Jane Harper and Grace Tame close out 2023 Writers’ Week

Two formidable women – former Australian of the Year Grace Tame and the queen of Australian noir fiction Jane Harper – captivated audiences with insights into their work on the final day of Adelaide Writers’ Week.

Mar 10, 2023, updated Mar 16, 2023
Australian thriller writer Jane Harper (right) speaks with  Beejay Silcox at Adelaide Writers' Week session 'The Aussie Queen of Noir'. Photo: Tony Lewis

Australian thriller writer Jane Harper (right) speaks with Beejay Silcox at Adelaide Writers' Week session 'The Aussie Queen of Noir'. Photo: Tony Lewis

Jane Harper, the former Melbourne journalist who launched an Aussie crime genre that is showing no signs of abating, has said a bittersweet goodbye to Aaron Falk, the detective readers first met in The Dry.

Her latest book Exiles, set in the vineyards of South Australia, is the third in the trilogy which Harper built around Falk. She told the Adelaide Writers’ Week audience yesterday that she loved writing about him and he had been with her since page one of The Dry, which was published in 2016 and became a successful film starring Eric Bana. The second in the Falk series, Force of Nature, has just been filmed in Victoria, again with Bana in the lead.

“Falk has completely transformed my career, and my relationship with him is honestly one of the most important in my life in the sense of what he has done for me,” Harper said.

Her decision to move on was based on her understanding that not every character could sustain a 20-book series and she needed the plot freedom that only a stand-alone novel could provide.

Harper, who was thanked earlier in Writers’ Week by two writers – one of whom, Chris Hammer, had doors opened to him because of The Dry – said she had no idea what drove the hunger for Aussie noir, other than a liking for books you could pick up and read and lose yourself in for a few hours.

“I wish I knew because if you could bottle what people want, it’s gold dust,” she said.

She said her tastes were mainstream and she wrote the kinds of books she would want to read, dismissing a reviewer who insisted on calling her novels “an airport read”.

“It’s not quite the insult he thinks it is because it’s actually very hard to get space in those airport bookshelves,” she said.

“My honest ambition when I was writing The Dry was that I wanted to write a book that people would take on holiday with them and read it on the plane, read it at the beach. To me, that’s the perfect book.”


The grooming and abuse of children was a physical crime but also an invasion of the sense of self that had impacts that were lifelong, activist and former Australian of the Year Grace Tame told a packed and adoring crowd at Writers’ Week earlier in the day.

Grace Tame. Photo: Krista Jensen

Tame, an abuse survivor who was groomed by a teacher and has searing insights into what was done to her, said the sexual abuse of an adult lived on as trauma at the cellular level, but adults had a sense of self to fall back on.

“If you think of that happening to an adult whose sense of self is generally fully formed, an adult can then hark back to a time when they remember themselves uncorrupted,” Tame said. “Even if that was taken away, they can try to reclaim that.”

It was different for a child who was experiencing everything for the first time and, when they were told by their groomer they were loved, had no point of reference to later guide them through the abuse and understand themselves.

InDaily in your inbox. The best local news every workday at lunch time.
By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement andPrivacy Policy & Cookie Statement. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

“When you are in the process of identity integration itself, it is that process, as well, that has been corrupted,” Tame said. “And that cellular imprint, therefore, is very different.”

Tame, who recently published her memoir The Ninth Life of a Diamond Miner, helps child sex abuse victims through the Grace Tame Foundation. She said it was common for paedophiles to seek solace and allyship in community groups and institutions that had positive cultures associated with them, like the Catholic Church.

Calling groomers “master puppeteers”, she said a child’s relationships were life and death to them at the time and there was a particular kind of shame directed at child sex abuse victims, which was part of the grooming narrative.

“Children are sifting through everything their child minds can think of to work things out,” she said. “Just about every survivor that I have spoken to who has either been abused by the clergy or was abused at school… has shared a similar experience of trying to wrap their mind around ‘why did they do that?’.”

She said it came down to an inability to process so great an evil, and wanting to have a narrative that was safer than confronting the knowledge that someone was evil and was hurting them.

“And you do think that,” she said. “When someone tells you they love you, you want to think that… and that’s okay, you’re experiencing everything for the first time.”

Some children who were abused went on to abuse others but it was possible to intervene, at least in the early stages.

“It is true that some people who are hurt, will hurt other people, but if you teach people a better way of life, and if you value them and hear them out, don’t patronise them, you can change them at that point,” she said. “As opposed to later, when their attitudes are set in stone.”

Asked for her key message as a sexual abuse survivor, Tame said slowly and carefully, “it is not your fault”, and told victims they should know they were stronger than their abuser, even though it may not feel that way.

“There is no denying or minimising the physical crime but the psychological manipulation, the game, the bullshit!” she said. “These guys are cowards. They’re like the Wizard of Oz hiding behind a curtain and they want to make you feel scared.”

The 2023 Adelaide Writers’ Week has now ended. InReview’s reports from sessions across the six days can be found here

Read more 2023 Adelaide Festival stories and reviews here on InReview.

Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InDaily.
All rights reserved.