Reading opens our minds to new experiences; through books we take trips to foreign lands, other planets, and other times, all via the magic of prose.
We wondered if books are a way to get to know the real world, too. We asked Malcolm Neil, our Director of Content APAC, an avid reader and 25-year veteran of the book trade, how he would explain his city through books.
Malcolm is a mystery reader, so while he took us through his home town of Melbourne from a book-loving tourists perspective, he drew us into into the gritty underbelly as it is presented in the thrillers he loves. It’s an unconventional but interesting way to discover a city for the first time. Let’s begin our book journey through Melbourne:
Or more particularly, Death In Brunswick. Better known as darkly comedic film starring Sam Neil Oxlades, this book captures inner Melbourne at a time where it was slowly transitioning from an ethnically diverse home for the down-at-heel, immigrants and the grungy cultural explosion that took root in Melbourne in the early 80’s. It’s hard to say exactly which pubs or restaurants Oxlade is referencing, but a visit to the northern part of Lygon Street sees many of the shopfronts giving a sense of the locale as it might have been then. A trip from the Carlton to Brunswick on the Number 1 tram takes you past the cemetery which features in one of the book’s funniest and darkly comic scenes.
Once you are in Brunswick, and these days you could eat, drink and party your way through the suburb for weeks without visiting the same place twice, why not hang out with a copy of Stiff by Shane Maloney
Maloney, a Brunswick resident, has placed the actual murder a bit further north (in the rather ugly and industrial Broadmeadows), so it’s probably best to go lean on the bar in one of Sydney Road’s pubs (also featured) and soak up the last un-gentrified remnants of the novel .
Hop on the number 96 tram in Nicholson Street and head south towards the city to Carlton or Fitzroy. If you are a bookshop lover, then Readings Carlton in Lygon street is a must visit, but if you’re more keen to know where the next crime happens, head down into Fitzroy.
Jack Irish, hard-boiled hero of Peter Temple’s novels is your tour guide to local football, bars and cafes. As the winner of Australia’s premier book award, The Miles Franklin, he’s no slouch, so start with Bad Debts and you’ll be an instant fan of Temple’s sparse prose and immaculate sentences. Take a stroll around the Brunswick Street oval and then grab a meal and a drink at The Standard Hotel for the full experience.
Finally, Melbourne’s very own Kerry Greenwood has written 20 novels set in the Melbourne of 20’s and 30’s. It’s not the Melbourne I know and love, but you can still feel the echos in some of Melbourne’s beautiful gardens and public buildings throughout the CBD, particularly towards Paliament house..
Try a day trip to the historic Queenscliff Hotel and consume Greenwood’s second book, Flying Too High, to be transported back in time.
If you need more inspiration the fabulous TV series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries may well be available to watch while you are here
While to the untrained eye Melbourne is a gorgeous and literary city, it takes a true local to uncover its seamier side. But be assured, the only real danger you face when visiting is the likelihood you won’t want to leave.