Today, I am delighted to welcome Dianne Gray to my Location Series. I’m not sure how I came upon her novel, Wolf Pear, but wow, am I ever glad I did. Location leaps off the pages and I defy anyone to read this novel and not want to travel to the places this Australian author so skillfully describes. You can find out more about Dianne’s novels by visiting her website. You can also keep up with her doings by taking a hop over to her blog.
Take it away, Dianne!
Every morning I look out from my house and think, how could anyone not write about this place?
I live in a small country town in Tropical Queensland, Australia. The main produce is sugar cane, the scenery is spectacular, and the townsfolk make incredible characters.
Small sugar cane trains chug along the countryside and the fields are lush and green before the sugar cane is harvested
I’ve written two stories featuring this location:
Let Sleeping Gods Lie – the scenery that features heavily in this story is something I look at every day from my veranda. The narrative throughout Let Sleeping Gods Lie is layered with powerful themes examining cult religions and the shadows they can cast across a landscape, through communities and within families. This book was shortlisted in the Australian New/Zealand IP (Interactive Press) Award in 2007.
Excerpt: Grains of sunlight sprayed through the bush as if scattered by the yawns of bushlarks and wagtails. In the distance open red blankets of freshly worked earth lay bare, while others cringed with green anticipation of what the following days would bring. Each patchwork field ran in perfectly combed rows. The river she had followed the previous day wound around her hill in a twisting mohawk of trees all the way to the mangroves. Small rail lines and dirt roads gouged through the countryside.
The other book featuring this landscape is Wolf Pear – the story of a lonely woman named Esther who buries a body in her yard and plants tomatoes over the grave. A psychic detective is on the hunt for a serial killer and the smell of tomatoes leads him directly into Esther’s deadly garden. I based Esther’s house on my own house.
Excerpt: Esther’s small farm sat in the bowl of the mountains. A quaint looking shack that had been used as a worker’s barracks early last century by itinerant workers when sugarcane was cut by hand. The corrugated iron roof rose above the sugarcane fields like a pyramid. The tongue-and-groove walls had been sanded and painted the colour of flesh. At the front corner of the house a large mango tree hunched like a gargoyle over the roof. Below it a fishing-net was attached to the gutter and tied to the trunk of the tree to catch falling mangoes. Several avocado trees stood guard on each side of the driveway. Lemon, lime and lychee trees dappled the neat yard and gooseberry bushes climbed trellises that had begun to pull away with the weight of the fruit at the side of the old shed.
I’d like to thank Francis for this wonderful opportunity to share my location with you. I love learning about the locations that influence other writers and look forward to reading more Location posts here in the future.
My Review of Wolf Pear
One of the most unlikely and satisfying love stories I’ve read in a long time!
Wolf Pear is, hands down, an absolute delight – like sinking one’s teeth into a ripe and luscious tomato fresh off the vine. For that is what a wolf pear is – a tomato. And this novel is about as juicy and tasty as its title suggests.
Now you might ask yourself – how can anyone call a book about a poor woman who has been bullied, pushed, shoved, and taken advantage of her whole life and a grief-stricken, haunted police detective on the trail of a serial killer, a delight? I guess you had to be there because delightful it is.
From the opening pages, as Esther Crooke scrambles to bury a body in the soil of her garden, through Detective JD Cusack’s cross country chase, always steps behind a killer, Gray hooks the reader into the story with effortless ease.
To hide the makeshift grave, Esther puts in a crop of tomato plants given to her off the back of a truck headed for an experimental farm. And boy or boy, do those tomatoes grow, achieving exactly the opposite of what Esther had hoped – her attempts at camouflage shine a spotlight on her makeshift grave.
As JD Cusack’s past secrets and special ability brings him closer and closer to the killer, Gray neatly weaves in all the loose ends of the story like an expert knitter finishing off a scarf.
This book abounds with location and character details that cause the reader to chuckle out loud or sigh with sadness.
Esther owns and runs the Crooke Books & Café, a converted house out on the highway. “Its roof pitched like a witch’s hat slashed with orange rust.” A startling juxtaposition of description tells all in a handful of words. The café is filled with books Esther has collected, none of which are for sale. Sit down, have a coffee, some of Esther’s famous carrot cake or her sticky date pudding and read a book. Patrons choose their tables based on the reading material nearby. Aren’t you dying to go to this place? Books for Esther are precious, “Miniature cameos of the world.”
At one point, Esther confronts a picture of herself in the local newspaper as she fends off a reporter and photographer who have come poking their nose into her tomato crop. “She had seen her real self in the newspaper – an ugly monster with claws and teeth and a chin like Jabba the Hut.” Oh my – read that and try not to sigh.
The place names are another source of delight – the town of Boonup, taking a trip up to Woorumbilly and the Jabiru Hotel.
Wolf Pear is a finely crafted story that pulls no punches when describing how the innocent suffer and yet the reader is forced to laugh at the incongruity of life while coming to see that always redemption awaits, growing wild and free like the wolf pears in Esther’s garden/graveyard.
There you have it folks – an author straight out of cornfields and red earth. Time spent reading anything by Dianne Gray is well worth the effort. And in that vein, I am happy to inform you that Dianne is, at this very moment, running a free promotion until Saturday the 22nd for her book, Let Sleeping God’s Lie. Is that title not completely brilliant? No time to waste my friends. Get yourself over to the Amazon site of your choice and try out a wonderful author for free.