Sunday Song Suggestions #22…

You’re the Voice – John Farnham – 1986

Beyond his antipodean backyard John Farnham is not as well known or respected as his talent on the microphone should dictate, and has been overlooked internationally for most of his long career. That’s a crying shame, because he is arguably the greatest pop/rock performer Australia has ever produced. You know… next to Gina G.

You’re the Voice is taken from his 1986 album, Whispering Jack, and stands as the song that is most associated with him. It’s a power ballad that builds from a soft introduction to a chorus that few others could nail the way that Farnham does here, and also includes a brief yet memorable bagpipe solo, an instrument not often associated with the genre.

I’ve dropped the links for both the album version, as well as a live recording from three years later which he performed with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, quite simply because – as well as that entire concert being fantastic – this may be Farnham at the peak of his vocal powers. If anything, his range and raw emotion is used to greater effect here on stage than it ever was in the studio.

…and besides, this is my list and I make up the rules as I go along, so today is two for the price of one.


Tickling a Writer’s G Spot…


There is no greater high as a writer than getting that sentence or paragraph… just right. You know what I mean – it’s that collection of words that you have spent far longer than you would care to admit, dissecting, rearranging, clipping, deleting and then reinstating, only to find that when all is said and done it doesn’t look all that different on your laptop from when you started messing around with it in the first place. But somehow, now, it just works.

Or maybe you don’t know what I mean. and that’s all right. I will accept – it’s a strange place to procure joy. I had one such literary climax yesterday, at the beginning of Chapter 23 of my novel in progress.

Carl had indeed given the blueberry waitress one of his Andrew Jackson twenties, and her initial scepticism as to its authenticity was alleviated when he quickly complimented her on the way she wore her hair in order to distract her. He coupled this with the kind of smile he had usually reserved for Beth – or before her – girls he had been interested in. The waitress had already taken another twenty from the till in order to satiate her uncertainty about the origin of Carl’s note, but instead of drawing comparisons as she had intended, she simply blushed, and thanked him for his kind words. When he told her she could keep the change she thanked him for that too and dropped both notes into the tray without any further ado.

This seemingly insignificant 130 word snippet appears in the narrative after 63,000 other words have gone before it. Most of those other words are (hopefully) very good, but it was as I was fiddling around with this particular chunk of text that I really felt things click into place. Why? I’m not entirely sure. But it’s a great feeling to have.

Completely out of context, this paragraph means absolutely nothing to anybody but me, and that’s fine, because the point is something intangible – something I could spend 63,000 more words trying to qualify and still not get anywhere near the head of the nail.

All right, fine, I will admit that likening it to a sexual experience is a little hyperbole on my part, because finding that perfect paragraph is just not comparable to sex in any way whatsoever: it’s much better than that.

Or maybe I’m just not doing it right.

Friday Fiction Fixes #21…

Mister X by John Lutz – 2010

imagesI could probably be rightfully accused of having a predilection for those authors whose books I am already familiar with, so it’s infrequent that I read a novel by someone that not only have I never read before, but someone that I have not even heard of before. Mister X is one of those novels, by one of those authors. As it turns out, Lutz is a pretty popular writer as well – who knew?

Mister X is a crime thriller about the hunt for a serial killer who enjoys carving up his victims in all manner of wonderful ways. His trail has gone cold and interest in his capture only begins again when a strange woman with a curious connection to one of the victims shows up out of the blue in the office of the case’s lead detective.

It’s a fairly standard entry into an extremely crowded genre, and while it does nothing in a particularly outstanding manner, everything it does do, it does… competently. The characterisation is satisfactory; and the plot is (for the most part) fairly interesting. Yeah, Mister X is a competent novel in every respect – just don’t expect it to make a lasting impression on you.

Everything Started, Ends…

Twenty years ago I completed a draft of Slipwater – the only novel I have ever written. Let that sink in for a moment. Twenty. Years. Ago. My novel is legally old enough to buy a drink!


In 1997 Slipwater was an extremely complicated idea in my head, which is at least part of the reason that the first draft – which clocks in at 88,000 words – probably runs out of steam towards the end. Or at least, I did. I just wanted to get it finished. At twenty-one years old I didn’t have the necessary life experience to tackle a lot of the themes I was getting into, so it was rushed.

In the decades since then I have told myself I am going to get back to it one day, and I’ve meant it every time. Over the years I have gone back to it… off and on. I even got so far as to redraft about 70% of the novel, but for some reason or other, I have always let it slip.

Between the years of 2005 and 2011 I sent it off to several publishers. Some wanted the first few chapters; others the first ten pages. One of these places did actually then request to see the whole manuscript, which put me in a bit of a pickle because it was at a time when I didn’t have a complete draft from start to finish. C’est la vie.

Anyway, the point is – I’m getting back on the horse again.

What’s Slipwater about? Oh, a lot of things. It’s a police thriller about the bond of marriage, and of friendship, and how a personal tragedy affects both of those things. It’s about a serial killer and second chances.It’s about the drive-through town of Slipwater and the strange secret it possesses.

But mostly… it’s about damn time I finished it.

Tuesday TV Testimonials #21…

Chicago Hope (1994 – 2000)

castMedical dramas are almost as much of a television staple as their legal counterparts. Chicago Hope had the dubious pleasure of debuting on the same day as that other medical juggernaut of the nineties, which was probably at least part of the reason that this one was cancelled after six seasons and the other one went on for a few more.

The writing on Chicago Hope was deep, but there was frequently a playful wink just below the surface – with a noir-inspired black and white episode, a musical episode, and one filmed as a celebrity style documentary, amongst other oddities. These diversions from the general week to week of surgery and the emergency room will come as no surprise once you understand the show is the brainchild of David E Kelley – the same guy who spawned Ally McBeal just a few years later.

The cast of Chicago Hope went through several transitions until, by the end of its run most of my favourites had fallen by the wayside, and there were only a couple of characters who had been there from the beginning. As the final season kicked in, although still good, the show’s glory days were a couple of years in the past, and its cancellation probably saved it from jumping the shark and kept its reputation intact.

Monday Movie Mentions #21…

The Gift (2000)

941879727c1aa0e222aca9844b3547c9Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat: Keanu Reeves is probably not even his mother’s favourite actor, and if he ever wins an Academy Award for acting it will be a very poor year in cinema indeed. However, in The Gift, as an asshole wife beater who the audience is not supposed to like anyway, he is actually a very good and believable choice. If this isn’t his best performance, it’s certainly top three.

The Gift is a thriller with a little of the supernatural thrown in to the mix, about a missing woman presumed by the authorities to be dead. It is not particularly spooky or thrilling, but that’s all right though, because this movie is more about rural Americana and the interesting characters on display than it is about cheap jump scares.

The Gift has a stacked cast as well, which helps with the required acting chops – from Cate Blanchett’s soft-spoken small-town psychic who helps the authorities with their enquiries, to Hilary Swank as the destination for Keanu’s wild fists, and the always watchable Giovanni Ribisi as the disturbed mechanic, whose rage bubbles just below the surface.

And then there’s Katie Holmes. Playing the missing woman in question, she moves – quite definitively – away from her Dawson’s Creek roots, with a very… grown up performance.

Sunday Song Suggestions #21…

Mary Jane’s Last Dance – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – 1993

With his unfortunate and untimely death earlier this week at the age of 66, I thought this would be as good a place as any to mention Tom Petty.

If you asked me to draw up an exhaustive list of my favourite male singers, it’s unlikely Tom Petty would crack the top hundred. His voice wasn’t the sharpest or the strongest and I always felt like his target demographic was my parents and their peers. His stomping ground was similar to that of Bruce Springsteen and John Cougar Mellencamp, and between the three of them they had that whole gruff-voiced male heartland rock thing covered.

Having said that I do own some of his tunes, and his stuff makes for very good driving music, which is a specific and underappreciated quality.

Dark and mysterious lyrics combine with a memorable guitar and harmonica relationship throughout to make Mary Jane’s Last Dance one of Tom Petty’s best songs. Kim Basinger – the ubiquitous Hollywood sex symbol at the time – is the titular woman in the accompanying video, which manages to be both sensual and eerie at the same time.

Rest well, Tom.