Australian Crime Novelist and Scholar, Andrew Nette
Chiang Mai City News is pleased that Australian pulp fiction writer, Andrew Nette agreed to be interviewed here. Andrew has strong ties to Thailand, Cambodia and the region although he currently resides in a country I like a great deal, and a city I would like to visit one day, Melbourne, Australia.
Andrew Nette is one of the founders of Crime Factory Publications, a small Melbourne-based press specialising in crime fiction. He co-editors its magazine Crime Factory, and co-edited its publication Hard Labour, an anthology of Australian short crime fiction, and LEE, an anthology of fiction inspired by American cinema icon Lee Marvin.
His short fiction has appeared in a number of print and on-line publications, including Beat to a Pulp, Hardboiled 3, Shotgun Honey Presents: Both Barrels, Blood and Tacos, The One That Got Away, Phnom Penh Noir and Crime Factory Hard Labour.
Andrew is also on the committee of management for the Australian Crime Writers Association. He has been known to tip a pint at Queen Victoria Pub and make an appearance at Check Inn 99 when visiting Bangkok, Thailand. I am pleased to welcome Andrew here today:
CMCN: Is Australia still, The Lucky Country and if so, why?
AN: It’s important to note it has never been the lucky country for some, particularly our Indigenous people who are the original inhabitants of Australia, many of whom still live in Third World conditions.
That said, yes, Australia is still one of the luckiest and most comfortable countries in the world. At the same time, I’ve thought for a while now that we are slowly becoming a much more unequal country. A lot of the values and structures we see as uniquely Australian, for example, our sense of egalitarianism, are started to slip away. With respect to my USA friends, we are starting to see some of the emergence of many of the not so positive trends we see in the States, such a growing inequality in income distribution and polarized, increasing shrill political debate.
It’s important to note that when it was first coined in the sixties, one strong aspect of the term ‘the lucky country’, related to Australia’s abundant natural resources. This is a positive in that it has enabled us to weather economic storms that have engulfed other Western countries. There’s also a negative connotation. Our reliance on being a quarry for overseas nations has stifled our ability to plan ahead and think of more innovative solutions to maintaining our economy, and has engendered complacency in our outlook.
CMCN: What book(s) or music influenced you growing up?
AN: Without doubt, the books that most influenced me growing up were the pulp and crime novels read by my father.
Along with a lot of men in the fifties and sixties, Dad loved Carter Brown and Larry Kent. He also had a thing for Mickey Spillane, John MacDonald and Ian Fleming. I still have his collection of early James Bond paperbacks, saved from what would no doubt have been one of Mum’s frequent op shop culls. I’ve read them all several times.
Even as a child, Dad’s collection of crime paperbacks fascinated me. Their lurid cover art, the seamy cadence of titles like Nobody Loves a Loser and Bid the Babe Bye-Bye.
I spent many hours in my teens thumbing through all these books. This, in turn, led to progressively longer forays on my bike in search of second hand bookshops to feed my desire for paperback thrills. These shops seemed to be almost always hidden down a side street or deep in the bowels of a suburban arcade. They were darkly lit and smelt musty. The more crammed and chaotic, the happier I was. It gave me a chance to rummage. A curtained off section where the adults only stuff was kept was even better, adding to the furtive and mysterious nature of my expeditions.
All this contributed to my joy in reading. Certainly it’s responsible for my particular love of crime fiction. It also led, eventually, to my interest in the history of pulp publishing.
CMCN: What’s the last record or book you can remember listening to or reading?
AN: I recently saw Bruce Springsteen in Melbourne and was listening to a lot of his stuff in preparation for the concert. The album that really stands out is Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Hammersmith Odeon, London, ’75. It has all the classics, including my favourite Springsteen tracks, ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’ and ‘It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City’ (I also love the version of that song done by David Bowie).
CMCN: Is there a book out there or laying around your home that you’ve been meaning to read but haven’t gotten around to it yet?
AN: There’s many, but the one that comes to mind is Ryzard Kapuscinski: A Life by Artur Domoslawski. Kapuscinski was a globe trotting Polish journalist in the seventies and eighties. In addition to, literally, going where others would not or could not go, his writing developed a wonderful magical realistic quality in order to get around the Polish censors. He was one of my heroes, a hard-edged humanist and a wonderful journalist.
He was also the subject of great controversy. As with virtually anyone in the former Soviet Block who was able to undertake significant creative endeavors that attracted positive attention in the West, without running foul of the authorities, some claim he was a spy for the Polish Government. There may be some grain of truth in this, although not in the way people who make this accusation mean it. Kapuscinski, and people like him, lived under an all-consuming police state. I doubt there were many prominent intellectuals and writers who did not, at some time, have to feed something to the security services, it’s the nature of living under a dictatorship. That’s very different from being a conscious and active ‘spy’ or intelligence operative.
CMCN: Complete this sentence: Amazon.com is…
AN: Both an opportunity and a threat for writers. It’s also probably an inevitable development so we need to learn to live with it. Personally, it’s been positive for me in that it’s given me a chance to help spread the word about my 2012 book, Ghost Money.
Personally, I see Amazon as no better or worse than any other big company. I think the concerns about Amazon, such as its labour standards and impact on bookshops, are important and need to be debated. I find it amusing, however, when people criticize Amazon but think nothing about doing their shopping at a major supermarket chain or using some other major commercial operation for a good or service.
CMCN: Make the case for fiction over non-fiction in 100 words or less.
AN: Both are important. Both have their place.
CMCN: Please tell me your three favorite dead authors? Or if you are feeling confident you can throw some live ones into the mix?
AN: In terms of dead authors, I can’t go past Charles Willeford, Jim Thompson, James Crumley and Donald Westlake. Westlake’s Parker books, which he wrote under the pseudonym Richard Stark, probably remains my favourite all time crime fiction series
There’s a long list of contemporary crime writers whose work I admire, but special mention would go to Megan Abbott, David Peace, James Ellroy, Dennis Lehane and Donald Ray Pollock. In terms of the Australian end of things, I am a huge fan of Garry Disher and the West Australian crime writer, David Whish Wilson.
CMCN: Tell me about your publishing house. What are the challenges of a boutique publisher in an Amazon age?
AN: Crime Factory was first launched as a print magazine in 2000. It went for nine issues and was incredibly influential before a combination of factors resulted in the editor pulling the plug on it in 2003. It was rebooted as on-line magazine in PDF, Kindle and print on demand format in early 2010. Crime Factory Publications has three Australian editors, Cameron Ashley, Liam Jose. Another guy, Jimmy Callaway, is based in the US.
We decided to establish as a small publishing house in late 2011 because we think there’s a gap in the Australian market for darker crime fiction. We put out longer form material, anthologies and novellas. Eventually we want to move into novels, but we’re a long way from that.
Our material is niche and primarily digital. While that eliminates a lot of problems, distribution is still a challenge, as is marking our selves out from the pack. A lot of complexities also arise as a result of the fact that we are small and try and work in the USA and Australia.
CMCN: What does the The Year of the Horse have in store for you?
AN: In the next month or so I’ll finish my second novel. I don’t talk about work in progress and won’t make an exception here except to say it’s a totally different main character to the one that appeared in my first book, Ghost Money, and a totally different setting (although part of the book is set in Asia). There’s also a few other projects in the pipeline which will hopefully see the light of day soon.
CMCN: Thank-you, Andrew Nette for your time. Best of luck in 2014.
Andrew Nette is a Melbourne crime writer, reviewer and pulp scholar. He is one of the editors at Crime Factory Publications. His short fiction has appeared in a number of print and on-line publications. His first novel, Ghost Money, was published in 2012. His online home is www.pulpcurry.com You can find him on Twitter at @Pulpcurry
This post first ran at Thailand Footprint on March 30, 2014