JW; I’d like to start by asking, have you always wanted to be a writer? And where did the idea for Dead Man’s Creek come from?
CH: I thought I wanted to be a writer when I was at university, but quickly shelved the idea as preposterous. And it was: I simply wasn’t very good at it. And I had the attention span of a gnat. It was only much later, after decades of journalism and a couple of non-fiction books, that I finally felt I had the ability to write credible fiction.
The idea for Dead Man’s Creek came from its setting in the forest – the Barmah-Millewa forest – which is a real place in Australia. It’s highly changeable – some years it’s drought-stricken and fire-prone, other years it’s flooded, massive wetlands. It’s a great place to set a crime novel.
JW: How much research did you have to do for Dead Man’s Creek, did you visit any of the settings in the novel? Play with explosives?!
CH: I visited the forest in the summer of 2008-09 at the height of the worst drought since European settlement, when it was feared the forest was dying. (I was researching a non-fiction book, The River). Then I revisited it in late 2021 when the forest was flooding.
On that first trip, I met an old man named Tim Mannion, who was a local amateur historian. Tim told me about being a kid in the forest during the second world war. His story provided the seed for Jimmy in the book.
Researching the seventies was really fun – what music was current in 1973, what people smoked and drank, what the fashions were, etc.
I didn’t play with explosives.
JW; Who would you like to see playing the parts of Nell Buchana and Ivan Lucic when Dead Man’s creek is turned into a Movie!
CH; Not sure. Possibly some unknown Australian actors who could make the parts their own.
JW; As a child growing up, were you an avid reader, or was television your thing? Do you have a favorite childhood book or television program?
CH; I was definitely more of a reader than a television watcher, although I was also sporty and spent a lot of time out of doors, so I wouldn’t describe myself as being overly bookish.
JW; If you could go back in time, to one historical event, to witness it, what would it be and why?
CH; At the end of the last ice age, when the land bridge between Australia and Papua New Guinea was breached and the Indian and Pacific Oceans joined. It must have been truly spectacular. The thing is, it was only about 8,000 years ago, and there were people there watching it – we know that from the oral histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
JW; What is your favorite book or books that you have read so far in 2022, and why?
CH; There were some really impressive Australian crime debuts: Wake by Shelley Burr and Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor come to mind – both ‘outback noir’. I also enjoyed the playfulness and meta-fun in Sullari Gentill’s Woman in the Library and Benjamin Stevenson’s Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone. All four are published in the UK
JW; What is something you are passionate about aside from writing?
CH; Coffee. Food. Bushwalking. Writing music (badly).
JW; If you were to be marooned on a desert island what 3 items would you take?
CH; A guitar. A telescope. A still.
JW; Do you have a hidden talent?
CH; If I do, it’s very well hidden.
JW; Are you currently writing another book, and when will it be released?
CH; Yes, trying, to be released in Australia in October 2023 and in the UK in January 2024. At least that’s the plan.
Chris Hammer was a journalist for more than thirty years, dividing his career between covering Australian federal politics and international affairs. For many years he was a roving foreign correspondent for SBS TV’s flagship current affairs program Dateline. He has reported from more than thirty countries on six continents. Chris’s non-fiction book, The River, published in 2010 to critical acclaim, was the recipient of the ACT Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Walkley Book Award. Scrublands, his first novel, was published in 2018 and was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Debut Dagger Award, Best Debut Fiction at the Indie Book Awards, and Best General Fiction at the ABIA Awards. It has also been longlisted for the Ned Kelly Best Crime Novel of the Year. Scrublands was optioned for television by Easy Tiger (a FremantleMedia company). Chris has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University and a master’s degree in international relations from the Australian National University. He lives in Canberra with his wife, Dr Tomoko Akami. The couple has two children.
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