Malcolm Knox is one of Australia’s finest contemporary novelists. He’s also a sports writer, a ghostwriter, an essayist and a critic.
He’s published two non-fiction books, Secrets of the Jury Room (2005) and Scattered: The Inside Story of Ice in Australia (2008). For three years he was literary editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. Famously, he won a Walkley Award in 2004 for exposing Norma Khouri – author of internationally bestselling ‘memoir’ Forbidden Love – as a fraud.
Knox’s novels are richly characterised explorations of class and masculinity in contemporary Australia, portraying the disparity between complex inner lives and the composed surfaces his characters present to the world. Knox’s debut novel, Summerland (2000), is an elegant, satire-laced story about two married couples who cement their friendship during annual holidays at Sydney’s exclusive Palm Beach. In Jamaica (2007), six school friends prepare for a gruelling ocean race in third-world paradise. In The Life (2011), retired surfing champion DK tells his life – in maddeningly elusive fragments – to a biographer with ulterior motives, the fiercely protective Mo. Unreliable narrator DK and his brother Rod grew up ‘the poorest kids on the whole Goldie’, in a ramshackle Queenslander on the edge of a graveyard.
– Jo Case
KYD: Your fourth novel, The Life, is quite different from your other novels in style. Were you feeling especially nervous about the reaction to it?
MK: Not really. I don’t really see it that way. It was such a fun book to write. While I had to work very hard to get it to where I wanted it to be, I had so much fun with it that I always thought I was ahead of the ledger: if people liked it, that would be a bonus. There are other books where it’s like you’re in a long and drawn-out trench war with this work you’re trying to get right. And you think, ‘I’ve put so much into this and it’s drawn so much angst and sweat and tears out of me – the book kind of owes me something.’ Whereas in this case, I wasn’t really thinking of it as a risky thing to do – the voice and everything. It had just been fun.
KYD: I had heard an interview in which someone asked you if DK’s voice was hard to get, which I had assumed it would be. It’s so distinctive; it takes you right inside this character’s head. You replied that it was the Australian male voice you heard all around you, so it wasn’t that difficult to get down.
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