“There must be something in the West Australian water because of late they’re producing some seriously good fiction.”
Crime Fiction Lover – Review blog & website
Author Alan Carter writes about Fremantle Press’ success with great Australian crime fiction.
Celebrating its 40th birthday this year and having already fostered some literary household names like Elizabeth Jolley, Joan London, Kim Scott, and Gail Jones, Fremantle Press has garnered new attention and praise for its crime fiction list in the last few years.
WA’s underbelly has been a feature of the Fremantle Press output since the 1990s. This year there was a particularly neat symmetry with one of its earliest crime successes, Dave Warner, who released City of Light with them in 1995 returning 20 years later to win this year’s Ned Kelly for Best Fiction with Before It Breaks.
Andrew Nette, The Guardian, noted ‘Fremantle Press, (is) a key force in the emergence of WA’s crime fiction scene…’ and Kerryn Goldsworthy in the Sydney Morning Herald, writes ‘Fremantle Press has, in recent years, produced some remarkable crime fiction…’
Over half the Fremantle Press crime novels were published from 2010 onwards when Georgia Richter published Felicity Young’s Take Out as one of her first books as the adult fiction publisher and, in the following year, Alan Carter’s Prime Cut won the Ned Kelly for Best First Fiction. Over the past six years Richter has developed a small but critically acclaimed list of crime novels that have won two Ned Kellys as well as another Neddy shortlisting and a longlisting for the Miles Franklin.
So what is it about WA, Fremantle Press, and crime? Is there really something in the water? The boom state, the bloody colonial history, the spectacular and extreme landscape, all are fertile ground for crime fiction. Dorothy Hewett once observed that ‘Perth’s air of manufactured innocence … was in fact the perfect field for corruption’ and Tim Winton has written of a ‘kind of hardness and blindness that comes with an invader’s ethos.’
‘What we’re seeing right now is authors grappling with our invader past, present and future in works by writers like Peter Docker and Jacqueline Wright,’ says Jane Fraser, CEO of Fremantle Press. ‘Crime fiction has a way of turning a forensic eye on unpalatable subjects that we may be reluctant to encounter in ‘real life’ and of provoking thought even as it entertains. It’s not an easy space to write in – nor is it always a comfortable space to publish from – but we believe it’s important.’
For Dave Warner there are parallels between the harsh bright sunshine of LA in the early hard-boiled novels and his own beloved WA. ‘I grew up here but I never got to read fiction stories set in my world so I wanted to tell our stories. From the LA originators like Chandler and Hammett who’d first influenced me, there was an established tradition of corruption being integral to the story and I used that template for City of Light but I’m as happy to explore what’s good or funny about the country as what’s bad.’
With the release this month of David Whish-Wilson’s Old Scores and new novels in the pipeline from Alan Carter, Dave Warner, and Rob Edeson there’s plenty to keep crime fans in WA, Australia, and overseas happy in the near future.
And if there is something in that water in WA then Fremantle Press is doing a good job of bottling it.
About Alan Carter
Alan Carter was born in Sunderland, UK. He immigrated to Australia in 1991 and lives in Fremantle with his wife Kath and son Liam. He works as a television documentary director. In his spare time he follows a black line up and down the Fremantle pool. He is the author of three Cato Kwong novels – Prime Cut,Getting Warmer and Bad Seed.
Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction (Winner 2010)
UK Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award (Shortlisted 2010)