EXCLUSIVE: Clinton Walker talks GOLDEN MILES

Today, Clinton Walker drops by the Boomerang Books Blog to discuss his latest release, the buzzed-about Golden Miles. Part-autobiography, part-mediation on beauty, loss and national identity, Golden Miles is a must-buy for Aussie rev-heads and pop culture lovers alike this holiday season.

I wrote Golden Miles for the same basic reason I’ve written all my books – I’d been gripped by the story and simply wasn’t going to be happy until I’d got it down and out there in some form. I guess you could say my speciality is sort of underclass or overlooked history and for Golden Miles, these cars that I’d grown up with and been entranced by could be, I could see, a great vehicle for my broader interest in the social and cultural history of life in the Australian suburbs and fringes.

It’s always seemed to me, perhaps because it’s all still so close, that people seem to look down on the suburbia they came from or even still live in. But in the course of seven books over the past twenty or so years, this history has proved not so close that the people who lived through it aren’t starting to drop off. This was certainly the case with my book about aboriginal hillbilly music, Buried Country: statistics said many of these elderly aborigines should have been dead a long time back, and in fact, a few have died since the book (and film and CD) was completed in 2000, but that only doubled my original determination to get their stories down before it was too late and it’s one my great prides that I did.

More than once, people have said to me, ‘You write books for people who don’t read, or don’t buy books.’ Apart from the fact that at different times with diffferent titles, I’ve sold a lot of books (my 1994 biography of late AC/DC legend Bon Scott has sold around one hundred thousand copies and is still selling at a rate of knots), what I think these people are saying is that my subject matter is declasse. Writers can write all sorts of books about all sorts of things and hope (or expect) that readers will come to a subject that they might not ordinarily broach. I write books about subjects that are not ‘legitimate’ – aboriginal hillbilly singers, small-time Australian football culture, suburban rev-heads… and I ask, just because those subjects are not populated by people who are readers, is that any reason not to cover that subject? Or for typical readers to come to it? In fact, to me, of course, it again doubles my determination.

I grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne in the 1960s, and I was probably a slightly precocious kid who was into comic books and bubblegum cards and hot rod magazines and, increasingly, rock’n’roll. I drew rheems of my own dream-machine custom cars because I just loved the lines and I loved the promise in them, a promise of break-out and sensuality and speed and glamour and all possible tomorrows.

I wanted to be a car designer, I told people. Life intervened of course, and by the time I finished high school in Queensland, I was running right off the rails, intoxicated by drugs and rock’n’roll, and so it was only very reluctantly that I started an architecture course at university because, I suppose, my parents thought it was the thing I should do with my talents for design. I soon dropped out and enrolled in art school… but soon dropped out of that too, to start writing for rock magazines. I fell into writing because I had a story to tell, not because I was ambitious to be a writer, and in a lot of ways, my motivation remains the same.

After writing a few books about Australian rock (including Inner City Sound, Stranded and the Bon Scott biography, Highway to Hell), I realised my interests were broadening out or returning to my general fascination with vernacular, popular culture, and thus almost stumbled over the stories I wrote in  Buried Country and Football Life.

Golden Miles is a love song to these particular cars of this particular era in Australian history, and if it’s true, as I admit, that I am in so many ways a dilattante, because I’ve never owned such a car and wouldn’t know how to do more than change a tyre on one if did, I think this unconsummated aspect of  our relationship only makes my dedication more ardent!

It was a fascination I’d had since childhood and I finally wanted to understand what it was all about. And I think, having written the book, I now do.

The book always had to be illustrated, and beautifully designed. What point is a book about beautiful design that isn’t beautifully designed itself? As a former art student, I remain dedicated to the visual even though I have a line that says, ‘your literary credibility declines in direct proportion to the number of illustrations your book includes’. But how could I not include some of this beautiful, evocative and provocative imagery?

I designed the book in conjunction with my design partner, Jim Paton, who learned his trade at Reader’s Digest. I love the way this book looks.

When I go back and glance through it now, I enjoy the way it reads too. 🙂

The Bedside Book of Beasts: A Wildlife Miscellany by Graeme Gibson

This is a gorgeous and a curious book. A magnificent sad-looking leopard stalks across its dust-jacket and many other beasts and prey lurk in the forest of its pages. It is richly and colourfully illustrated with drawings, photographs, paintings and objects from many artists, countries and cultures. There are beasts from prehistoric wall paintings and ancient manuscripts, there are tigers, panthers, foxes, wolves, deer, bison and bunyips, and there is an Inuit drawing of a shaman and a Phoenician carving, there is also a photograph of a ‘reclining demimonde’ who is clearly a beast of a very different sort. Some of the most beautiful paintings of beasts are by J.J.Audubon, who is better known for his birds. Altogether, this is a gorgeous bedtime book for dipping into and finding creatures which might readily stalk through your dreams.

Which brings me to the ‘curious’ part. This is a curious book in the Alice-in-Wonderland sense. It’s text is full of strange and unusual poems, parables, folk-tales, brief quotations, fabulous and imaginative stories, plus extracts from the diaries of hunters and explorers, and writing by scientists and ecologists. It is an eclectic mixture of curiosities in which Graeme Gibson’ s introduction to each section of the book are, perhaps, the most curious.

Gibson writes of his own experiences with wild animals – a childhood encounter with sharks, the thrill of listening to wolves, the strange experience of being unknowingly stalked by a bear. But he also  writes about animal behaviour, about the encounter between the hunter and the hunted, and about our own history as both predator and prey. His accounts do not always make comfortable reading, especially as they describe the increasing alienation of human beings from the natural world. In fact, reading this book, as I did, from cover to cover, rather than dipping into it at random, can be an increasingly depressing experience. Not only have we humans managed to by-pass natural selection and so undermine the natural process which improves the survival chances of any species, we are also increasingly cut off from any direct contact with the beasts on which we feed, and from the natural world in general. As a bedtime story, this is more likely to give you nightmares than pleasant dreams.

However, and this is a big HOWEVER, dipping into this book is a delight. And if Gibson’s underlying theme does penetrate our consciousness (and subconsciousness) and reinforce our love and understanding of beasts through the many curiosities he has collected in it, then it should be on everybody’s bedside table.

A selection of sample pages is available athttp://knopfdoubleday.com/bedsidebookofbeasts/

EXCLUSIVE: Kim Miller Guest Blog

The influence of my life and work on my writing…

Being a prison chaplain is an interesting business. I work in a world that is unknown and misunderstood. People say to me, ‘How do you manage to work with those men after all the stuff they’ve done?’ I say, ‘It’s okay. I get to meet the people my mother wouldn’t let me play with when I was a kid.’

Well, I used to say that. Then I gave honesty a try…

See, I remember returning to my home town, and visiting the mother of a primary school friend, Robert.

I knock on her door. She answered, a bit belligerent – just as I remembered. ‘Who are you?’

‘I’m Kim. I used to live next door.’

‘Kim,’ she exploded. ‘You’re the boy who set fire to my yard and nearly burnt the house down.’

Mind you, this instant response is thirty-five years after I’d left that town as a teenager.

She goes on to talk about me as a kid as if I’m not standing in front of her: ‘That Kim was such a bad influence that we had to send Robert away to boarding school.’ 

So, maybe my work as a prison chaplain means I get to work with the people like me, the ones other mothers wouldn’t let their children play with. 🙂

My recent book, They Told Me I Had To Write This is a young adult novel about a boy named Clem. Clem is at war with the world and with himself. He’s in trouble with the coppers and is now attending a school for toxic teenagers. And in this environment, he starts to deal with the sexual abuse of his childhood. 

The abused childhood autobiography is fairly common. But fiction novels about child sexual abuse are not common, especially for teenagers. Perhaps publishers shy away from the area. Perhaps people don’t feel qualified to write about it. Perhaps authors are waiting for the vampire thing to fade and it will be the next fad. Perhaps I will now be inundated from readers who want to fill in my ignorance. 

All I can say is that one sleepless night on holidays this book put itself together in my head. I got up the next morning and wrote an outline. Then I started to write. Five days later I had the first draft. Some holiday, don’t you reckon?

Competent people cast their eye over it. Author Hazel Edwards mentored me for some of the way. It got knocked into shape and was accepted for publication. Three years after that sleepless night it was on its way to the printer. I’m a bit blown away by it. 

I sometimes wonder where the story came from. The answer is, from my own mind. It was in there already. I know about boys in strife. I’ve worked with them, as teenagers and adults, for many years. I was one myself. My book has been getting some pretty good reviews. I love that.

People ask me if I am writing anything else. Yes, I am. I’m currently writing a follow-up to this book. It’s not a sequel, but it has resonances. There’s a supporting character in They Told Me I Had To Write This named Bundy. I’m telling his story. It’s a darker work and there’s a more menacing undercurrent. Bundy likes burning things down. It’s the story of a firesetter. I wonder where that could be coming from…

They Told Me I Had To Write This by Kim Miller

Clem is a boy in strife. Blamed for the death of his mother, carrying a terrible secret from Grade 5 and in trouble with the police, he’s now in a school for toxic teenagers. And that rev-head school counselor wants him to write letters.Through his writing Clem goes deep into the trauma that has defined his life. Then he comes face to face with his mother’s death. In a rush of bush bike racing, the death of one student and the consequent arrest of another, an unexpected first girlfriend, and some surprising friendships, Clem’s story is the celebration of a boy who finds an unexpected future.Tackles multiple issues affecting today’s kids: bullying; family dysfunction; grief; mental illness; friendship with a fast-paced plot. Adults who are looking for insight into how to approach instances of deep teenage trauma will also find something here, as well as a good story, well told.


The new month has brought with it a new era for Boomerang Books, our brand new website is now live!


Pretty, huh?

But it isn’t just a fancy coat of paint. Here at Boomerang, we believe in providing our customers with an unparalleled user experience, something we feel this update does.

To celebrate the launch, we’d like to invite you and your friends to become members on the site for free. We’re giving every new member that signs up a $5 credit toward their first order as a member!

Sign up here: http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/join

It only takes a couple of minutes.

So what’s new on the Boomerang Books website?

  • It’s much faster – searches are completed in milliseconds
  • It has a more contemporary design and slicker interface
  • Search results are presented in multiple formats allowing the user to find what they are looking for quickly and easily
  • It has new social networking features, including an RSS feed of ‘what’s happening’ on the site at any one time (and there’s more to come – watch this space)
  • It has smart Web 2.0-style gadgets, pop-ups and drop-downs to make the user experience more enjoyable, including ‘Someone just bought…’ and ‘Customers who bought this book also bought..’ selections
  • It features a new loyalty program called Boomerang Bucks. Buy books at Boomerang Books and earn Boomerang Bucks towards your next purchase
  • It’s integrated with Google Books, allowing the user to ‘look inside’ the growing list of books that have been digitised by Google
  • It’s integrated with Abebooks, giving you the option to purchase second hand copies of selected books
    There’s a new wishlist where you can store books that you might wish to purchase later on
  • It has a much-improved book review system, allowing users to submit their own book reviews and to provide a star rating for books they have read
  • It offers more payment options, including PayPal, BPay and bank deposit
  • Perhaps most importantly, the new website platform is extensible and we’re planning on some exciting developments in the coming months

So be sure to drop on by and become a member today! http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/join