Location, Location, Location: Dianne Gray and Wolf Pear

Cover of Wolf Pear

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?

1 View from back of house

2 View from front of house

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

3 Train

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.

4 Red soil

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.

5 Front of house

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.

Let Sleeping Gods Lie cover

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.

53 comments on “Location, Location, Location: Dianne Gray and Wolf Pear

  1. Rose says:

    Always love a free book…this one sounds really good, too!

  2. diannegray says:

    Thank you so much, Francis! I really love being part of your Location series 😀

  3. An outstanding review, Fran! I am now going to get the book and read. And I appreciate you presenting Dianne and her beautiful location to us. By the way, I downloaded Let Sleeping Gods Lie and will be jumping into it this evening. I have to read at night as I’m back to my writing routine in the mornings. It’s all good, this writing life! 🙂

    • I’m with you on the reading routine, Mark. I squish a bit of reading in (and I’m also currently working on Dianne’s, Let Sleeping Gods Lie, before I zoom into sleepland. I didn’t used to read when I was writing – at all – but now I find it a bit refreshing to step back from the intensity and enjoy someone else’s work.

  4. Gwen Stephens says:

    I was reeled in by the lovely photography, but one of the pleasures of reading is being transported to the novel’s setting, particularly when that setting is somewhere so completely different from one’s daily surroundings. I’m intrigued by Wolf Pear’s premise. Adding it to my Goodreads queue right now!

  5. Reblogged this on disappearinginplainsight and commented:

    Due to a few issues with WordPress related to my recently reformatted laptop, I’m not sure if this post went up in the Reader. I can’t find it – so I’m reblogging to make sure. Enjoy.

  6. diannegray says:

    Reblogged this on Dianne Gray author and commented:
    In case you haven’t seen where I live, check out Francis Guenette’s latest post. She writes about the books she has read and how the location influences writers. What a fantastic idea!

  7. nrhatch says:

    I just finished Let Sleeping Gods Lie. Dianne weaves the unsavory truths of life into rather delectable morsels that leave a satisfying taste behind.

    Wolf Pear sounds delicious.

    • Yes – you’ve described it perfectly – delectable morsels that stay long after the book is closed. And it is so very apt because a wolf pear should be delicious.

  8. Thanks for sharing the wonderful and talented Dianne, Francis I am looking forward to reading soon.

  9. Carrie Rubin says:

    I loved Wolf Pear, and the images you posted are similar to how I imagined the book’s setting to be. I guess that means Dianne did a brilliant job with her setting descriptions!

    • As soon as I finished the last page of Wolf Pear, I knew I had to get Dianne to participate in this series. Her skill at describing her own back yard is quite amazing. Thanks for stopping by, Carrie.

  10. Lived this, Francis. Dianne has added a third choice in plot orientation–character-driven, plot-driven, and now location-driven.

    • I couldn’t have said it better, Jacqui – yippee for the third choice – I really do love a novel that is location driven and when you get a great plot and intriguing characters as well – it’s just icing on the cake.

  11. EllaDee says:

    Great idea to post about author and novel setting locations. One of the things I love about Dianne’s books, and I’ve read them all, is the settings. Great reviews also but I warn all readers that reading them before bed can lead to sleep deprivation as Dianne’s characters and plots are addictive.

    • I hear you on the addictive part – Wolf Pear had me up one late night trying to finish. I came up with the idea for this series because location (where I live and the place I choose to set my novels) has had such an effect on me and I got curious if this could be the case with other writers. I started to think that if a book was so rich in location details then maybe that was saying something about the author, too. I wanted to find out. I started making a list and checking it twice and inviting authors to guest post. I couldn’t be happier with the results.

  12. bluebee says:

    I love novels that weave the essence of the land into the story – they make for a satisfying read. I have read ‘Let Sleeping Gods Lie’ and ‘Wolf Pear’ is next on my list.

    • Yes indeed – weaving in the essence – that is just what I am looking for in this series. When I come away from a novel feeling hungry to be standing in the locations the author describes, I know I am onto something really good.

  13. Very cool! Dianne is one of my faves. I just finished “Manslaughter and Other Tears”. It was beyond brilliant.

  14. ygm17 says:

    Great post Francis! Dianne is a fantastic writer (and she knows I love her) I cannot wait to sink my teeth into Wolf Pear this Summer.

  15. Gallivanta says:

    Lovely to have a comprehensive review of the writer, her location and her work.

  16. A really great review, Fran. Dianne is a wonderful writer, and I love the way she can weave a story that keeps me riveted right up to the last page.

  17. Both you and Dianne have something in common – a beautiful home base and the skill to describe it. Great piece!

  18. Excellent spotlight and review, Fran! Dianne is a beautiful writer and a wonderful person. I love her blog as much as her books. She has run-ins with the most interesting creatures. 🙂

  19. I would love to see this writer develop her instinctive ability to reveal, rather than to describe. It’s not a common instinct, which is why old copy editors like myself cannot resist it, and eventually barge in like evangelists.
    For example, the perfection of the first sentence isn’t permitted the power of full expression because the second sentence has been loaded down with descriptive responsibility. If you strip away instead of layer on, your artist’s gaze emerges as masterful…god, a corrugated iron pyramid rising over sugar cane fields, a mango tree hunched over the roof like a gargoyle, droppingfruit into a fishing net, the weight of gooseberries pulling at the side of a shed! I have to tell you that anyone who can evoke a world with that kind of power in a few paragraphs forfeits the right to then characterize it for her readers as “looking quaint”.
    Well, I’m sure I’ve worn out my welcome, and better trot on. I hope I have communicated my respect for your work, Of course you will disregard whatever strikes you as having little merit – old copy editors share another quality with evangelists: very thick skins. Plenty of writers hate our guts.

    I’m sure we shall all see more of you.

    Thanks and salutations,


    • Sorry, I misquoted the text. “Looking quaint” should read “quaint looking.”

    • Old copy editors can barge in and evangelize any time! You’ve more than earned the right. I finished reading, Let Sleeping Gods Lie, last night and found it thoroughly enjoyable, the ending wonderfully satisfying. By the same token, I reflected that my editor (no doubt from your school) would have had me cut every 2nd line of description – I could actually hear her voice – the power of this line is undercut by this one. Claire, what you say about stripping away rather than layering on is a bit of genius that I will keep at the top of my mind the next time I start editing my own work. The ability to reveal rather than describe – what all writers worth their salt aspire to. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, Claire.

      • Gee thanks, Frances. I rarely comment like that, but each time I do I feel a bit guilty, as in, “Claire, do you get that the writers who took your advice did so because they HAD to? Does that tell you something?”

  20. restlessjo says:

    Is it any wonder I lose hours of my life online? Just when I think ‘no more’ I’m directed to another great idea and a wonderful post! I’m a slow reader these days (being online so much might just have something to do with that) but ‘Wolf Pear’ is going on my list. 🙂
    I love books where the location comes to life, Fran, (is it ok to call you that?) so I think this is a fabulous idea of yours. And what a location Dianne has to work with! Thanks for sharing- both of you 🙂

    • You can most certainly call me Fran, Jo. Beats a lot of other things I’ve been called – LOL. Please do give Wolf Pear a read – the location definitely does come to life. And thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. We bloggers do love a fresh name in the comment stream.

  21. jackiemallon says:

    Very enticing photos and writing!

  22. Roy McCarthy says:

    Excellent post and review of ‘Wolf Pear’ Fran. Anyone new to Dianne’s works is in for a treat if they have a look at her other books.

  23. P. C. Zick says:

    Can’t wait to read Wolf Pear – just downloaded it. Thanks for the steering.

  24. dex says:

    I love this visual: “The corrugated iron roof rose above the sugarcane fields like a pyramid.”

  25. Thank you, Francis and Dianne, for this wonderful interview and the strong sense of place in the photographs. Delightful, and inspiring.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Marylin. It seems to me that setting and a strong sense of place might be one of the most memorable aspects of a well loved book. Then again, there’s characters, famous last lines, famous opening lines, exquisite plot twists – how can one ever pin down all the wonders of reading?

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