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An introduction to Robert Drewe’s literary life.

In his mid-20s, and already a Walkley Award-winning journalist, Robert Drewe shifted his focus to writing fiction. His 1976 debut novel, The Savage Crows – a revelatory depiction of the collision between white and Aboriginal Australian worlds – announced the arrival of an exciting young voice in Australian literature. In the 40 years since, Drewe’s award-winning novels, memoirs and short story collections, along with his plays, sketches, essays and editorial appearances, have tapped into, and informed, our national psyche. In celebration of his lifetime dedicated to the written word, here’s a brief introduction to the books of Robert Drewe.

 

The Savage Crows (1976)
The story of the most tragic, cruel, brave and misguided episode in Australia’s history – the ‘saving’ of a unique race, the Tasmanian Aborigines – seen through the eyes of an obsessive young present-day narrator.

A Cry in the Jungle Bar (1979)
Big, bullish Dick Cullen is lumbering through his tour of duty with a UN agency in Asia. Totally out of his depth among his small, deft, knowing colleagues, in the Nameless Nightclub he realises it is just a matter of time before his nightmares become reality…

The Bodysurfers (1983)
Set among the surf and sandhills of the Australian beach, this bestselling collection of short stories is an Australian classic. The Bodysurfers vividly evokes the scent of suntan oil, the sting of the sun and a lazy sensuality, all the while hinting at a deep undercurrent of suburban malaise.

Fortune (1986)
Fortune is the story of Don Spargo, a modern explorer who finds a sunken treasure ship off the West Australian coast and becomes a folk hero, a lover, and a hunted and haunted man. Suspenseful, satirical and deeply moving, this novel challenges the nature of reality and legend.

The Bay of Contented Men (1989)
The Bay of Contented Men conjures the desires and misadventures of edgy suburbanite Australians. Drewe’s characters face the confrontation of gender, race and generation with an ironic desperation born of love, lust and wistful memory.

Our Sunshine (1991)
Drewe’s strikingly imaginative re-creation of the inner life of Ned Kelly carries the reader into a dreamworld of astonishing and violent revelation. Our Sunshine reveals an entrancing and frightening landscape of murder, sexuality, persecution, robbery, vanity, politics, and corruption.

The Drowner (1996)
In the warm alkaline waters of the public bath a headstrong young engineer accidentally collides with a beautiful actress. From this innocent collision of flesh begins a passion that takes them from the Wiltshire Downs to the most elemental choices of life and death in the Australian desert.

The Shark Net (2000)
Between 1959 and 1963, in Perth’s middle-class suburbs, a series of mysterious murders created widespread anxiety and instant local myth. The Shark Net is Drewe’s vibrant and haunting memoir of this time – reaching beyond the dark recesses of murder and chaos to encompass their ordinary suburban backdrop.

Grace (2005)
Physically and emotionally besieged, Grace attempts to claw back her personal territory by abandoning her inner-city life and fleeing to the remoteness of the Kimberley – where existence and territory have altogether wider implications.

The Rip (2008)
In these stories you will find yourself sharing the fears of a small boy in a coastal classroom as a tsunami approaches; in an English gaol cell with an Australian surfer on drug charges; and witnessing a middle-aged farmer contemplating murdering the hippie who stole his wife.

Montebello (2012)
In the sleepy and conservative 1950s, the British began a series of nuclear tests in the Montebello archipelago off the west coast of Australia. In this moving sequel to The Shark Net, Drewe travels to the Montebellos to visit the territory that has held his imagination since childhood.

Whipbird (2017)
At Hugh and Christine Cleary’s new vineyard, Whipbird, six generations of the Cleary family are coming together from far and wide to celebrate a family milestone. As the wine flows, it promises to be an eventful couple of days… Comic, topical, honest, intelligent and sympathetic, this is a classic Australian family saga as it has never been told before.

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