Books and Ideas at Montalto
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Set in a rural farming community, Jane Harper’s debut novel, The Dry, is a tightly-spun and suspenseful thriller. It tells the story of a Federal Police investigator who returns to his hometown after two decades of urban exile – tasked with examining the apparent murder-suicide of his childhood friend’s family. As he works his way through the drought-stricken settlement, a horrific truth begins to reveal itself.
The book has met with a sensational response from readers worldwide – as well as the attention of Hollywood, with film rights snapped up by Reese Witherspoon’s Pacific Standard production company. Critics have praised its sustained tension and unsettlingly vivid evocation of the Australian landscape’s most unforgiving traits.
Born in Manchester, Harper has moved back-and-forth between the UK and Australia, working as a journalist before developing her skills in fiction. A short story published in the Big Issue’s 2014 Fiction Edition provided a spark – but it was winning the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript that truly lit the fuse for Harper’s writing career.
Over dinner and drinks at Montalto, Harper speaks with Louise Swinn about the genesis of the novel, her creative path through different kinds of writing, and how she’s dealt with the joy (and pressure) of The Dry’s break-out success.