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LOCAL BOOK SET IN 1980 A RIP-ROARING READ

The Colour of Shadows: a tropical noir is a new action-packed novel set in Cairns in 1980.  This is the first of three historical crime fiction books planned to track the misadventures of blokey knockabout Seth Kelly in the pubs, streets, bush and beaches of the region. 

 

WORDS: EVE STAFFORD – CAIRNS TROPICAL WRITERS FESTIVAL

 

Written by local author Gawain Barker, this foray into fiction follows his non-fiction book, 200 Kitchens: Confessions of a Nomad Chef.  This best-seller is a romp through Gawain’s real-life travels kitchen-to-kitchen in Kuranda, Cairns, Hinchinbrook Island, Cape York and across the world. 

 

In Gawain’s new book there are dozens of nostalgic references to real Cairns landmarks that locals will affectionately recognise from the era – Hanush’s Cordials, Hides Hotel, Tom Cowles Locksmith, the Barbary Coast and Digger Street. But not everything is true.

“People come up to tell me they know that hippy leather shop in the arcade, that spooky Queenslander in Edge Hill and that bent cop from the Joh era,” Gawain chuckles.  “But I just shake my head because most of it comes from my imagination”. 

Blokes are hyper-masculine and there is a thread of the misogyny in this retro ride into the deep north. This is a frontier where fellas work, drink, fight and . . .  but the hero Seth sometimes agonises over his own morality. He still thinks of himself as the best of the bad guys, even though the former bouncer and party animal is sometimes a bit quick with the biffo.

 

The book takes shape as a quest to find a runaway teenage girl who has fallen into bad company that Seth feels compelled by chivalry and a few less noble motivations to rescue, but traverses into romantic beach parties at Wangetti Beach and entanglements with some heavy dudes of the drug trade, guns and gunja. On the way, Seth gets into a few slugfests with both the heavies and the wildlife. 

 

The larger than life tropical settling is saturated in colour and dripping in the exotic perfume of its flamboyant flowers, the dialogue is sharp and witty, and the action fast and furious. 

 

“It’s very filmic. I’d be surprised if someone doesn’t pick this story up for a movie.”

– Eve Stafford, the program director for Cairns Tropical Writers Festival.

Available locally from all good bookshops and online for Christmas gifting, this book would actually get blokes of a certain age reading again in nostalgic reverie.  

Cairns Tropical Writers Festival is planning a book launch that will include an interview with Gawain, his many dramatic black-and-white stills and his own music. If you wish to be invited in person or online, Like the Cairns Tropical Writers Festival on Facebook or pop a line to: program@cairnstropicalwritersfestival.com

Written by Jules Steer

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