Wednesday, September 08, 2010

From the land Down Under, part 4

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was keen on procuring some Australian novels during my trip. This proved harder than expected. Not that the pickings were slim; it's just that with the Aussie dollar higher than ever (or the US dollar lower than ever), the exchange rate made books particularly prohibitive. $26 for a new trade paperback? Yikes! So I checked used bookstores, which meant I had to throw my want list out the window and make the most of the available options.

Luckily, I found a couple of great places and came back with some nifty stuff. The highest I paid was $8; the rest of the haul cost less than $3 per book, with a couple of $1 catches.

In Port Douglas, I picked up Crew, an amusingly trashy 1980s novel about surfboat racing in Sydney; Ride On Stranger (1943) by New South Wales lefty writer Kylie Tennant; and Stiff, the first book in Shane Maloney's Murray Whelan series. I polished off Crew in a single day at the beach, then started on Stiff. The series revolves around a member of the Labor party in Melbourne, making for a really great mix of politics and crime. Maloney's humor and locale-specific details aren't unlike the ones in Carl Hiaasen's earlier (and best) novels.

I was happy to find another used Maloney novel at Melbourne's New International Bookshop on Victoria Street. The hallway leading to the store was lined with $1 bins that were actually packed with goodies like out-of-print Daphne du Maurier. While avidly foraging, I was interrupted by a young man who invited me to "the workshop about the Vietnam War."

Fittingly, the store is next door to the Victorian Trades Hall Council, "the voice of Victorian workers since 1856" (Victoria being the state Melbourne is in). And down the block is the Old Melbourne Gaol, where Ned Kelly was hanged in 1880 and whose tour include an interactive feature where "visitors are 'arrested' and encounter what it is like to be locked up."

In short: the perfect place to buy a Shane Maloney book!

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