Narrative Transport. The official Michael Pryor website.
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  • September13th

    Tim Pegler

    As my childhood memories become foggier and less reliable, there are several book moments that stand out from the murk.

    The moment I discovered Herge’s The Red Sea Sharks (a graphic novel in a small rural library!) was like tripping over a gold nugget. The thrall induced by JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was such that I would climb high into a tree where I could read without interruption by younger siblings. Ian Fleming’s James Bond series was great fun. And John Wyndham’s novels (such as The Midwich Cuckoos & The Chrysalids) struck a chord that still resounds today.

    But the book that shines brightest is Ivan Southall’s To The Wild Sky. This was a proudly Australian story and the first novel to utterly confound me by denying the usual happy-ever-after. The 11-year-old me was so gobsmacked that I wrote to the author seeking answers.

    Ivan replied with a beautiful letter putting the onus on my imagination to complete the tale. That was the moment I first understood the magic an author has in their hands.

    Many years later I met Ivan and he presented me with the sequel he’d reluctantly written for To The Wild Sky. I read it eagerly, feeling 11 all over again. And I laughed. The conclusion of A City Out of Sight is even more audacious than that of the prequel.  I like that a lot.


    Tim Pegler’s most recent novel is Five Parts Dead (Text Publishing, 2010). Tim blogs at and tweets via @timpegler.


  • August28th

    Jenny Blackford


    Hidden somewhere in one of the cupboards, I have a small cross-stitched sampler hand-embroidered (and designed) by a friend when we were both 14 or so. It’s in Elvish. I also own the Donald Swann record of the poems and songs of Middle-Earth, which includes J.R.R Tolkien reading “A Elbereth Gilthoniel”. I suspect that I can still recite most of the words. I can certainly still dredge obscure Middle-Earth facts out of long-unused areas of my memory – for example, that Elrond is Galadriel’s son-in-law.

    Yes, I’m a Lord of the Rings tragic. I don’t dare open the books, or I wouldn’t get anything else done until I finished rereading them yet again. The trilogy has (almost) everything: humour, deep history, high drama, languages, mysterious forms of magic, romance (albeit rather chaste), relentless villains, flawed heroes – even dragons and Elves. And I always did like it that they’re not just elves, but Elves.

    I know that people either love or hate the trilogy, so that’s as far as I’ll go in trying to convince anyone of the virtues of LOTR (though I can’t resist pointing out that the prose is a delight, nothing like the debased Quoth that so many insist it is; archaic language is only ever used when it’s appropriate and even necessary, usually in scenes involving characters who have outlived many generations of human beings – even if they still look young, or at least ageless.)

    LOTR was a perfect fit for the teenage me: a fey budding poet obsessed with ancient languages and Faery, a misfit in one of the roughest High Schools in the Hunter Valley, where surfies ruled and netball was brutal. What could have been better than a trilogy that grew out of a philological obsession with the deep myth/historical background to a set of invented languages? With Elves?

    Jenny Blackford’s most recent book is The Priestess and the Slave, 2009, Hadley Rille Books ( For more, see Jenny’s website or her blog.

  • July19th

    Claire Corbett

    The book that haunted my childhood was Elidor by British writer Alan Garner. An icy, grief-stricken story overshadowed by the twilight feel of Celtic myth, it was a short sharp shock after the cosiness of the Narnia tales I knew and loved. Elidor was the first book to shatter my childhood expectations of happy endings, to unsettle me with the power of elision and loss. Garner, an elusive writer considered among the greatest fantasy writers, experiments with how much of plot and character he can pare away and still have a story standing. My childhood copy of Elidor, (the Fontana Lions edition illustrated by Charles Keeping) which I still own and treasure clocks in at a bare 160 pages. Read More | Comments

  • July6th

    Jack Heath

    I have adored so many novels that I regularly change my mind about which is my favourite. On some days I will tell you that it’s Scarecrow, by Matthew Reilly. On others it might be Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or Dan Well’s I Am Not A Serial Killer, or perhaps The Messenger, by Markus Zusak. I love Siren by Tara Moss, and Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg, and The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. I could do this for hours.

    But today, my favourite book is Diary, by Chuck Palahniuk. I started reading it as a 19-year old boy, sitting in a hotel lobby after my first literary festival. Chapter 1 gave me goosebumps. Chapter 2 brought me to the verge of tears. I have no memory of the limousine, aeroplane and taxi that took me home; I didn’t look up from the book until I’d finished it five hours later.

    The power to elicit a physical reaction in the reader, be it goosebumps, tears or laughter, is the mark of a great novel. So is a story that hasn’t been done before; and Diary‘s plot – a failed painter writes a diary for her comatose husband, who scrawled cryptic warnings across walled-off rooms before his suicide attempt – is like nothing I’ve read before or since. Like many of Palahniuk’s books, it begins with a nihilistic protagonist in a painfully realistic world, but then leads you down the rabbit hole so seamlessly that you may not notice you’ve stumbled into a dream – or a nightmare.

    “The philistine provides the best definition of art,” Louis Dudek once said. “Anything that makes him rage is first class.” After devouring Diary twice, I discovered that many other people loathed it. “Reading this is like being cornered by a dim-witted and semi-belligerent drunk possessed by an idée fixe he keeps reciting over and over again, jabbing your shoulder each time,” writes Laura Miller of Salon. But this hostility only made me love the book more; I can’t shake the feeling that if everyone else hates it, then it must have been written specifically for me. (Or perhaps I’m just contrary.)

    Of all the reasons that I love Diary, this is the most potent: it’s a book I couldn’t write. I’ve produced action-packed sci-fi, philosophical crime and frightening YA, but I’ve never produced anything even remotely like this. I can’t wrap a ghost story in a conspiracy thriller in a tragidrama in a diary. But that never felt like a shortcoming until I read this book.

    Actually, it’s not exactly a ghost story, and I’m not even sure if “tragidrama” is a word. I don’t even have the vocabulary to describe Diary, let alone write it.


    Jack Heath’s latest book is Hit List (Pan Macmillan Australia). For more, visit his website.

  • June28th

    Michael Wagner

    Michael Wagner

    Dibs in Search of Self, Virginia M AxlineDibs In Search of Self

    I can’t think of any higher praise for a book than to tell you that this one made me sick! Actually sick. But in a good way … sort of. I was so deeply moved by this true story of a troubled boy, Dibs, and his psychologist, Virginia Axline, that when I finished reading it, I had some sort of nervous break down of my own! True. I actually had to take a week off work to recover. Now that’s a powerful book! And, no, I don’t require time off every time I read a good book!


    To Kill a MockinTo Kill a Mockingbirdg Bird, Harper Lee

    The last time I looked, this Pulitzer Prize winning book was one of the biggest selling novels of all time, so I’m not exactly Robinson Crusoe in loving it. But what’s not to love? This gentle, wise and poignant account of racism in 1930s Alabama is a monument to human decency. In the character of Atticus Finch, Harper Lee created a father-figure for generations. If you haven’t read it, you really should.

    Read More | Comments

  • June7th

    Sean Williams

    Like a lot of kids who grew up to become writers, I was a voracious reader from a very early age.* My parents loved books too, and I remember going through their shelves in search of something, anything to try next. They didn’t often deny my choices in this regard–they let me try Alex Haley’s Roots, for instance, even though I must’ve been all of nine at the time–but they were sure also to suggest more age-appropriate titles. Both ways, I discovered a wealth of wonderful writing: my mother’s collection of Agatha Christie’s novels was an early obsession, my growing collection of Doctor Who Target novelisations another. It was therefore very hard to pick a single book out of all the books I loved back then . . . until I remembered this particular one. Read More | Comments

  • May31st

    George Ivanoff

    George and the Mushroom PlanetI used to be what is euphemistically termed a ‘reluctant reader’. My words at the time would have been more along the lines of “I hate reading! It’s boring!”. How’s that for a revelation? Not the sort of admission you’d expect from a children’s author. But it’s true. I spent early primary school, back in the 1970s, avoiding books.

    Why? I think it was mostly because I didn’t like the stuff I was being given to read. The school readers we had to take home were dry and dull and they put me off even trying to find other material. But all that did eventually change.

    Somewhere in mid-primary (and I can’t remember exactly when, as I’m now in my 40s and my memory is on the downhill slide :-)) a book club program was introduced. And we were expected to choose at least one book. The book I chose was Eleanor Cameron’s The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet. I can’t remember why I chose it. Maybe because it had ‘mushroom’ in the title and I’ve always liked mushrooms. But guess what? I liked it! In fact, I loved it! This was a bit of a revelation…

    You see, it turned out that I didn’t dislike reading… rather it was simply a case of not having found the right material to interest me. But now I had found it. Science fiction! I went on to read the sequel, Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet, and then moved on to Jack Williamson’s Trapped in Space. It wasn’t long before I was reading Andre Norton, Robert A Heinlein, HG Wells, John Wyndham and John Christopher. Christopher’s Tripods trilogy had a huge impact on me, and these books remain favourites to this day. In fact, I recently re-read them and blogged about them. Read More | Comments

  • May24th

    Carole Wilkinson

    One of my favourite books as a child was the first book I can remember reading. It was a Rupert Annual. I didn’t grow up in a house full of books, but I often got a book for my birthday, and one for Christmas. The Christmas book would always be an Annual. And the Rupert Bear Annuals were the ones I loved most. For those not familiar with Rupert, he is not one of your cuddly bears that you might snuggle up to on a cold night. Rupert is a serious bear, who has serious adventures. Read More | Comments

  • May11th

    Marianne de Pierres

    The Secret Garden will forever be the most important book from my childhood. My sister was a little older, and on school holidays she used to take time to read to me.

    I can still remember sitting in my dad’s old green armchair in our family room which was lined with books, listening to her. When she read The Secret Garden she always did her best to make the voices sound real, especially Dickon’s broad accent. It was like being right there on the English moors.

    I experienced so many emotions listening to that story (which I later went on to read myself, many times) – fear, isolation, sadness, determination, wonder. Mary was a the first strong and defiant female character I’d met in fiction and her determination to survive the loss of her parents and help Colin to better health was inspiring. The secret garden itself was the sort of place every child wants to discover and have as their special secret. A few years ago, when I went to the Varuna Writers Centre, I found their tiny walled garden – it was the closest thing I’d ever seen to a secret garden and I was immediately taken back to age nine.

    Burnett’s theme of the inherent healing power of nature really appealed to me and I think has long influenced the way I think about the world. Interestingly, I resisted seeing the film adaptation. I really didn’t want my own perfect vision of the story reinvented or tainted in any way. The memory is so precious. When I became a god mother for the first time, I gave my goddaughter that as a christening present. It seemed to be the most important thing from my life that I could pass on to her; a story or survival and courage that also tells of the importance of friends and family and nature in our lives.


    Marianne’s latest YA book is ‘Angel Arias’ (Random House Australia), Book 2 in the ‘Burning Bright’ series. Book 3 – ‘Shine Light’ – will be released in November 2012. For more, see the Burning Bright website, or Marianne’s website.

  • May3rd

    Kate Forsyth

    When I heard year that Diana Wynne Jones had died, I grieved as deeply as if I had known her. Part of my sorrow came from the thought that there would be no more Diana Wynne Jones books … no more funny, wise, magical stories that never fail to enchant and surprise. Read More | Comments