I had the pleasure of hearing Sulari Gentill talk about her books recently and was thrilled to hear that she has long term plans for Rowland and his friends that will take us all the way through to the end of WWII. Initially she planned to write a book set in each year from 1932 – 1945. However we have now just finished book 8…and we’re still in 1935!
One of the things I love about this series is the mix of fictional and real life characters. Gentill talked about how she always sticks to the known facts but that her stories exist in the gaps in between.
A quick wiki search on the journalist Egon Kisch shows that he did in fact jump from his ship in Melbourne in 1934 and break his leg. Gentill has simply added Rowly and his friends to the picture with a plausible reason about why Kisch may have ‘jumped’.
Having an historian as a husband has kept Gentill honest in all matters relating to these times. It’s this authenticity that makes Rowland feel so real…and the fact that he is such a lovely, lovely man. It must be wonderful to carry him around in your head all the time, as Gentill does.
This particular story is mostly set in Victoria and Canberra as Rowly and his friends help the members the Movement Against War & Fascism get Kisch into the country to speak his ‘dangerous language‘. Naturally, Rowland’s brother, Wilfred, is not happy about this turn of events, but there are many others even unhappier. This unhappiness quickly turns into violence and places our much loved characters in many dangerous situations.
Poor Rowly has been shot, stabbed, tortured, kidnapped and hit over the head so many times, it’s amazing that he’s still standing. It’s getting a little harder to classify these books as ‘cosy crime’ or ‘gentle crime’, perhaps historical fiction that just happens to have crime and political intrigue is a more apt description.
Gentill is getting better and better with each of the Rowly stories. I love how she brings to light little known historical events for her characters to engage with. Fact and fiction are woven together seamlessly and gracefully and her main characters are being allowed to evolve into nuanced, complex individuals. Does anyone else feel that little break/ache of their heart every time Mrs Sinclair calls Rowland, Aubrey?
Sense of place is a another thing that I love about these books. Gentill’s good eye for detail brings 1930’s Sydney to life (or in this case 1930’s Melbourne and Canberra). I have a real sense of walking beside Rowly and his friends, seeing what they see and feeling what they feel.
As for Rowly and Edna? It’s so obvious that the adore each other, but will they ever be able to work things out? They are the Mulder & Scully or the David & Maddie of 1930’s Sydney!
Any of these stories would be great choices for this year’s #AusReadingMonth BINGO card. Most of the books are set in Sydney, NSW, except for Book 4 that took us to Munich, Germany and this latest one.
#1 A Few Right Thinking Men
#2 A Decline in Prophets
#3 Miles Off Course
#4 Paving the New Road
#5 Gentlemen Formerly Dressed
#6 A Murder Unmentioned
#7 Give the Devil His Due
Prequel – The Prodigal Son (e-book only – download your copy here.)
#8 – A Dangerous Language
#9 – due for publication Sept 2018