Buried in the darkest corners, or glittering away in the brightest hotspots there are bits and pieces of everyone's Australia being scribbled down on the back of beer mats, place mats, table cloths and menu cards. There are people writing great dollops of city based, mean gritty, and bright clean suburban streets based fiction. There are people out here in the hot, dry bits - Greater Australia as we all like to think of it - that are sitting in pubs, coffee shops and on the sides of dusty gravel roads weaving tales that are filled with a sense of who, what and where we all come from.
When people like the good ones at THE CRIME FACTORY haul a bunch of these sorts of stories into a collection like HARD LABOUR it almost feels like they have heard my pleading, begging and hoping like hell for more and more of these sorts of collections. It also doesn't hurt that the collection starts off on a particularly high note with a fantastic Wyatt entry by Garry Disher (if you don't know who Wyatt is then seriously - get thee to your favourite bookstore or library immediately)!
One of the best things about this set of stories is the way that many of the authors, known for their series, or particular style of novel writing, have stepped outside those strictures and tried something different. The ones that come immediately to mind are Leigh Redhead who has moved about as far from her Simone Kirsch series as she could probably get, and still be in the same country. Same with Angela Savage whose story set in a rural town had me hyperventilating quietly about the fate of peacocks, of which I'm particularly fond (and more than a bit keen to add to the zoo hereabouts). Others who aren't so well known to me seemed to have stepped out into some challenging subjects, styles and subject matter, all sticking to the noir, darker side of the spectrum.
Regardless of which stories become your own particular favourites, it's not too much of a stretch to promise that any fans of noir, or of tight, taut Australian storytelling will find gems in what is a most welcome addition to the short story options in Australia. It's absolutely fantastic to see this collection hit the streets. It will be even better when I'm happily contemplating the next, and then the one after that and the one after that. To wave a cliché under your noses "Do yourselves a favour". Supporting this sort of collection, and these sorts of publishers also does other readers a favour - ensuring what's really good and strong in Australian crime fiction writing gets an outing. You never know, it might also make a few more publishers sit up and smell the obvious as it bleeds all over those streets of theirs.