HAVING grown up in a country town, Mark Brandi knows very well there are plenty of secrets that are left untold.
Which is why when it came to writing his award-winning debut novel Wimmera, he had plenty of life experience to draw on.
Brandi was born in Italy, but grew up in Stawell as the youngest of four boys to parents who owned a pub. He would go on to work in the justice system, becoming well versed with criminals and criminality.
“Growing up as an outsider, I became interested in outsiders as well,” he said. “I guess that planted a seed for when it came to write the story.”
“This is 100 per cent fiction, but there’s always been a strong fascination for me with rural and literary fiction.”
Wimmera is told in three parts and is the story of two boyhood friends, Fab and Ben. It begins in small town Australia in the 1980s with two friends growing up, it then moves into Fab’s adult voice about his feeling of being stuck in the same town before the finality of the full story after a body was found in a creek is told. It won the United Kingdom’s Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger Award.
“You don’t write for accolades, but you’re grateful when they come,” Brandi said. “It’s such a tough industry, and it’s so competitive. Winning an award like this helps your book reach new readers and that’s what it is about.”
Brandi said the starkness of the Australian landscape was often hard to explain if you hadn’t lived it.
“In Australia there are different economics, different job prospects, you have inter-generational feuds which get carried through, there is a loneliness there too,” he said.
“You have the effect of the weather, long droughts, tyranny of distance. When I was growing up, Melbourne seemed a million miles away, even going to Ballarat was a big deal, like another world.”
Brandi will be one of the guests at the Clunes Booktown Festival, where he will be one of four authors speaking at a crime writers forum hosted by Courier journalist Caleb Cluff.
“One of the nicest things about being published is people coming up to you,” he said. The Crime Writers Forum is from 2.30pm today at the Free Lending Library, 6 Templeton Street, Clunes.