Author Archives: melina marchetta

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil – review

I’m going to try very hard not to post my reviews, but I think the first deserves to be here. It’s always the most nerve-wracking and exciting because it’s the first time that someone I don’t know is critiquing it. So with a deep breath I say,  off into the world it goes.


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Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil
Melina Marchetta, Viking, September 2016
5 stars, reviewed by Fiona Hardy locked content

Outside Calais, a bomb tears apart a bus full of international teenage students. The uninjured include British ex-Chief Inspector Bish Ortley’s daughter Bee and 17-year-old Violette Zidane, the youngest member of a family involved in a horrific bombing 13 years earlier, where Bish played a devastating part in the investigation. Before Violette can be arrested—or cleared—she runs away, with another student in tow. While those in London and Calais use the bombing as an excuse to light a fire under racial tensions, Bish, despite being suspended from the force, is the one tasked to find her, realising along the way that his belief in the family’s guilt may be wearing thin. Melina Marchetta doesn’t shy away from the authentic emotions of her characters, her writing capturing their joy and pain as they navigate this crime through the veil of Europe’s simmering anti-Muslim sentiments. Bish’s investigative skills, more brains than brute force, showcase Marchetta’s own talent in writing an electrifying contemporary detective thriller. This is a clear-sighted adult-fiction debut for fans of Robert Galbraith and Marchetta herself, and is likely to be devoured by older YA readers as well.

Fiona Hardy is a bookseller, reviewer, writer and 2016 Text Prize finalist


The US Cover

I love how different the Australian and US covers are. Can’t wait until it’s out in the world in a couple of months. I’ve been asked often about any book signings.  So far, I’ll be at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival and the Brisbane Writer’s Festival in August/September and will also be in Canberra sometime. Obviously Sydney. Fingers crossed that I’ll get a chance to speak about it in New York when I’m there in October as well.

Marchetta_Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil

Alibrandi, Francesca, You and the Productivity Commission


The book industry is not a protected industry. We are not asking for money, or for a subsidy. We are asking for the same rules and intellectual property rights that prevail for writers and book publishers in the USA, in Britain, in Europe.

(Peter Carey, Thomas Keneally, Richard Flanagan)

Please keep on reading if you are an Australian reader, or if you love reading Australian books.

Some of you may have heard on Twitter or Facebook or the mainstream media about Parallel import restrictions (PIRs). You may be as confused as I’ve been, so below I thought I’d give a bit of a personal dummy’s guide to the proposals (me being the dummy). Two things to remember. None of the following is anti-foreign publishers, nor is it anti-buying cheap books online.

So let’s use Saving Francesca as an example. In 2003 it was first published in Australia by Penguin Books. Any other English speaking edition of the novel is restricted from being imported into Australia.  That means here, I get royalties from the cost of the Penguin edition and the rest of the profits are split between everyone else involved in getting a book out there.   The money Saving Francesca makes in Australia, stays in Australia.

That’s one way our copyright laws protect us.

Fast forward to now. The Productivity Commission (PC) has prepared a report recommending the Australian Government remove import restrictions on books. One of the PC’s selling points is that it would “potentially lower prices and should deliver net benefits to the community.”

So the little picture is – cheaper books. Everyone loves a bargain, so why not?

But let’s look at the bigger picture. If copyright restrictions are lifted, the Australian edition of Saving Francesca is competing here with a US or UK edition and those editions may be more popular because they may be cheaper.   What that all adds up to is that overseas publishers are going to make the financial gains in Australia. If Australian publishers are making less money, they’re going to go out of business. Publishers, editors, publicists, designers, sales people – the list of who works in a publishing company goes on forever. Their jobs are lost. And of course, Australian authors, booksellers and the printing industry are hugely affected.

Ultimately, you are too.

If a publisher here has managed to survive the bleak scenario, things are still dire. Because Aussie publishers are not going to be able to take a chance on a manuscript written by some unknown girl from the suburbs, who didn’t go on to do her Higher School Certificate, but had something to say about cultural identity and growing up in this country. Looking For Alibrandi was rejected more than seven times. Most publishers could see the potential, but couldn’t financially take the chance. Even when my publishers accepted it, I remember being told it may have to be printed overseas because of cheaper paper. That’s how much scrimping had to be done to ensure that a novel written by a first time writer could be published. There was no advance paid, and hardly a budget for the book, but there was a line in a letter sent to me by my publisher, Julie Watts. She believed what I had written was important, and that if I was willing to work hard on the edit, people could still be talking about the novel in years to come. That was over twenty three years ago.

In the year 2000 a film version of Alibrandi was released. The film premier was in Norton Street Leichhardt, home, at the time, to one independent theatre (still there) and three independent book stores (one is still there). The film’s after party was held at the Leichhardt Town Hall. Grass roots stuff. I was obviously allowed to invite family and friends and we mingled with actors and celebrities and musicians and politicians and I got to introduce my mum to Lisa Hensley from Brides of Christ, and it made my mum’s night. But what I remember most was a friend saying, “Every person in this room is here because of something you did.”

Our writers, publishers, our booksellers, our printers, and those who distribute our books from warehouses, and many more, are employed because we have an Australian book industry. If we’re lucky, and a movie is made based on an Australian book, a whole lot of other people are employed (check out how long film credits go these days).

What our publishing industry does is ensure that the Australian identity is preserved.

So that’s the bigger picture. It affects my daughter and my nephews and my goddaughters and my young cousins. If these copyright rules are changed, kids today are back in a world similar to the one I grew up in; reading fantastic novels about places over there, but needing something more. I wrote Looking For Alibrandi from a selfish place. I wanted to see me on the pages of a book, because I loved reading and I loved film, but I never felt that I counted outside my extended family and my high school friends. I wanted to be part of a bigger identity. And twenty three years later, I still get teary when a teenager tells me how much they can relate to that novel. From anywhere in the world. Or when a fellow writer tells me that they started writing because of one of my novels. I’d rather be remembered for that, than a literary award.

The PC draft report also recommends reducing copyright from 70 years after an author’s death, to 15-25 years after the creation of the work. That means anyone, anywhere in the world can produce their own versions of classics such as Schindler’s List, Animalia, Oscar and Lucinda, Obernewtyn, Tomorrow When the War began, just to name a few.  If the PC’s recommendation goes ahead,  Alibrandi will already be out of copyright.

So please please, if any of this makes sense to you, write to your local member of Parliament. Quote me, if you want. Blog about it. Or research it and understand it better than I’ve explained. If Malcolm Turnball or any other minister is campaigning in your area, go up and tell them that you want our copyright laws kept as they are. Politicians, of course, will reply with something like, ‘But what about cheaper books?’ And you can remind them about what happened in countries such as Canada and Hong Kong. Or New Zealand, home to some of the best storytellers in the world. When NZ became an open market, the publishing industry there lost many of its local and global publishing houses. Fewer NZ authors have been published.

And the books there didn’t get any cheaper.

 The consequences will be job losses, public revenue loss as profits are transferred overseas, and a brutal reduction in the range of Australian books publishers will be able to publish. Australia will become, as it was in the 1960s, a dumping ground for American and English books, and we will risk becoming –as we once were – a colony of the minds of others…

(Peter Carey, Thomas Keneally, Richard Flanagan)

Important links below.



24th May 2016: The Australian cover

9780670079100(release date  1st September)

Chief Inspector Bish Ortley of the London Met, divorced and still grieving the death of his son, has been drowning his anger in Scotch. Something has to give, and he’s no sooner suspended from the force than  a busload of British students is subject to a deadly bomb attack across the Channel. Bish’s daughter is one of those on board.

 Also on the bus is Violette LeBrac. Raised in Australia, Violette has a troubled background. Thirteen years ago her grandfather bombed a London supermarket, killing dozens of people. Her mother, Noor, is serving a life sentence in connection with the incident. But before Violette’s part in the French tragedy can be established, she disappears.

Bish, who was involved in Noor LeBrac’s arrest, is now compelled to question everything that happened back then. And the more he delves into the lives of the family he helped put away, the more he realises that truth wears many colours.

2nd March 2016: Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil

Just a few things.

Firstly, I will be speaking at gleebooks, Glebe on the 15th of March at 6pm on a panel with Erin Gough, Will Kostakis, Chris Morphew and Felicity Castagna.

Secondly, based on some FAQ, my upcoming novel Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil (final title) will be released in Australia on the 1st of September by Penguin Books, and in the US on the 11 October by Little Brown, (Mulholland).  I’ve seen mock up covers from both camps which is very exciting. Below is a synopsis I found on the Amazon site. It’s always interesting to read a description of your work written by someone else.

PS. I stole the title words from Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1. He stole them from Hugh Latimer. Hugh probably stole them from his mother.

In the wake of a devastating bombing, a father risks everything to find out who was responsible.

When Bish Ortley, a suspended cop, receives word that a bus carrying his daughter has been bombed, he rushes to be by her side. A suspect has already been singled out: a 17-year-old girl who has since disappeared from the scene.

The press has now revealed that she is the youngest member of one of London’s most notorious families. Thirteen years earlier, her grandfather set off a suicide bomb in a grocery store, a bomb her mother confessed to building. Has the girl decided to follow in their footsteps?

To find her, Bish must earn the trust of her friends and family, including her infamous mother, now serving a life sentence in prison. But even as he delves into the deadly bus attack that claimed five lives, the ghosts of older crimes become impossible to ignore.

A gripping fusion of literary suspense and family drama, TELL THE TRUTH, SHAME THE DEVIL is a fast-paced puzzle of a novel that will keep readers feverishly turning pages.


A month of book launches

If I had to say one of the best things about the world of YA, it’s getting to know the writers. In the next two months at least four of the Sydney gang I know will be launching new novels.  Anyone can come along.  A synopsis of each novel is at the end of this post.

I love these women. They are smart, funny, down to earth and kind. Whenever I get to speak to them, one on one or in a  group I’m in awe of how much we can cover in so little time: writing (not much talk about that); family, religion, movies, TV, racism; food; social networking; luddites; bullies; sport; our plethora of primeministers; sexism; grief; community; ignorance; hair and make up.

I hope I get all the facts right below.

The first novel to be launched is Megan Jacobson’s debut novel, Yellow on Thursday 28th January at Kinokuniya


MeganOn the 4th of February,  Justine Larbalestier and Kirsty Eagar will be launching  their novels My Sister Rosa and Summer Skin together, and entertaining the crowd with a discussion about Sex and Pyschopaths.



On the 25th of February Sarah Ayoub will be launching her second novel at Kinokuniya, The Yearbook Committee.



Yellow by Megan Jacobson

If fourteen-year-old Kirra is having a mid-life crisis now, then it doesn’t bode well for her life expectancy. Her so-called friends bully her, whatever semblance of a mother she had has been drowned at the bottom of a gin bottle ever since her dad left them for another woman, and now a teenage ghost is speaking to her through a broken phone booth. Kirra and the ghost make a pact. She’ll prove who murdered him almost twenty years ago if he does three things for her. He makes her popular, he gets her parents back together, and he doesn’t haunt her. Things aren’t so simple however, and Kirra realises that people can be haunted in more ways than one. “

My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

Che Taylor has four items on his list: 1. He wants to spar, not just train in the boxing gym. 2. He wants a girlfriend. 3. He wants to go home. 4. He wants to keep Rosa under control. Che’s little sister Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and so good at deception that Che’s convinced she must be a psychopath. She hasn’t hurt anyone yet, but he’s certain it’s just a matter of time. And when their parents move them to New York City, Che longs to return to Sydney and his three best friends. But his first duty is to his sister Rosa, who is playing increasingly complex and disturbing games. Can he protect Rosa from the world – and the world from Rosa?

Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar

Jess Gordon is out for revenge. Last year the jocks from Knights College tried to shame her best friend. This year she and a hand-picked college girl gang are going to get even. The lesson: don’t mess with Unity girls. The target: Blondie, a typical Knights stud, arrogant, cold . . . and smart enough to keep up with Jess. A neo-riot grrl with a penchant for fanning the flames meets a rugby-playing sexist pig – sworn enemies or two people who happen to find each other when they’re at their most vulnerable? It’s all Girl meets Boy, Girl steals from Boy, seduces Boy, ties Boy to a chair and burns Boy’s stuff. Just your typical love story.

The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub

Five teenagers. Five lives. One final year.

The school captain: Ryan has it all … or at least he did, until an accident snatched his dreams away. How will he rebuild his life and what does the future hold for him now?
The newcomer: Charlie’s just moved interstate and she’s determined not to fit in. She’s just biding her time until Year 12 is over and she can head back to her real life and her real friends The loner: At school, nobody really notices Matty. But at home, Matty is everything. He’s been single-handedly holding things together since his mum’s breakdown, and he’s never felt so alone.
The popular girl: Well, the popular girl’s best friend … cool by association. Tammi’s always bowed to peer pressure, but when the expectations become too much to handle, will she finally stand up for herself?
The politician’s daughter: Gillian’s dad is one of the most recognisable people in the state and she’s learning the hard way that life in the spotlight comes at a very heavy price.
Five unlikely teammates thrust together against their will. Can they find a way to make their final year a memorable one or will their differences tear their world apart?


A whole lot of Misc to start 2016

Firstly, Happy New Year.

The paperback edition of The Piper’s Son comes out in Australia today. If anyone is interested, during January, I’ll respond to any burning questions you’ve ever had about the novel in the comments section.

TPSON_B format_FCA

Except the Jimmy Hailler question, which I’ll address now.

No, I’m not currently writing a Jimmy Hailler book. But it may seem as if I am.  If you are inclined to read my next novel due out in September  (more of that down below) then the prologue will present you with two Jimmys. Netiher is Jimmy Hailler.

I know. How cruel. Didn’t do it on purpose. Wasn’t thinking. Tried to change their names, but once you name those characters, it’s really hard to change much about them.

In saying the above, a Jimmy Hailler novel does exist in my head and has for a while. It’s a four-hander and he’s one of the narrators. I’ve said it before,  I know a bit about him. He’s the first out of the “Francesca” gang to procreate, accidently. It’ll be an adult novel because Jimmy’s now in his mid twenties and two of the other main narrators are my age (young in spirit but greying slightly). I’ve actually written about one of the characters, Mattie, in a short story called “The Centre” for the 2013 anthology “Just Between Us”.  Mattie fleetingly mentions her step demon, and this year, I’m hoping to write the short story from that step daughter’s point of view which is called “When Rosie met Jim”. And then I’d like to write the short story from Jim’s perspective when he returns to Sydney after being away for quite some time, and crashes on his friend’s couch. For now most of that is in my head, and it’s all I can offer the Jimmy readers.

The not so bad problem about being a writer is that you think you’re ready to start on something and all of a sudden, a whole new bunch of characters jump into your head. That’s what happened a couple of years ago with Bish Ortley and the characters from Shaming the Devil. I’ve handed in a close-to-final edit and you’ll be seeing it in the second half of this year. It’s the first time I’ve completed an edit simultaneously with two different publishers, one in Australia and the other in the US. I’ve loved the experience and have been most fortunate working with the smartest of editors. As you probably know, it’s a crime thriller, but I can’t see it not suiting most of the readership I’ve come to know. My main focus in writing is always the relationships, the characters and the communities they find themselves part of.  For now, I’ll leave you with a couple of lines from the letter sent to me early last year by my Australian publisher, Ben Ball.

…  It’s alternately gripping, moving, challenging, and funny – it feels, somehow, genuine and joyous, despite its darker sections. It feels somehow wholehearted. It’s about family, loss, adolescence, middle-age, old age … it captures an enormous chunk of the world.

On a quick note, the Jellicoe film dream is still alive. New producers came on board last year, who I respect and who truly understand the guts of the novel and the film so fingers crossed that there’s exciting news to tell in 2016. Thankfully, the film script is ready and waiting so my part in the process is over.

Finally, here is the cover for Brazillian Jellicoe.  I think it’s my favourite so far. The artist’s name is Carlo Giovani. I was also sent a photograph on how it was put together – one piece is superimposed on to another.  Have I said enough how much I love a good designer of books.

covercover making of 2