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  • Published: 15 October 2018
  • ISBN: 9780143792765
  • Imprint: Penguin Random House Australia Audio
  • Format: Audio Download
  • Length: 6 hr 40 min
  • Narrator: Sibylla Budd
  • RRP: $27.99

The Arsonist

A Mind on Fire

On the day that became known as Black Saturday, one man deliberately lit two fires near the small town of Churchill, Gippsland, then sat on the roof of his house and watched the flames. The Arsonist, by the acclaimed author of The Tall Man, is the story of that man, the fire he lit, and the people who were killed.

The Arsonist takes readers inside the hunt for a fire-lighter. After Black Saturday, a February 2009 day marked by 47 degree heat and firestorms, arson squad detectives arrived at a plantation on the edge of a 26,000-hectare burn site. Eleven people had just been killed and hundreds made homeless. Here, in the Latrobe Valley, where Victoria’s electricity is generated, and the rates of unemployment, crime and domestic abuse are the highest in the state, more than thirty people were known to police as firebugs. But the detectives soon found themselves on the trail of a man they didn’t know.

The Arsonist tells a remarkable detective story, as the police close in on someone they believe to be a cunning offender; and a puzzling psychological story, as defence lawyers seek to understand the motives of a man who, they claimed, was a naïf that had accidentally dropped a cigarette.

It is the story not only of this fire – how it happened, the people who died, the aftermath for the community – but of fire in this country. What it has done, what it has meant, what it might yet do. Bushfire is one of Australia’s deepest anxieties, never more so than when deliberately lit. Arson, wrote Henry Lawson, expresses a malice ‘terrifying to those who have seen what it is capable of. You never know when you are safe.’

As she did in The Tall Man, Chloe Hooper takes us to a part of the country seldom explored, and reveals something buried but essential in our national psyche. The bush, summertime, a smouldering cigarette – none of these will feel the same again.

  • Published: 15 October 2018
  • ISBN: 9780143792765
  • Imprint: Penguin Random House Australia Audio
  • Format: Audio Download
  • Length: 6 hr 40 min
  • Narrator: Sibylla Budd
  • RRP: $27.99

About the author

Chloe Hooper

Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man: Death and Life on Palm Island (2008) won the Victorian, New South Wales, West Australian and Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards, as well as the John Button Prize for Political Writing, and a Ned Kelly Award for crime writing. She is also the author of two novels, A Child’s Book of True Crime and The Engagement.

Also by Chloe Hooper

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Praise for The Arsonist

Gripping, gritty and unsparing but never gratuitous in its details, this is true crime writing at its best. But Hooper goes beyond the procedurals and the scene setting to examine the greater context of the tragedy.

The Saturday Paper

A cool appraisal of a hot issue...Hooper's account of the terrible crime that traumatised a community is even-handed and nuanced - so much so that, by the end of the book, it's difficult to discern where her sympathies lie: victims or accused?

The Guardian

In The Arsonist, Hooper reignites the memories of those cataclysmic events [of Black Saturday] with relentless, devastating effect.

Australian Book Review

Chloe Hooper’s The Arsonist: A Mind on Fire stokes the coals of a national tragedy almost a decade after it occurred, providing a hyper-detaile­d examination of how and why one man deliberately helped fan an inferno ... there turn out to be no easy answers.

The Australian

Awards & recognition

Davitt Awards

Winner  •  2019  •  Best non-fiction crime book

Indie Book Awards

Winner  •  2019  •  Non-fiction

Victorian Community History Awards

Awarded  •  2019  •  Judges' Special Prize

CHASS Australia Book Prize

Longlisted  •  2019  •  CHASS Australia Book Prize

Mark and Evette Moran Nib Literary Award 2019

Shortlisted  •  2019  •  Mark and Evette Moran Nib Literary Award 2019

Ned Kelly Awards

Shortlisted  •  2019  •  Ned Kelly Award for Best True Crime

Prime Minister's Literary Awards

Shortlisted  •  2019  •  Non-fiction

Stella Prize

Longlisted  •  2019  •  Stella Prize

Victorian Premier's Literary Awards

Shortlisted  •  2019  •  Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards

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