KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Excerpts

Extract: Dorothy Johnston’s The Fourth Season

by Dorothy Johnston , January 24, 2014Leave a comment

Fourth Season

The Fourth Season is the fourth book in KYD contributor Dorothy Johnston’s Sandra Mahoney mystery quartet. It deals with the topical issue of who is going to win the battle for control over the seas surrounding Australia. The quartet has just been released as an ebook series by Wakefield Press. This extract is from the beginning of the novel. Katya and Peter are Sandra’s children.

Laila Fanshaw’s death was first reported on the late evening news, though her name wasn’t included in any of the initial reports. Katya had been asleep for hours. Peter should have been in bed as well, but he had a swag of maths homework, and, though he was tired and irritable, he’d insisted on waiting for Ivan to come home and explain a problem to him. Ivan was my partner, Peter’s step-father and Katya’s natural one; and that night I had no idea where he was. He’d left the house straight after dinner and he wasn’t answering his phone. Peter had given up and was cleaning his teeth when Ivan walked in and went straight to the television.

As soon as the newsreader began to speak, the room contracted to a tinny box, ridiculously bright. The camera panned around Lake Burley Griffin. The reporter’s face glowed white, while police lights flashed behind him. As with all reports of violence at night, the scene, busy yet curiously static, took its atmosphere from dreams. The journalist stood in front of blue and white tape cordoning off a section of lake shore, where, he speculated, the assault may have taken place. The pulsating lights, the intensity of his face and body movements, made him seem closer to the water than he was.

A young woman had been found floating in it shortly before nine. Probably she would not have been found till morning, except that a middle-aged couple walking their dog had been alerted when the dog, a black Labrador, took off into the water and wouldn’t come back. When he did, he was dragging a corpse by the arm.

The reporter repeated these few facts, since he had little more to tell his audience – nothing that would identify the victim, only that she was young, and had been wearing a red waistcoat.

Ivan was standing close to the TV, absolutely still.

Peter came up behind him and I caught my son’s expression, the glint of fear that came as much from Ivan’s failure to react as what filled the screen.

The presenter moved on to another item while Ivan brushed past us and went to the phone.

I heard the words, ‘I’m coming over,’ before he grabbed a set of car keys and was gone again.

Peter’s face was closed and blank. I wanted to put my arms around him, but knew that, if I tried, he would push me away.

What does it mean to be told too little? What does this particular lack mean to an adolescent boy, or to his mother, who happens to be a person endeavouring to make her living by collecting information? It was an endeavour that, for years up until that moment, had sustained, if only just, both my life and that of my children – sustained in a thousand practical, easily overlooked ways. While I tried to think of something to say to Peter, and worried about where Ivan had been, and where he was going now, I knew I was facing a moment that severed before and after with the sharpest of knives. Like all such extraordinary moments in the lives of ordinary people, I initially rejected what it meant.

Peter shook his head, his lips pressed tight together. When I tried to speak, he growled a wordless protest and disappeared into his room.

I realized that my hands were still shaking as I turned a light on in the office I shared with Ivan, and sat down at my desk. I pressed my hands out flat out in front of me, staring at the tendons and raised veins as though they must belong to someone else, seeing them clearly, yet in a distant, dissociated way.

How dare Ivan march in and then leave again like that, without saying a word to me or to Peter?

I stood up and pulled the curtains, taking some small comfort from the softness underneath my fingers, recalling – a memory excised from domestic time, where it belonged – how behind the curtains had been my daughter’s favourite hiding place. Katya’s small feet, perfectly straight and close together, had always given her away. She hadn’t seemed to realize that they were perfectly visible underneath the curtain.

Peter, when he’d played hide and seek as a small child, had needed to be found within minutes of secreting himself. The tension of remaining hidden was too much for him, so he coughed and gave the game away. Katya, right from when she was a toddler, had been able to sustain the suspense for much longer. Once, when we’d all been playing hide and seek, and I was ‘he’, and Peter’s dog Fred was still alive, between Fred and myself we’d found the two males in the family immediately. But Katya, who could not have been more than two and a half, had stayed hidden, not behind the curtain this time, until I began to worry that she’d gone outside. I finally found her in the laundry cupboard, crouched behind the vacuum cleaner. As I switched the light on, calling out with relief, bending to hug my daughter, she turned up to me a face that expressed both the fear she’d overcome, and triumph.




9781926428239

Abigail Ulman

Cold Feet and Hot Little Hands: Abigail Ulman on writing – and not writing – her first book

Post-book deal, every time I sat down to try to write something, I felt paralysed by some kind of literary stage fright. I had shown my work to other people before – for writing workshops, and submissions to literary journals and competitions – but I had never before written a story while thinking This story is going to be published in a book. Or, more accurately, This story idea is nowhere near good enough to be published in a book. Read more »

9781926428239

Sian Campbell

Girlhood and The Woman-Child in Abigail Ulman’s Hot Little Hands

Each of the stories in Hot Little Hands navigates girlhood in some way, from the lives of high school-age teenagers to those of young twentysomething women. ‘Girl things’ such as horse camp, gymnastics, feminised bodies, clothing, periods, crushes, yoga and gossip weave through the fabric of the text. Though the subject matter is often adult – the girls of Hot Little Hands navigate abortion, sex trafficking, young motherhood, drugs, and deportation – the girls themselves are not… even when they technically are. Read more »

Dont-Try-This-at-Home-_-cover_-FINAL1-300x460

James Tierney

Subscriber Stories: Angela Readman’s Don’t Try This At Home

As a subscriber to publisher And Other Stories’ distribution model, I am in the unusual position of reviewing a book – Angela Readman’s short story collection Don’t Try This At Home – that thanks me by name for making its existence possible. Read more »

amy-schumer

Rebecca Shaw

Amy Schumer and the equal right to be funny

I don’t think men should be banned from making jokes about contentious subjects. I am of the belief that anything can and should be laughed about, and if done right, it can be beneficial. But more often, women are doing it right, and women are doing it better. Read more »

womens-home-companion

Kate Iselin

Trivial Pursuits: The media and ‘women’s interests’

Women, especially in public life, exist as a part of men’s worlds – a big part, sure – but still a part. Even as women become more vocal in demanding accurate and respectful representation, we are kept at arms length by a mainstream media which struggles to catch up. Read more »

SGbTsPQ

Rebecca Shaw

Command and Control: Trophy daughters and overprotective dads

There is no doubt that an overprotective parent is better than a parent who couldn’t care less what their child gets up to. And there is no doubt that most overprotective mums and dads are well-meaning. But paternal ‘protectiveness’ shticks often boil down to fathers not wanting their daughters to have sex, and by extension, get pregnant. Read more »

kstew

Joanna di Mattia

Kristen Stewart Through the Looking-Glass

Kristen Stewart is an actress who has been criticised, maligned even, for an acting style that transmits from set to screen as sullen, adolescent, wooden, blank, fidgety and inelegant. But perhaps she’s an actress concerned with authenticity, and the defining feature of her style is to show us herself by appearing like she’s not acting at all. Read more »

it-follows-4

Anwen Crawford

Behind You: The subtler horror of It Follows

I don’t watch many horror films. Lifelong victim of an overactive and slightly morbid imagination, I regularly envisage disasters, natural or otherwise, that might befall me, without requiring the added stimulus of cinema. Read more »

anne-dorval-and-antoine-olivier-pilon-in-xavier-dolans-mommy

Joanna Di Mattia

All About His Mother: Xavier Dolan’s fierce women

Xavier Dolan has created an exuberant body of cinema that privileges women (and others on the margins) as complex, chaotic beings. Dolan’s fierce mothers are cleaved from the pedestal that so much of cinema places them on, so that they may dig around in the dirt that is life. Read more »

Struggle+Street+KEY+IMAGE

Anwen Crawford

Shame and Stigma on Struggle Street

Struggle Street framed poverty as a combination of genetic inheritance and natural disaster – a barrier to be overcome only through ceaseless positive effort. Those who sabotage themselves through bad choices are therefore fair targets for our scorn, while those who gain employment or remain sober deserve praise for overcoming the odds. The deserving and undeserving poor, in other words. What an old story. Read more »

TheSlap_Show

Genevieve Wood

The Slap: What’s lost when a cricket bat becomes a baseball bat?

‘A cricket bat wouldn’t make sense in an American context’, says Tony Ayres, executive producer of the US adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap. He’s right, of course – it wouldn’t. But when, in US playwright Jon Robin Baitz’s version, the eponymous slap occurs as the result of a swinging baseball bat, something’s not quite right. Read more »

empire-tv-review-fox

Anwen Crawford

Rise of an Empire

Watching Empire, I wondered why there haven’t been more television shows about record labels, the music industry being the cesspit of venality that it is. Forget TV dramas about police departments and hospital wards – a show about a record label comes with all that conflict, plus outfits, plus songs. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

DUKMRUTRHLU31425064919799

Katie Williams

The Currency of Games: The real world cost of in-game purchases

A new item introduced in World of Warcraft lets players purchase a month of playing time for the real-life price of $20, which they can then sell to other players in-game in exchange for virtual currency. It’s an exchange of real money for a virtual currency that has in-game value but none in the physical, ‘real’ world – and it makes me incredibly uneasy. Read more »

Arts House_Image_10c_Oedipus Schmoedipus (post)_Credit – Ellis Parrinder copy

Jane Howard

A Case for Diversity in Theatre

Attracting different audiences to the theatre is about many things. It’s about accessibility for people without high disposable incomes, but it’s also about marketing and publicity; about creating venues which are physically accessible for people with disabilities; and about ensuring the performers on stage are as diverse as we want their audiences to be. Read more »

2909252617_1f456d0c81_b

Jane Howard

A Working-Class Mythology: Ironing boards at the theatre

In theatre, there is perhaps no prop piece more mythologised than the ironing board, which came to signify the birth of contemporary British theatre. Read more »

ForceM6609

Jane Howard

Witness and Connection at Melbourne’s Dance Massive

In a city where it feels not a day goes by without an arts festival, or three, happening, Melbourne’s Dance Massive is resolutely unique. Australia’s largest dance festival is by necessity heavily reliant on Melbourne-based companies and shows that will go on to tour independently of the festival. The festival is undeniably of, and for, the dance sector in Melbourne. Read more »