CHRIS HAMMER’s Scrublands hit the bestseller lists running. As his new thriller, Silver, is released this month Good Reading asked him about where he grew up, his experiences as a journalist, and his groaning bookshelves.
Where were you born?
Longford, a small town in northern Tasmania.
Street name where you grew up?
Hicks Street; where all us hicks lived. As pre-schoolers and primary school kids, we’d play unsupervised, a big mob of neighbourhood youngsters: sport, billy carts, mischief – just as long as we were home for dinner. A different world.
What was your first pet and its name?
The first one I remember properly was a cat called Snagglepus. He had a mind if his own: purring one moment, clawing you the next.
What was your first job?
I had a summer job at a panel beaters. I don’t remember the work so much as the blokes: mighty swearers, mighty drinkers, contemptuous of the boss. They’d spend their lunchtimes flicking through porno magazines. It was quite an eye-opener for a white-bread kid like me.
Favourite place to holiday with a book?
Summer: down the south coast; winter: up the snow.
How are your bookshelves arranged?
Our bookshelves surrendered years ago, overwhelmed by superior force. Books are everywhere in our house. There is no organisation. My wife is Japanese: I can’t even read half the books piled on every available surface.
Most daunting place you visited as a journalist?
Refugee camps. They’re not necessarily the most dangerous (some are), but so many contain untold misery, desperation and lives put on hold. Harrowing.
What’s the most moving or unusual interview you’ve conducted as a journalist?
A journalist in Azerbaijan. The secret police had broken all his fingers to stop him from writing. He used his knuckles to set the type on his Soviet-era press.
What do you find most challenging about writing novels compared to journalism?
Making fiction ring true. But the challenge is the same – to make the words sing.