Lesley Hewitt

Bryan Brown, the Australian actor who has appeared in over 80 film and television shows was a guest of Northern Books
(https://www.northernbooks.com.au) at the Convent Gallery on 3rd November to discuss his second book The Drowning. His first book, Sweet Jimmy, consisting of seven short stories on crime, was released in 2021.

The Drowning opens with the body of a local teenage indigenous boy, David, found on the beach of a NSW coastal town. Locals presume he has drowned however his indigenous grandmother doubts this as David is a “creek boy’ not an ocean swimmer.

Three weeks earlier, Leila, a young Danish backpacker fails to turn up for her shift at a local café, but Benny the owner is not worried, seeing it as backpacker behaviour.

The story unfolds with the introduction of several local characters and involves affairs, liaisons, developing relationships, murder, sex trafficking and drugs.

Brown’s knowledge of the NSW coastal country and sense of place, like many of our best Australian writers, adds to the story. The narrative shifts across time frames, and the reader knows what happened to David from the first chapter, and then as the story unfolds gets to understand what happened and why to both Leila and David.

The story is full of strong female characters, including David’s grandmother, the backpacker Leila, and Anna, a woman trafficked from South America, all of whom, rather than being victims, have agency in their own lives. There is a poignant and deeply moving description of David’s funeral.

Brown, at the Convent event, talked about how his career as an actor, a film producer and now a writer are all about storytelling- which he does with his own humorous, tough, and sharp writing style.

As an aside, those who attended were evenly divided between Cocktail or The Thorns Birds as their favourite Bryan Brown film, with a late run for A Town Like Alice.

The Drowning is an entertaining example of Australian crime writing, cleverly capturing the characters and sense of place in an Australian coastal town.

Published by Allen and Unwin, The Drowning  is available at Paradise Books, Daylesford, Northern Books or from Central Highlands Libraries.

Leslie Hewitt was at The Convent to meet Bryan Brown and she reviewed the book in her Second Thursday Book Club program on Hepburn Radio with Max Primmer. You can listen to a podcast of the review on the HCR Soundckoud at: https://soundcloud.com/hepburn-community-radio/the-second-thursday-book-club-9-november-2023