|Geoffrey McGeachin won a Ned Kelly Award for his 2010 novel, The Diggers Rest Hotel, the first Charlie Berlin novel. Now he's back with a follow-up, Blackwattle Creek, and he was interviewed for the Penguin website on its release.|
What is your new book about?
Blackwattle Creek catches up with Charlie Berlin in 1957, ten years on from his introduction in The Diggers Rest Hotel. Berlin is still a Melbourne copper, still dealing with the traumas of his wartime service but he is now married with kids and a house in the suburbs. He seems to be holding it all together but an apparently simple request from his wife to have a chat with a just-widowed friend leads to his life spiralling out of control as he's embroiled in events that take him down a very dark path.
What or who inspired it?
I wanted to pick up Charlie ten years later and see how he was coping and also to see how Australian society was changing over that period. This took me to 1957 post-Olympics Melbourne and I had an idea about an object being inadvertently placed into a coffin and having to be retrieved. That actually came about from my father's favourite cap being put into his coffin rather than placed on top with his wartime medals. Though his cap was never retrieved the incident gave me an idea for a story where a soldier's medals are accidentally placed inside the coffin and when his widow asks for them back she sees something disturbing. Coming across something called Project Sunshine, while doing research, let me tie in British atomic testing in Australia, radioactive fallout and Cold War paranoia, and then I was off and running.
What was the biggest challenge, writing it?
My biggest challenge was probably making time since I have a parallel career as a photography teacher. I love historical research and creating characters and letting my imagination wander so I need a fair bit of mulling time - a few extra hours in the day or days in the week would be useful.