Sydney: Talking Points

The man sitting next to me introduces himself as Michael Robotham. Someone stops to talk to David Malouf by the side of the harbour. Kerry O’Brien walks by. This could only be Sydney Writers Festival.

Readers in the sun at Walsh Bay










But the writers aren’t the only stars. We are here for the Visiting International Publishers (VIPs, indeed). The main game is two days of speed dating between these visitors and Australian publishers and agents hoping to reach beyond our shores.

The event opens on Wednesday with a series of panels about the state of publishing across the globe. Each VIP seems to open by saying their market is ‘much the same’ as the last, before presenting us with something completely different. The Australian sense of humour translates well in Slovenia, where libraries are king. Koreans do not read for pleasure, but will buy Liane Moriarty when it’s framed as self-help. A newborn mobile publisher is hoping to capture the ‘one device’ market of India, delivering serialised books by politicians and adult film stars to smartphones in carefully timed instalments (just in time for the news cycle? Or at 10pm each night?).

In the afternoon, the focus turns inwards but the content is no less stimulating. Sandra Phillips of the First Nations Australia Writers Network challenges all publishers to include at least one First Nations writer on their list every year – not because we should, but because there’s so much wonderful work (Dark Emu, of course, winning Book of the Year at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards on the Monday night). A roundtable on Australian writers festivals, including the directors of the Sydney event, sparks fiery discussion about platforms for Australian writers. Our independent bookshops – looking at you, Readings – come up again and again.

And all to the backdrop of proposed changes to the Australian publishing industry and angst about where the arts sit in this election campaign.

There is certainly a lot to be said.

Jean-François Vernay takes to the Curiosity Stage

Jean-François Vernay takes to the Curiosity Stage

And there is time for the Writers Festival as well, to discuss Kate Tempest’s electrifying opening address (and the ensuing media storm). To see our authors, Sydney local Jane Jose and New Caledonian visitor Jean-François Vernay, take to the stage to share their insightful books with new audiences. And for a sticky cinnamon scroll from the festival coffee stall (or maybe two).

The Sydney sun is warming, but so is the conversation. Or there is certainly enough to be said.


Another extract from Quiet City

With the upcoming launch of Quiet City by Carol Lefevre on Sunday at West Terrace Cemetery, we couldn’t resist sharing another extract. This one comes from the chapter “Darkness in Daylight” and the illustration is by Anthony Nocera.  

But there is, too, a long and more troubling list of activities that eventually became the focus of a government investigation. They involved the appropriation of bodies for dissection, especially from public institutions such as the gaol, the lunatic and destitute asylums, and even the Adelaide Hospital. As so often happens in life, a major event was sparked by an apparently minor one – the sudden death of a hapless fellow on a winter morning in 1903.
At Ovingham railway station north-east of Adelaide the man scribbled a few lines on a scrap of paper, then drew a revolver from his pocket, put it to his head and pulled the trigger. The note read: Cannot get work; no food or shelter. Better give up the struggle than starve. The body was removed to the city morgue, the Dead House at West Terrace Cemetery. A jury was sworn in over the remains and the coroner, Dr William Ramsay Smith, conducted an inquest. A pawnbroker with whom the deceased had dealt with in the days preceding his suicide identified the body as that of Eugene Green. To a non-medical person, what happened next is sickening, but I feel I owe it to Eugene Green, and to others who suffered a similar fate, to relate the awful details.

Anthony Nocera




More from Quiet City

Carol Lefevre will be launching Quiet City at the West Terrace Cemetery this Sunday May 15. To celebrate, here is another extract with an illustration by Anthony Nocera. This extract comes from the chapter “In Deep Water”.

The names of people who drowned in the River Torrens would fill a book. Many of them were children, and although few could swim they found their way towards the water. On a Sunday afternoon in November, Henry Charles Etheridge, aged nine, and his brother Edward, seven, left their home on the Parade at Norwood and went to the river near Hackney Bridge.  Neither boy could swim. The younger boy entered the water and at once sank to the bottom. His brother jumped in to save him, and he, too, disappeared.
Some small boys who were on the riverbank noticed what had happened and raised the alarm. Three lads of about eighteen rushed to assist – Charles Veitch, Clem Hill, and Herbert Leslie. They stripped off and leapt into the water, and after several dives the body of the older boy was found, soon followed by that of his brother. Charles Veitch brought them both to the surface; they had been in the water for twenty minutes. Three medical students came upon the scene, along with Dr Brummitt. Resuscitation was attempted for almost an hour, without success. The boys were the sons of Henry (Harry) Joseph Etheridge, a bootmaker, and his wife Mary Frances (Minnie).
Money to fund a headstone was collected by a Mr Blunt, and in February 1903 it was unveiled by the mayor of Norwood. The monument of white marble stood seven-and-a-half feet high and was surmounted by a cross; the grave was enclosed by an iron fence. At the unveiling ceremony much was made of the older boy’s heroism in sacrificing his life to try and save his brother. It was good to die for another, the mayor said, but he hoped everyone would remember that it was good to live for each other, hence the sympathy and goodwill evident in the memorial designed by Mr Blunt.

Anthony Nocera

An Extract from Quiet City

The following extract is taken from “Unhappy Women” in Quiet City by Carol Lefevre. Quiet City explores the extraordinary and unusual lives of the people now resting beneath the tombstones of West Terrace Cemetery. The illustration accompanying this extract is by Anthony Nocera. The launch will be taking place at West Terrace Cemetery on May 15 at 2pm. Carol will be leading a tour of the cemetery and taking us to some of her favourite grave sites.

Unhappy Women

Of all the unhappy women in West Terrace Cemetery, Winnie Goater stands out. At twenty-one she was already the mother of a three-year-old child and by September of 1906 she was, secretly, ‘in a certain condition’. At 2.30 on a Sunday afternoon, Winnie told her mother she was going out for a ‘walk with Will’ on the Unley Road and would be home in time for tea, and slipped out the front door of their house at 254 King William Street. It was the last time Mary Ann Goater would see her daughter alive.
At the beginning of September, Mary Ann had noticed that Winnie appeared pale and unwell and she had quizzed her about her relationship with the man she had been keeping company with for the past nine months: he was known to her as Will Cameron. Winnie had told  her mother that there was no need to worry, that she was quite all right, but Mary Ann remained suspicious.
When Winnie did not return, her mother reported her missing. Mrs Goater had spoken to Will once when he called while Winnie was out, and asked him whether he had employment. Cameron had told her he was working for the government, fixing warning bells on the railways, so in the wake of her daughter’s disappearance Mrs Goater enquired after him at all the government offices. Eventually she tracked him to a house in Pirie Street, and when he opened the door, according to Cameron, she ‘started up at a terrible rate’, demanding to know whether Winnie was inside and accusing him of having ruined her daughter. Will Cameron was adamant that Winnie was not there and that he had not seen her since 13 September, when he took her to the Show.
‘But I’ll help you look for her,’ he said, ‘because she’s a nice little thing.’
William Cameron boxed clever, but Mrs Goater was having none of it. Somehow she forced him to accompany her to the’Detective Office’, where she insisted he account for his movements on the day of her daughter’s disappearance. Once there, Cameron suddenly denied that he had even accompanied Winnie to the Show. A furious Mrs Goater accused him of lying, and ‘ran him down to the lowest’. She would never give up the search, she said, until she found her daughter, dead or alive.
How those words must have rung later in Mrs Goater’s ears, for by then her daughter was dead, and had been buried at West Terrace Cemetery under the name of Mary Elliot.

Anthony Nocera