The Big Issue : Edition 580
BOOKS THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 8–21 FEB 2019 41 Garda detective Cormac Reilly is back, in this second thriller from Perth-based Irish author Dervla McTiernan, and it’s a ripper. Reilly’s partner Dr Emma Sweeney finds herself up to her neck in trouble when a promising young student, heir to a prosperous pharmacological research company, is murdered at Galway University. Emma’s research is being funded by the company, and it’s she who finds the body. So, when Cormac is the first officer on the scene, something has to give. McTiernan’s debut novel, The Rúin, rightly led critics to acclaim her a rising star within the police procedural and criminal mystery genres. The Scholar more than cements that reputation. Indeed, it enhances it two-fold. This earthy, thoroughly believable narrative, set within a unique modern landscape and interspersed with flawed but thoroughly relatable characters, is one that will intrigue and delight in equal measure, and stands proudly beside the best of modern thrillers. Ian Rankin and Liz Nugent had better make room, because Celtic crime has a stunning new contender. CRAIG BUCHANAN THE SCHOLAR DERVLA McTIERNAN Some people say that the zombie genre has become a melange of overused tropes. With this book, gender non-binary author Alison Evans delivers a resounding answer to why it is still one of the most indulged fantasy genres in the world. In Highway Bodies, an unspecified virus has struck Australia, specifically regional Victoria, which animates corpses and sends them hunting for other humans to infect. For the tragically outcast teens of post-apocalyptic Australia, abandoned or distrusted by their families for their gender diversity or sexual orientation, the zombie threat is in some ways a release. The appeal of this genre lies in the clarity of the battle. You don’t have to argue about your existence with a zombie, a zombie is never going to be in control of your life (only your death), a zombie isn’t complicated. Together, the mismatched group travel through the overrun remnants of Australia falling in love, having adventures, facing adversity and remaining true to themselves. All-in-all, a very satisfying read. RAPHAELLE RACE It’s a hard-sell trying to get young adults interested in the mechanics of writing, but Claire Duffy, English teacher and director of public speaking and debating at Sydney’s Scots College, does a good job. This is an excellent resource book for students (and even for some adults) who need a refresher course in the building blocks of the English language. It’s divided into five sections (parts of speech, essential skills of writing well, how to be a good writer, writing for marks and support for writers). Duffy also inserts what she playfully calls “Nerd’s corner” (inside information about English), as well as “warnings” and “wise advice” throughout. There’s an early disclaimer: with regards to grammar, she says – in capital letters no less – that THERE ARE NO RULES. She prefers to call them conventions: “basic systems we all understand and use and habits we all follow”. The book takes us through the various units that make up these systems. THUY ON HIGHWAY BODIES ALISON EVANS RECENTLY I GAVE a workshop for Writers Victoria about literary reviewing and journalism. Yes, I know it’s not exactly a growth industry given the paucity of column inches available to the arts, but I still like to think I provided some salient information for those curious about the receiving end of publishing. Aside from offering tips on how to be a good critic (to wit, the ability to offer consumer advice and community service; provide cultural context; and be passionate, independent and honest), arguably one of the most important things I pointed out was this: if you care about books and the future of the (local) publishing industry, one small thing you can do is support literary publications to help ensure their survival. Literary journals can offer new voices not seen in mainstream publications (often from people of colour or those who identify as LGBTIQ). They can take more risks, showcase more experimental writing. Such plurality of background and forms of expression can only be a good thing if you believe in the democratisation of literature. They deserve support. So if you like to read about books and their authors, please consider taking out a subscription to a struggling journal or giving one to a fellow bookworm. (As well as taking out a subscription to The Big Issue, of course!) THUY ON > Books Editor THE AUSTRALIAN STUDENTS GUIDE TO WRITING AND GRAMMAR CLAIRE DUFFY MAGAZINES ARE THE BEST THING EVER.