Australian Andrew Nette talks heist novels and tells us about his latest, Gunshine State
- Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Andrew Nette is a rising star from Australia, whose recent book, Gunshine State, puts him in a league of modern hard boiled’s best. It deals with Afghan vet-turned-robber, Garry Chance, on the run and out for revenge when his robbery of a Filipino gangster’s son goes bloody and wrong. Nette plays with the heist tropes in a way that makes them his own. we caught up to him to talk about the book, influences, and writing in general.
MysteryPeople Scott: Gunshine State reminded me of Jim Thompson’s The Getaway, in the sense it is a heist novel that spends most of its time with the fallout of the heist. What did you want to do with the subgenre?
Andrew Nette: I’m a major Jim Thompson and The Getaway is probably my favourite of his novels (or a close second to The Grifters). The 1972 Sam Peckinpah film version is also wonderful. So, I take the comparison as a great compliment.
I love heist books, the genius of their plots and the variations they come in, whether it be the all star criminal team assembled for a job or the ex-con desperate for one big score. And the golden rule of heist fiction, which Thomson follows so well in The Getaway, is the heist always, always, goes wrong. Whether something goes awry with the plan, human greed or suspicion, or just plain bad luck, the heist must go wrong and the participants are left to pick up the pieces. And the more twisted and broken things get, the better I like it. My main aim in Gunshine State was to write a uniquely Australian take on the classic heist story set in contemporary times.
MPS: Gunshine State has both a fresh and classic voice. Did you draw from any influences?
AN: My main influences are pretty easy to name check. Don Westlake aka Richard Stark’s Parker books are the most obvious influence. The first 15 books in the series, in particular, are a crash course in how to plot and write a lean noir novel. I am a big fan of the Crissa Stone books by Wallace Stroby and Garry Disher’s Wyatt series. In many respects, I was deliberately trying to do a darker version of the Wyatt books, which are already fairly hardboiled. The trick is to take your influences and combine them with a fresh, unique spin, whether it be the type of heist involved, the location, the characters, how it goes wrong and how bad things go from there. I hope I have been successful in doing this.
MPS: I was really impressed with how the book moved. How do you keep that forward momentum going?
AN: Editing is a big part. Take what you have written and edit it to within an inch of its life, so that any scene that gets in the way of moving the plot forward and hampering the pace is eliminated. The other trick, for me anyway, is being prepared to do terrible things to characters in the interest of maintaining momentum.
MPS: As an American, I didn’t know much about Surfers Paradise. What makes it stand out from other Australian cities?
AN: The best description I ever heard of Surfers Paradise is that it is a sunny place for shady people. It was basically a small settlement hacked out of mangroves swamps in the sub-tropical south of Queensland in the forties that by the sixties had become Australia’s foremost beach holiday destination. It was modelled on similar places in Florida, so it has this weird faux Miami vibe, traces of which are still visible. Nowadays, the local authorities promote Surfers a family friendly destination, but it has a very colourful history, full of deeply suspect characters and criminal goings on.
The other key to understanding Surfers, which I also touch on in my book, is the wider history of Queensland. From the sixties to the mid-eighties, the state of Queensland was run by a group of incredibly corrupt cops known as the ‘Rat Pack’. The full extent of the corruption and abuse of power that characterized the activities of the Queensland police during this time, is only now coming to light; a hidden world, that involved everything from drug trafficking, political intimidation to murder. Surprisingly, only a handful of Australian crime novels have touched on Queensland during this time and I thought it was time I added to that small list.
MPS: You write about crime fiction in your blog, Pulp Curry. Has that informed your writing?
AN: I suppose it has in terms of opening me up to the huge diversity of good crime writing out there. That said, I seriously don’t feel I read nearly as much as I would like to or should and I write about these books even less. To be honest, in addition to enabling me to sound off on books, films and other forms of popular culture I am interested in
I see my site as part of ‘giving back’ to the crime fiction community, if I can use such a broad term. One of my pet hates is crime-writers who only ever use their websites or social media to tout their own work, and never review or plug other books and authors. Writers, particularly early and mid-career authors, are all in this together and we should try and support each other to whatever degree we can.
MPS: What do you love about crime fiction?
AN: Done well, no other genre is better at depicting and exposing the dark side of the world we live in.
You can find copies of Gunshine State on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.