A charming mud brick home surrounded by a peaceful garden paradise in Merricks North is where you will find Garry Disher, one of Australia’s best known authors, penning his latest masterpiece.
In perfect symbiosis with his environment, this quietly spoken writer has a concerted air of calm about him, as he talks about life as a full time author and his latest novel, The Heat.
A country lad by heart, Disher was born on a farm in South Australia and attributes the solitude, bedtime stories, and a love of reading to his childhood dreams of becoming a writer.
“I went to University, travelled and continued writing short stories for competitions and literary magazines in the early years, and went back to University to do my Master’s thesis in Australian History at Monash when I returned to Australia,” said Disher, who was also awarded a creative writing fellowship to Stanford University, and has now published close to 50 books.
“My first book was published in 1979 and I was still teaching part time.”
Before he knew it, another novel was published, and then two short-story collections, three history text books and a writers’ handbook. By 1988, Disher could proudly call himself a full time writer.
The move down to the Mornington Peninsula in ’92 provided a rich tapestry of material for the author, who has always found inspiration in the language and people surrounding him.
“You could be sitting on a bus and overhear a conversation, and a line will strike you as interesting. Somehow I will often be able to recall it, and use it later in my work,” said Disher, whose crime novels tend to reflect many aspects of the Western Port side of the peninsula.
“The cops and criminals in my Challis novels walk the streets of ‘Waterloo’, a mythical town that is based on Hastings, as both are from the famous historical battles,” said Disher with a grin. “In the Wyatt novels, I use a secret hideaway for the criminal protagonist in a deserted farmhouse in Shoreham where he can plan jobs and avoid police.”
Disher’s romanticisation of this lesser-promoted side of the peninsula has captured the imagination of a world-wide audience, with his crime writing earning him greatest international recognition.
“I have lived on the peninsula for 24 years and love the area so much with its bushland and beaches, and this side has a rich variety of characters from the more wealthy to working class battlers. I don’t use my work to be provocative but do express subtle undertones of society in my writing.”
When Disher first started writing, a teacher told him his work was good but a bit flat.
“I realised to make the words work on the page you need to appeal to the senses. I am not happy with my work until I can see, smell, taste, hear and feel what the character is experiencing.”
For Disher, an important part of the writing process is to use a pen and paper at his desk, the organic action of writing helping the creativity flow.
“I sit at my desk looking out the window over the lawn and gardens and write details about the characters and their story until I feel I know them. The main thing is to be disciplined and just write. The very act of writing will unlock the words.”
Garry Disher has published fiction, children’s books, anthologies, textbooks, the Wyatt thrillers and the Mornington Peninsula mysteries. He has won numerous awards, including the German Crime Prize twice, and two Ned Kelly Best Crime novel awards, for Chain of Evidence (2007) and Wyatt (2010).
The Heat is published by Text Publishing