Tag Archives: Gold Coast

Location, location, location – why Byron Bay is a perfect crime setting

19 Mar

Setting is important in crime novels. Where would Sherlock Holmes be, without the fog-bound London streets? And wouldn’t Scandi-noir be way too cheerful without those long, cold snowy nights?

Byron Bay might not be quite so noir, but it is still a fascinating location. In my new young adult comedy/crime novel, the beauty and the weirdness of the bay become almost another character in the book.

My protagonist, Olivia Grace, is a Gold Coast girl – They could have scrawled ‘here be dragons’ on the map south of Coolangatta as far as I was concerned.

The first time she went to Byron, she thought it was paradise:

Byron Bay, I soon discovered, was a place to conjure dreams. The sweep of the bay to the base of the mountains; the dolphins leaping from water so clear it was barely there. For us, it was nirvana.

But nirvana had a dark side and things didn’t turn out so well back then. Now, Olivia is back. A freshly hatched Private Investigator, she is hot on the trail of a yoga guru who’s a bit of a creep.

Here’s a whistle-stop tour of the mean streets of Byron as trodden by Olivia in ‘The Girl with the Gold Bikini.’

A Byron Bay Yoga Studio

I read recently that Byron has the highest percentage of yoga instructors outside India. Even if that’s not true, it’s believable. Things heat up for Olivia when she heads out to a fictional yoga studio, Lighthouse Bliss:

I park among the bangalow palms and make my way past the flowering lily pond to reception. The usual South American panpipes are playing and lavender wafts from an aromatherapy burner.

Despite this auspicious welcome, Oliva soon discovers that Byron Bay yoga is not for the fainthearted:

Ajay’s Bikini Beach Body Boot Camp Speed Yoga is powerful stuff. Each two-hour class covers all the moves other yoga teachers would take two weeks to fit in. He learnt this form of yoga from an Indian guru, who granted him sole worldwide rights. I guess gurus aren’t what they used to be.

Unfortunately for Olivia, things only go downhill from here…

Ah, Wategos…

Olivia trails the creepy yoga instructor to a large house with an infinity pool, overlooking Wategos Beach.

As I wind past the cabbage tree palms to Wategos, Abbey’s voice is in my head. ‘How good is this place, Ol? Surf and rainforest. It’s paradise.’ Byron Bay is still paradise. Seems like the whole world thinks so too, though.

Despite the crowds, I still think Wategos is possibly the most beautiful beach in the world. Surfing beneath the lighthouse as the sun sets over the mountains is one of life’s magical moments. Which brings me to…

Surf’s up…

One thing you can almost guarantee about Byron is… crowded surf breaks. Olivia used to surf, but she gave it up after a bad experience. Now she’s trying to get back into it again.

I’d forgotten how cutthroat it is out here. One of the men in the line-up is a kind of man-fish thing. His hands are the size of flippers and he gets onto the waves with about two strokes.

The pack takes my measure quickly. Every time I paddle for a wave someone else comes in from in front or behind or materialises out of nowhere.

Hot tip, Olivia – if you want to avoid the crowds, you need to surf in the dark. Which, in due course, she does. And after a surf, where would you head, but…

The Pass Café

For a post surf snack, this has to be the best spot in town.

A bush turkey roams around underfoot while the magpie cocks its greedy eye at a muffin. In Byron, the rainforest, with all its wildlife, comes right to the beach. Jacq and I claim a table with a view of that show-off, the sea.

Mm, and after a coffee, it’s time to move on to…

Jonson Street

At the risk of sounding like our Prime Minister, how good is Jonson Street? You could watch the world go by all day and never get bored.

The pavement is teeming with the usual frenzied mix: hippies down from the hills, European backpackers, spiky-haired Japanese surfers and gold-sandalled blondes in white linen beach wear.

And when you’re ready for some entertainment, there’s always…

Byron RSL

Several years ago, I did Mandy Nolan’s stand-up comedy course, culminating in a performance at the Byron RSL. The experience was so nerve-wracking, I had to get Olivia to re-live it for me…

Sipping a beer, I perch at a table down the back where I can take photos without being noticed. It’s open mike comedy night and she’s just taken the stage. The crowd is a mixture –young hip surfies mingled with your typical middle-aged RSL drinkers.

And of course, a novel set in Byron Bay wouldn’t be complete without a trip to…

The Lighthouse

A northerly wind whips at our hair and flattens the surf to whitecaps. Panting, we look over the cliff edge and see two dolphins, a mother and a calf, below us. I imagine them as the slackers of the dolphin world. ‘I can’t be bothered catching fish. Let’s get takeaways tonight.’ If I was a dolphin, that would be me.

Now that I’ve scoped the town, I can confirm that Byron Bay is the perfect setting for a fictional crime. Particularly if you’re into that of the yoga and surfing variety.

‘The Girl with the Gold Bikini’ is available from your friendly local bookshop, or: Readings, Booktopia, Amazon Australia, US, UK

Ah, those Gold Coast days…

1 Feb

Well, this book has been a loo-ong time coming (what’s fifteen years or so, between friends?). It’s been so long, in fact, that I’ve published five other books, while I’ve been working on it. Some books take longer than others to find their perfect form.

So here it is – release day! It’s been worth the wait. Thanks so much to Wakefield Press for steering this book to publication and to my son, Tim Eddy, for the little video.

I thought I’d post a short extract here to whet your appetite. There is so much of my teenage self in this book – ah, those Gold Coast days…

***

‘The Girl with the Gold Bikini’

Chapter One:

Whenever I see a girl in a gold bikini, I think of Princess Leia. Here on the Gold Coast, gold bikinis are common, so I think of Princess Leia a lot.

Princess Leia doesn’t stand for any nonsense. When the giant slug made her wear that ridiculous bikini, she whipped out her chain and gave it a thrashing. Then she changed quick smart into something more sensible.

Dance with the hottest crowd in town, our stunning waitresses will ensure …

Punching the radio ‘off’ button, I squeeze my car into a metered spot near Cavill Avenue and glance at my watch. Late again. The good thing about working in Surfers Paradise is that the meter maids will be along soon to stick money in the meter. That’s if they don’t recognise my parents’ bombed-out Daihatsu, in which case they’ll know I’m no tourist, but a shameless leech on the system.

I jog up the street, jumping sideways to avoid getting wiped out by a guy with a nine-foot surfboard on his head. A tout calls out from a doorway, gesturing towards his shop. Get your stuffed koalas, didgeridoos and Akubra hats here, folks. Or that’s what I imagine he’s saying. As I don’t speak Japanese it’s hard to be sure.

I nod at the tout. He nods back. Seiji’s All Australian Souvenir Shop and Outback Bar is my regular lunchtime haunt. I don’t buy much but it’s always quiet in there, compared to the hustle bustle of the street. Seiji is nice. He never seems to mind if my ice-cream drips. He’s a good salesman, too.

As I push through the door of Gold Star Investigations I pause to savour the thrill it gives me. Here I am. Straight out of school and already a private investigator in training. It’s funny, though, how when dreams come true they’re never quite what you expect.

I hadn’t thought it would be so hard to work with Rosco. He and I are no strangers. We grew up on the same street in Southport. He was one year ahead of me in school, but we hung out together after hours. Rosco was Luke Skywalker and Han Solo to my Leia. We took turns to play Yoda, and very accomplished in Yoda-speak we were. The force was with us. I misheard this phrase the first time he said it, before I watched the movies, and the horse is with you became our little in-joke.

***

‘The Girl with the Gold Bikini’ is available in all good bookshops and online at retailers such as Booktopia and Readings.

You can read more about the book here.

I’m doing a few events around the place to celebrate the book’s release. You can check them out here. I’ll post more as they come up.

YAY!

Cheeky and enlightening – my review of ‘Mullumbimby’ by Melissa Lucashenko

14 May

mullumbimbyMullumbimy is Melissa Lucashenko’s fifth novel and is, as the name suggests, set in northern New South Wales.  The protagonist, Jo Breen, is an Aboriginal woman who uses her divorce settlement and the money she earns mowing grass at the Mullumbimby cemetery to buy a block of farmland. She sees this as her own way of reclaiming Bundjalung country and the process of returning her land to health is deeply satisfying.

Jo’s life is already complicated by her artistic and moody teenage daughter and becomes more so with the arrival in town of an outsider, Twoboy. Twoboy and his brother are down from Brisbane to initiate a land claim which stirs up a hornet’s nest of conflicting interests in the area. Jo is reluctant to get embroiled in what promises to be a messy fight. Twoboy, however, is dreadlocked, devastatingly handsome, heterosexual and apparently single. This is practically a miracle as far as Jo is concerned.

Jo also has to come to terms with her new neighbours, including the farmer Rob Starr, who wears expensive boots and erects fences where none seem needed and Granny Narrung, an Aboriginal Elder who Jo initially dismisses for her old-fashioned and uptight Christian ways.

The book is full of cheeky humour and witticisms, such as when Jo first sights Twoboy coming out of a bookshop and immediately wants to rush in and find out what he bought, ‘… hoping – please, oh please – that it wasn’t Armistead Maupin.’

I enjoyed the way Lucashenko used Bundjalung words throughout the novel. This added richness to the story and a glossary at the back provides a handy reference. Jo is troubled by how little she knows about the spirituality of Bundjalung culture and is wary of the looming peak of Wollumbin. ‘She knew Wollumbin was strong men’s business, and to be avoided at all costs.’ The difficulty of maintaining Bundjalung culture and links to land is an ongoing theme throughout the book. The fraught issue of native title is also handled with honesty and insight.

This book can be enjoyed simply as a well-told yarn, but particularly for those of us who live in this area, it is so much more. Mullumbimby offers a window into the living Bundjalung culture and the meaning of the Country which I found both moving and enlightening. It is also a page turner – highly recommended.

This is my fourth review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

Literati on the Gold Coast is on this Friday and Saturday! I will be talking about ‘Character Care and Maintenance’ on Friday with Jessie Cole and Paula Weston and on Saturday I join a lovely cast of romance writers – Helene Young, Anna Campbell and Keri Arthur on ‘A Course of True Love’. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you.

It’s a bit of a heart breaker – The Fault in our Stars by John Green

14 Apr

fault in our starsThe Fault in Our Stars continues the phenomenon of successful young adult novels which have been embraced by a broader audience. The novel has shot to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list and was received with glowing reviews. John Green is also the author of three other bestselling young adult novels.

The Fault in Our Stars is a love story about two teenagers with cancer. With a setup like that, you will probably guess that your chances of a happy ending are not good. Sixteen-year-old Hazel and her boyfriend Augustus bond over a book called An Imperial Affliction, which is about a teenage girl with cancer. Unhappy about the way the book ends in mid-story, they set off to Amsterdam to confront its author and ask him to disclose the ending. While the author is less than obliging, the pair find that Amsterdam is a wonderful city in which to fall in love.

The novel is beautifully written and, on the whole, unsentimental. Hazel and Augustus joke about their ‘cancer perks’, such as being served champagne on the plane even though they are underage. It subtly mocks the stereotypical view of the brave and stoic cancer sufferer. When their friend Isaac’s girlfriend dumps him just before he has an operation that will leave him blind, they head over to her place and throw eggs at her car. The teenagers have a fine line in witty dialogue, which may not be realistic, but does make for good reading, ‘”Ma’am,” Augustus said, nodding towards her, “your daughter’s car has just been deservedly egged by a blind man.”’

Hazel is a sensitive soul whose main wish is to minimise the suffering she causes to others. She is a vegetarian and initially resists involvement with Augustus because she is terminally ill. She doesn’t want to be a ‘grenade’, wrecking his life.

Be warned, John Green is not afraid to break your heart. I cried bucket-loads by the end of this book and did end up feeling a little emotionally manipulated as a result, but that is a petty quibble.  The Fault in our Stars is a thoughtful, original and engaging love story. My teenage son also enjoyed it and you can’t ask for more than that. A movie is on the way so keep the tissues handy for that one.

 

I’ll be at Literati on the Gold Coast on the 17 – 18 May which promises to be an action-packed couple of days, and at Carindale Library in Brisbane on the 19 May.  Never a dull moment, hope to see you there!

 

Review – Mad Men, Bad Girls and the Guerrilla Knitters Institute By Maggie Groff

23 Jun

Mad Men, Bad Girls etc. Is the debut novel by north coast author, Maggie Groff who has previously written two bestselling works of non-fiction.  The novel is a comedy crime caper set between Byron Bay and the Gold Coast.

Freelance journalist Scout Davies works at a desk which ‘overlooks Byron’s main thoroughfare, Jonson Street, where the muse in charge of fabulous things has dropped the biggest fancy-dress party in the world.’ Given a job to investigate a dodgy American cult, The Luminous Renaissance of Illustrious Light, which has moved to the Gold Coast, Scout sets to work.

Scout’s sister Harper (her parents were fans of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’) also needs her help with an underwear cutter on the loose in her school. This unleashes a second plot strand of cyber-bullying and school politics. Scout goes on the hunt to solve these mysteries, following a number of clues and red herrings.  Adding difficulty is the fact that Scout is an insulin-dependent diabetic. Naturally this creates difficulties out in the field.

There is plenty of danger and intrigue as Scout infiltrates the cult, coming face to face with its ‘Mystic Master’ Serene Cloud, a man who, ‘in another place, in another colour (would) have made a fabulous Santa Claus.’ Also fun is Scout’s mission with the Guerrilla Knitters Institute, a group that leaves stealthy graffiti ‘yarn bombs’ around the town and her banter with her cat and side-kick, Chairman Meow. I enjoyed the Byron Bay flavour as Scout picnics at Wategos and chats with locals.

Mad Men, Bad Girls is a witty, fast moving romp. It has plenty of great lines and a very sexy love interest in the form of a local cop, Rafe, who is possibly a little too good to be true, but who cares? Neither Scout nor Rafe seem to struggle too much with the fact that Rafe is a friend of Scout’s long-term boyfriend who is currently on assignment in Afghanistan.

The plot motors along with almost all of the strands satisfactorily resolved by the end. We leave Scout in love with two men and with an ample cast of lively characters to explore in the next book, which I believe is in the pipeline.  This is light hearted crime in the mode of Kerry Greenwood. Curl up on the couch and enjoy.

This is my ninth review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge.