bear, comparisons which she has acknowledged. Masculine in the way she gives approaches this novel with detachment, contempt and control over the death hunt subject matter. You could compare the paired back minimalist prose to something found in hard-boiled fiction, but not quite.

M is the archetype of a hunter, a figure that inhabits the story rather than one the lives in its world. There are not too many details of this character, but he seems to have similar characteristics as the hero in a spaghetti western. Ruthless, cold, calculating and inhuman but never unethical; though the lack of character development is an important part of this book. It forces the reader to keep him at arm’s length so we can study him. It’s almost like Julia Leigh has been taking active steps so that we never warm to him.

He is never a role model or anti-hero; he is just a faceless man in pursuit of the last remaining thylacine. What does the thylacine represent in this book? Imagination, hope for the future, guilt of the past, living in harmony with nature or a biotech ghost in a Tasmanian gothic novel? It’s up to the reader to decide, but while we are on the subject of the thylacine, does this animal both represents the Australian wildlife, an animal going extinct to raise global awareness as a form of Ecocriticism or is it supposed to be an animal that could harm or kill the hunter? These are the questions that I believe Julia Leigh wants us to ask as readers.

Julia Leigh setups a situation where the reader has to reason with their imagination and emotions in order to get the reader to think about what the author might be saying. I really like how you can read The Hunter as an adventure, a Tasmanian gothic or as ecocriticism. No matter which way you read this you are not wrong. I thought of this more as a western; just with the way the protagonist was portrayed and the people drinking in the bar reminded me of those rednecks drinking in a saloon in those spaghetti western films. I’m interested to see how people read this book and just see what they got out of it.


The Toe Tag Quintet by Matthew Condon

Posted February 2, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Short Stories / 0 Comments

The Toe Tag Quintet by Matthew CondonTitle: The Toe Tag Quintet (Goodreads)
Author: Matthew Condon
Published: Random House, Vintage, 2012
Pages: 341
Genres: Crime, Short Stories
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

Buy: Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Retirement can be murder! Former Sydney detective recognises someone from his workdays in his retirement home in the Gold Coast. In his hey days, this unnamed detective had to deal with some of the most murderous criminals in Australian history. But in retirement things are so much more deadly in this collection of five novellas originally published in The Courier Mail.

This is a real joy to read but there is something that just doesn’t sit right with me. There is nothing wrong with Matthew Condon’s writing; I think he is great.  I’ve just come to the burning realisation that I’m not a fan of cosy crime. I don’t know why but I can’t seem to find what is cosy about crime.

The characters within this book are great; this old school detective is witty, strong and could have had the making of a hard-boiled character if this wasn’t a cosy crime novel. He was smart and a skilled detective but this was too cosy, I mean who says “Up yours” nowadays and then there is the censored language, it just seems weird.

There are some great elements in these novellas, the humour, the wit and the well-crafted plots. But for me I never could get past the cosiness of these crime stories. They didn’t feel realistic enough and as much as I tried I couldn’t get past this fact. I’m interested to read some more Matthew Condon, he’s skilled writer and maybe he will do better at true crime or non-fiction or the contemporary novels he wrote in the past.


The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

Posted January 25, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 53 Comments

The Slap by Christos TsiolkasTitle: The Slap (Goodreads)
Author: Christos Tsiolkas
Published: Allen & Unwin, 2008
Pages: 485
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

To celebrate Australia Day (January 26th) Book’d Out and Confessions from Romaholics have hosted a blog hop/giveaway. In celebration of Australian literature I am giving away a copy of one of my favourite Australian novel (open internationally).

At a suburban barbeque, one slap will change the lives of these people. Christos Tsiolkas unflinchingly looks at domestic life in the Australian suburbs in the twenty first century. The slap and its consequences cause everyone to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires. A gripping novel of loyalty and happiness, compromise and truth from the very start to the end.

You’ll either love it or hate it; Christos Tsiolkas’ controversial novel The Slap is heavy reading and very confronting and it all starts with a Slap. The Slap starts at a barbeque for group of family and friends, when one adult slaps an unrelated child the universal tension begins. The book changes perspectives of the different characters at the Barbeque to show different emotions and feelings about the events.

The Slap goes through topics like Discipline, Child Raising, Family Life, Adultery, Friends verse Family, Gossip and Multiculturalism. While the characters are extremely flawed and sometimes you want to slap them, don’t let that put you off. If you are not a fan of course language, be warned it does feature very heavily in this book. Apart from that the writing, the characters and plot are well crafted, I have noticed women seem to hate this book more than men, it could be because of the subject matter. But it doesn’t matter whether you think the child deserved to be slapped (He did), or if the adult should have known better (he should have) this book is going to challenge you in one way or another.

The Slap will play with your emotions all the way through this book and you will rage at the characters and want to slap them senseless. But the turmoil and the internal monologue of all the characters was done really well and makes for an excellent read. It’s like you have an intimate look into the head of all the characters involved in this one incident at a barbeque. It’s a compelling read all the way to the end.

 

To celebrate Australia Day, I am giving away a copy of this book to one of my lucky readers. Entries are open to all my readers as I plan to send a copy of this book via book depository, so if you would like to win a copy of this book, enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Make sure you pop over to Book’d Out to see the others involve in this blog hop with other chances to win.


Thirst by L.A. Larkin

Posted September 16, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Thriller / 0 Comments

Thirst by L.A. LarkinTitle: Thirst (Goodreads)
Author: L.A. Larkin
Published: Pier 9, 2012
Pages: 332
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In the harsh environment of the Antarctic, the people of Hope Station are been hunted down. Glaciologist, Luke Searle has to fight for survival against a mercenary that will win at any cost, while trying to prevent an environmental disaster. He only has 5 days to fix this, can he stay alive long enough? Does he really know what he is going up against? L.A. Larkin’s Thirst is an Eco-Thriller set in one of the harshest environments known to man.

Thirst is a fast paced novel that will suck you right in with its constant suspense and the unpredictable elements within this book. The harsh setting of Antarctica and the sense of solitude and danger really helped drive this book and became my favourite element of this book. But there was something in the book that really didn’t sit well with me. This book has one of my Literary Bête Noires in it; the villains. I’ve blogged recently about how I never seem to enjoy cliché villains and unfortunately the fact that the protagonist was up against the Chinese in the book really detracted from my overall enjoyment of this book.

Apart from that one element, this book is a typical thriller, highly enjoyable read with some explosive situations. I’m happy that the book never seemed to go into the realm of formulaic but it did sit on the border and I did feel myself cringe at that thought it might head in that direction. Thankfully Larkin’s was able to recover with her writing style and her research of the environmental aspects of this book.  I must admit that towards the end of the book, when I pictured the protagonist Luke Searle, I kept comparing him to Steven Seagal and expected him to act that way.

Thirst was an enjoyable Eco-Thriller which was a lot of fun to read, while I did struggle with the villains being cliché, I did enjoy reading this novel. I would recommend this book to anyone that likes a good light read. I know many people are going to compare this book to Matthew Riley’s Ice Station but that shouldn’t be deterrent, it’s nice to see a female (why is there a lack of thrillers written by women within Australia?) can write a thriller just as exciting as something written by Riley.


2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards Announced

Posted July 23, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary News / 0 Comments

The Winners of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards were announced today in a ceremony in Canberra.  A big congratulation to the following winners;

  • Luke Davies won the award for Poetry
  • Robert Newton’s When We Were Two won the award for YA Fiction
  • Mark McKenna’s An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark won the Non-Fiction award
  • Bill Gammage’s The Biggest Estate on Earth won the Australian History award

And the winner of the award we are all interested in; best work of Fiction for 2012 goes to Gillian Mears for Foal’s Bread. Gillian was up against some great books including; All That I Am by Anna Funder, Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville, Autumn Laing by Alex Miller and Forecast: Turbulence by Janette Turner Hospital.

The most Interesting part of the award ceremony for me was when Luke Davies used his time to criticise Campbell Newman for scrapping the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards, by saying “The clear message from Campbell Newman’s wrong-headed decision to eliminate the Queensland Premier’s awards is that reading is simply not important, not valuable to the greater culture and that celebrating excellence even less so”.

Well done to all the winners, each of them was also awarded $80,000 as part of the award.


Ned Kelly Award Longlist Announced (2012)

Posted June 21, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary News / 0 Comments

The Ned Kelly Awards are closely associated with the Melbourne Writers Festival and recognises Crime fiction within Australian Literature. The 2012 long list was recently announced.

Best First Fiction

  • Boyd Anderson Ludo
  • Allan Barbeler An Absence of Discretion
  • Andrez Bergen Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat
  • Claire Corbett When We Have Wings
  • Virginia Duigan The Precipice
  • Y.A. Erskine The Brotherhood
  • Maggie Groff Mad Men, Bad Girls and the Guerrilla Knitter’s Institute
  • Sylvia Johnson Watch Out For Me
  • Melanie Joosten Berlin Syndrome
  • Stuart Littlemore Harry Curry: Counsel of Choice
  • Noel Mealey Murder and Redemption
  • Daniel O’Malley The Rook
  • Alastair Sarre Prohibited Zone
  • Peter Twohig The Cartographer
  • Kim Westwood The Courier’s New Bicycle
  • Gas Wylde Casino Kurnell

Best Fiction

  • Lenny Bartulin De Luxe
  • A.A. Bell Hindsight
  • Honey Brown After The Darkness
  • J.C. Burke Pig Boy
  • Peter Corris Comeback
  • Miranda Darling Siren’s Sting
  • Garry Disher Whispering Death
  • Jaye Ford Scared Yet?
  • Kerry Greenwood Cooking the Books
  • Brett Hoffmann The Race
  • Katherine Howell Silent Fear
  • Stephen M Irwin The Broken One
  • Malcolm Knox The Life
  • Adriana Koulias The Sixth Key
  • Nansi Kunze Dangerously Placed
  • Tobsha Learner The Map
  • Stuart Littlemore Harry Curry: Counsel of Choice
  • Colleen McCullough The Prodigal Son
  • Barry Maitland Chelsea Mansions
  • Kel Robertson Rip Off
  • Michael Robotham The Wreckage
  • Jennifer Rowe Love, Honour & O’Brien
  • Kirsten Tranter A Common Loss
  • Peter Twohig The Cartographer
  • Kim Westwood The Courier’s New Bicycle
  • Felicity Young A Dissection of Murder

Best True Crime

  • Hilary Bonney The Double Life of Herman Rockefeller
  • Peter Corris Mad Dog
  • Eamonn Duff Sins of the Father
  • Michael Duffy Call Me Cruel
  • Lucy Frost Abandoned Women
  • Fiona Harari A Tragedy in Two Acts
  • Rochelle Jackson Partners and Crime
  • Rachael Jane Chin Nice Girl
  • Kevin Morgan Detective Piggot’s Casebook
  • Kevin Morgan Gun Alley
  • James Morton and Susanna Lobez Gangland Melbourne
  • James Morton and Susanna Lobez Gangland Sydney
  • Stephen Orr The Cruel City
  • Liz Porter Cold Case File
  • Mark ‘Chopper’ Read Road To Nowhere
  • Kay Schubert Perfect Stranger
  • Adam Shand Outlaws
  • David Spiteri The Prez