The Word Detective by John Simpson



Title: The Word Detective: A Life in Words from Serendipity to Selfieworddetective

Author: John Simpson

Genre: Non-fiction

Publisher: Little Brown/Hachette

Published: 11th October 2016

Format: paperback

Pages: 366

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Language is always changing. No one knows where it is going but the best way to future-cast is to look at the past. John Simpson animates for us a tradition of researching and editing, showing us both the technical lexicography needed to understand a word, and the careful poetry needed to construct its definition. He challenges both the idea that dictionaries are definitive, and the notion that language is falling apart. With a sense of humour, an ability to laugh at bureaucracy and an inclination to question the status quo, John Simpson gives life to the colourful characters at the OED and to the English language itself. He splices his stories with entertaining and erudite diversions into the history and origin of words such as ‘kangaroo’, ‘hot-dog’, ‘pommie’, ‘bicycle’, not ignoring those swearwords often classed as ‘Anglo-Saxon’! The book will speak to anyone who uses a dictionary, ‘word people’, history lovers, students and parents.




Words are what make us human. They create societies, cultures and nations, and in turn, are also created by societies, cultures and nations. Within each of these groups, sub-groups emerge that develop their own linguistic patterns and dialects, their own words that signify membership to these groups, and that can perhaps exclude those who are not part of these groups. As humans, we are all part of different groups and sub-groups that have shared and non-shared words and language that help us identify with people we have things in common with.

As language can unite and divide us in many ways, understanding each other was a lot harder before the advent of dictionaries. One person using a word may have used it to the exclusion of others, and been smug in the knowledge that only a select few will understand. The advent of a dictionary that all could access has changed things.

Since its humble beginnings in Victorian Times, the Oxford English dictionary has endeavoured to include as many words and their origins as possible. Over the years it has evolved, and it perhaps saw a fair amount of evolution during John Simpson’s thirty-seven years there, from 1976, where he started as a reader, helping compile words to investigate and include, to his time as chief editor, when the dictionary began to enter the digital age, first being compiled on CD ROMS, and eventually, though slowly, moving towards the Internet.

The Word Detective is John Simpson’s journey with the dictionary over the years and the developments, from working out possible new words, to establishing partnerships with the US, Australia and New Zealand, and tracing origins of words from those nations for inclusion, to talks with European counterparts about finding ways to protect European languages and allow cross-cultural and international communication at the same time. Through his journey with words, John also delves into a few personal anecdotes about his family that he links to his love of language and words, and what this meant for his second daughter, who never learnt to talk. John’s high regard for words shines through, and while he marvels at some words and developments, he laments the struggle with some words of finding an origin, and the administrative side wanting to save money.

In his role as a lexicographer, John also describes the process he implemented to recruit new lexicographers, stating that a love of words would simply not be enough. His efforts to move with the times, but also keep traditional methods of working alongside the new ones made for an interesting read. How does someone who has seen so much change, and often in rapid succession over the final years of their tenure, decide how to proceed? In keeping the old and the new, John gave his team the opportunity to learn both methods, where they could use one or the other, use them together or even have a back-up with the manual system should there be a temporary technological glitch – something anyone working with computers must keep in mind.

There were a few amusing anecdotes in relation to some words and phrases. One such phrase was couch potato. Around 2000, this word was put forth for inclusion. When this happened, there was a small demonstration by the British Potato Council. They were protesting the inclusion of the phrase in the dictionary because it was derogatory to the poor potatoes who could not stand up for themselves. As John tells it, the argument was peaceful and civilised, and the whole issue died down after the company received the publicity it was after. With the inclusion of the couch potato entry, the OED settled back down into their lexicographical den.

Reading this story was intriguing and eye-opening. It opened up the world of lexicography and dictionary compilation to the reader, and made me realise that the dictionary did not just appear out of nowhere, that there has been decades, centuries even, of hard work going into compiling words – relevant and irrelevant, used and unused into a book or online resource for everyone to use when necessary. A fascinating read, especially if you are interested in the development of language.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz


Title: Magpie Murders

Author: Anthony Horowitz

Genre: Mystery

Publisher: Orion/Hachette Australia

Published: 11th October 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: When editor Susan Ryeland is given the tattered manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has little idea it will change her life. She’s worked with the revered crime writer for years and his detective, Atticus Pünd, is renowned for solving crimes in the sleepy English villages of the 1950s. As Susan knows only too well, vintage crime sells handsomely. It’s just a shame that it means dealing with an author like Alan Conway…

But Conway’s latest tale of murder at Pye Hall is not quite what it seems. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but hidden in the pages of the manuscript there lies another story: a tale written between the very words on the page, telling of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition and murder.

From Sunday Times bestseller Anthony Horowitz comes Magpie Murders, his deliciously dark take on the cosy crime novel, brought bang- up-to-date with a fiendish modern twist.


With Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz delivers a novel within a novel, a mystery within a mystery. The novel begins with editor of Cloverleaf Books, Susan Ryeland, sitting down to read to read the latest from her company’s most popular author, Alan Conway, the ninth book in the Atticus Pünd series. Horowitz has included the manuscript for the reader to read along with the editor, Susan.

The first chunk of the book is dedicated to this manuscript, and as such, the pages are numbered unconventionally – going backwards once Susan has read what she has of the manuscript, sans the closing chapters that reveal the conclusion to the mystery. Conway’s mystery revolves around two deaths: Mary Blakiston, and her employer, Sir Magnus Pye. As Susan Ryeland settles in to read the story, and as I did, it was not evident that Susan’s life and the mystery of the missing pages would soon come to mirror the story she was reading.

Horowitz has taken the cosy crime genre, made popular by Agatha Christie and Poirot, who rate several mentions, along with television shows the author has worked on himself, and refreshed it. An amateur detective, following the trail of clues left from a manuscript, and interactions with people involved. Slowly, and
without extensive police involvement and technology, Susan’s story reaches a climax alongside that of the closing chapters of the mystery of Alan Conway, and the final chapters of his book.

Anthony Horowitz has written a work that is meta. That is, a creative work that is self-referential. It refers to the conventions of the cosy crime genre through the story Susan Ryeland is reading and the mystery she becomes embroiled in, and in making reference to television shows Horowitz himself has worked on and the imprint, Orion, Horowitz has referenced his own world of writing and the world of publishing.

This was a book that I wanted to devour and savour at the same time – the deaths are not seen on the page, but rather mentioned, both in the Conway story and the over-arching story by Horowitz, homage to the genre conventions. As the last few pages ticked over, everything fell into place. The detail, down to reviews for the fictional series by Alan Conway at the beginning of the manuscript, to Anthony Horowitz writing as himself and as a friend of Alan Conway, all make this a worthy read of any fan of the genre, or author.

The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown by Vaseem Khan


Title: The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown

Author: Vaseem Khan

Genre: Crime

Publisher: Mulholland Books, an Imprint of Hachette

Published: 10th May 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: The delightful second novel in the Mumbai-set Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series. When the Koh-I-Noor diamond is stolen from an exhibition of the crown jewels only one man (and his elephant) can crack the case…

For centuries the Koh-I-Noor diamond has set man against man and king against king. Now part of the British Crown Jewels, the priceless gem is a prize that many have killed to possess.



So when the Crown Jewels go on display in Mumbai, security is everyone’s principal concern. And yet, on the very day Inspector Chopra goes to see the diamond, it is stolen from under his nose in a daring and seemingly impossible heist.



The hunt is on for the culprits. And when an old friend stands accused, Inspector Chopra takes on the case. With sidekick baby elephant Ganesha in tow, Chopra soon realises that there is more at play than a simple case of greed.




Inspector Ashwin Chopra (Retd) and his baby elephant, Ganesha, return in the fabulous follow-up to The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra. When the Koh-I-Noor Diamond from the Crown Jewels is stolen from under Chopra’s nose, he must find out who stole it and return it to the right people. Together with Ganesha, Chopra starts his investigation, whilst running a restaurant for cops, where young Irfan works, and his wife, Poppy, recruits his associate detective, Rangwalla, to investigate the theft of a bust and exam papers at a school she works at. These storylines complement each other and run alongside each other neatly. Detectives from England, Bomberton and the young Scot, McTavish, assist Chopra – working together, these characters bring the worlds of Great Britain and Mumbai together. United by the desires and need to find the missing jewel that connects their two countries, Bomberton and Chopra forge a relationship to achieve these goals.

Ganesha becomes involved in tracking down the diamond and gaining access to the homes of certain high-up criminals who have an interest in having the diamond – and his unique position and abilities as an elephant are soon catching the attentions of various people who wish him harm. As in the first book, Ganesha will have none of this, and when separated from those he loves, will do all he can to find them – even if it means going without his Cadbury’s chocolate for a while!

Vaseem Khan has created a multi-layered world of Mumbai and India, with honest people like Chopra, Poppy and Irfan, dishonest people like Bulbul Kanodia, the characters disillusioned with everything who pop up and try to stamp down the kindness, or those who are simply caught in the cross-fire like Chopra’s friend, Garewal. Amidst the deception, and helping those who have been wronged like Garewal, blamed for things they never did, Chopra and Ganesha’s relationship – man and elephant – never falters. They are loyal to each other. In a world where good and evil are not always defined, where money talks and honesty may not be valued by many of the characters Chopra encounters, Chopra and Ganesha, and Poppy show that honesty and bravery, with perhaps a little trickery when necessary, can win the day and solve the most pressing cases for the Baby Ganesh Investigation Agency.

A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee



Title: A Most Magical Girl

Author: Karen Foxlee

Genre: Children’s/Fantasy

Publisher: Bonnier/Piccadilly (Allen and Unwin)

Published: 28th September, 2016

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 304

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Magical machines, wizards, witches, mysterious underworlds, a race against time – and two most magical girls

Annabel Grey has been brought up to be a very proper Victorian young lady. But being ‘proper’ isn’t always easy – especially when you can sometimes see marvellous (as well as terrifying) things in puddles. But parlour tricks such as these are nothing compared to the world that Annabel is about to enter…


After the rather sudden departure of her mother, Annabel is sent to live with her aunts. They claim to be Shoreditch witches, and from a very old family line of them too. They’re keen to introduce Annabel to their world of transformation, potions and flying broomsticks (which seem to have strong personalities of their own) but are horrified when Annabel announces not only does she not know any magic, young ladies shouldn’t believe in such things. But before Annabel has time to decide whether she does or not, she is swept into an urgent quest.


The trees of Highgate have been whispering to Kitty – an extraordinary urchin of a girl, who Annabel’s aunts seem very fond of – and so have the fairies. They talk of a terrible, dark magic that wants to devour all of London. And of a most magical girl who might be able to stop it…


This sparkling and enchanting story is sure to bewitch you, so curl up in front of the fire, and prepare to be swept away…



Karen Foxlee’s latest offering for children is The Most Magical Girl. Set in Victorian London, Annabel Grey is sent to live with her great-aunts, the Shoreditch witches, away from the world she knows. Away from her friend, Isabelle Rutherford, and away from the school she knows at Miss Finch’s Academy for Young Ladies, she is thrust into a world of magic. It is a world that her mother abandoned, and a world that is in danger from Mr Angel and his shadowlings. Together with the betwixter girl who visits her aunts, Kitty, Annabel must journey to Under London and along a perilous journey to find the Morever Wand, also known as The White Wand.

This journey is fraught with danger, danger that Annabel is unprepared for and that she must learn to cope with as she goes. Like Ophelia and The Marvellous Boy, Karen Foxlee has created a world of wonder and magic that parallels the real world, and both exist seamlessly alongside each other. Annabel’s journey from the life she knew to the life she was destined for. Together, Kitty and Annabel find their way through the dangers of Under London, and to a climax that reveals more about Annabel than she had ever wished to know.

Aimed at ages nine to twelve, this book is suited to anyone who enjoys magic in their stories. A quick read, it kept me enthralled and entertained to the last pages, and had me wishing for the answers Annabel was waiting for at the end. The absence of her mother throughout the novel gave Annabel the drive she needed to unlock her powers. The Victorian London setting was just as magical as the real magic of the Great and Benevolent Magical Society in the pages.

This is an excellent read for lovers of magic and fantasy.

The Jane Austen Writer’s Club by Rebecca Smith

Title: The Jane Austen Writer’s Club

Author: Rebecca Smithjane-aausten-writers

Genre: Non-fiction/writing advice

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 1st October, 2016

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 352

Price: $36.00

Synopsis: Pretty much anything anyone needs to know about writing can be learned from Jane Austen. While creative writing manuals tend to use examples from twentieth- and twenty-first-century writers, The Jane Austen Writers’ Club is the first to look at the methods and devices used by the world’s most beloved novelist. Austen was a creator of immortal characters and a pioneer in her use of language and point of view; her advice continues to be relevant two centuries after her death.

Here Rebecca Smith examines the major aspects of writing fiction–plotting, characterization, openings and endings, dialogue, settings, and writing methods–sharing the advice Austen gave in letters to her aspiring novelist nieces and nephew, and providing many and varied exercises for writers to try, using examples from Austen’s work.

Exercises include:

*Show your character doing the thing he or she most loves doing. In the opening scene of Persuasion, Sir Walter Elliot looks himself up in the Baronetage, which is the Regency equivalent of Googling oneself. That single scene gives us a clear understanding of the kind of man he is and sets up the plot.

* Use Jane Austen’s first attempts at stories to get yourself started. Write a very short story inspired by “The Beautifull Cassandra,” a work of eighteenth-century flash fiction.

The Jane Austen Writers’ Club is a fresh primer on writing that features utterly timeless advice.


As a writer aiming for publication, books about writing and writing processes are both a source of interest but also something met with a little hesitation: if it relies too much on saying a certain way of writing is the best way, or that writers must always use certain processes, or ignores that each writer has their own way of working through a plot, I’m instantly put off. Some books will tell you to start in the middle and attempt to discourage the novice writer from starting at the beginning – as Dame Julie Andrews sang, a very good place to start. Whereas the writing books that simply encourage thinking about writing, that give exercises, advice, tools and don’t try and imply that starting at the beginning is just as useful as starting anywhere, and encourage the writer to do what works for them, are the ones I am drawn to. Rebecca Smith’s The Jane Austen Writer’s Club falls into the category of encouraging and helpful writing aids. Having the book divided into chapters for planning a novel, character, setting, point of view, dialogue, secrets and suspense, techniques used by Jane Austen, journeys, food, and finally, the life of a writer, allows for linear reading but also dipping in and out of specific chapters. Each chapter has excerpts from the canon of Jane Austen’s work, accompanied by discussion of the basic concepts, what Jane did and finally, a variety of exercises.

After reading the book, I attempted the arrival exercise – I was unsure of where to start and end, and may revisit it, but I know they are doable. There are a few exercises that might be best left until the story or novel you are working on are completed, at least, I think I will find these sorts of exercises most useful at this stage, but the others I can come back to when I am stuck, or wondering what comes next. Of course, it is likely that some exercises will lend themselves to some stories more than others, or maybe I can just write anything in them when I need to work something out. At any rate, these exercises and the tone of this book are much more accessible and useful than ones that appear to have disdain for people starting at the beginning, or for people who get to a point where they feel like they need to step away. Some writing advice ignores the need to take a break at times, to live life. Rebecca Smith acknowledges that there will be times when a writer needs a break, or when life gets in the way and writing time must be sacrificed for family or illness. Her encouraging words to find time, find a space but also to respect the balance between writing and the rest of your life are what worked for me. And this is the best way to approach a writing help book: to acknowledge everyone has a different process and not everyone can just block out the world and write.

A very useful guide for writers, students, teachers or just fans of Jane Austen who are interested in her process – and who knows, these words and exercises might just inspire someone who has never written a story to give it a go.

2016 Richell Prize for Emerging Writer’s Winner



Announcing the 2016 Winner of the Richell Prize for Emerging Writers


The past two years have seen the awarding of the Richell Prize for Emerging Writers, in memory of Matt Richell, former CEO of Hachette Australia, who died in 2014. The winner of the prize wins $10,000 and a yearlong mentoring with Vanessa Radnidge. This year’s winner is Susie Greenhill, for her novel, The Clinking. After this year of mentoring, Hachette will have the first chance to option The Clinking for publication. The announcement was made on the 28th of September, 2016.


From The Guardian: The Clinking explores extinction, grief and interconnection against the backdrop of a warming climate, through the eyes of a scientist watching ‘the world he loves and knows intimately disappearing’,


In its second year, The Richell Prize for Emerging Writers has already optioned a novel. The 2015 winner, Susie Abbott, will have her novel, Closing Down, published in July 2017.


These two results are proof that Australia has a viable and vibrant literary culture, which will hopefully exist into the future. Hachette’s prize and mentoring program to assist emerging writers, along with publishers such as Pantera Press that take on new writers and nurture them and their stories, to bring much needed new voices into the literary world, show that there is still a place for the writing and book industry in Australia.



Below is a link to the opening chapter of The Clinking:


Congratulations, Susie Greenhill, and Susie Abbott, wishing you both the best with your novels.

Goodwood by Holly Throsby


Title: Goodwood

Author: Holly Throsby

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 28th September/October 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: It wasn’t just one person who went missing, it was two people. Two very different people. They were there, and then they were gone, as if through a crack in the sky. After that, in a small town like Goodwood, where we had what Nan called ‘a high density of acquaintanceship’, everything stopped. Or at least it felt that way. The normal feeling of things stopped.


Goodwood is a small town where everyone knows everything about everyone. It’s a place where it’s impossible to keep a secret.


In 1992, when Jean Brown is seventeen, a terrible thing happens. Two terrible things. Rosie White, the coolest girl in town, vanishes overnight. One week later, Goodwood’s most popular resident, Bart McDonald, sets off on a fishing trip and never comes home.


People die in Goodwood, of course, but never like this. They don’t just disappear.


As the intensity of speculation about the fates of Rosie and Bart heightens, Jean, who is keeping secrets of her own, and the rest of Goodwood are left reeling.


Rich in character and complexity, its humour both droll and tender, Goodwood is a compelling ride into a small community, torn apart by dark rumours and mystery.




Goodwood is told in a first person point of view from the perspective of Jean Brown. It is her story of a period of time during her surge towards adulthood, where she is hiding her own secrets from those closest to her, but also tells the story of two missing people and the response of the town she lives in.

When Rosie White goes missing, the town is sent into turmoil. Whispers about what may have happened – mostly surrounding the idea that she ran away, circulate. Set in 1992, the Belanglo State Forest backpacker murders are woven into the plot – and the town begins to buzz about Rosie’s possible fate if she had walked out of town and tried to get a ride somewhere. When Bart MacDonald goes missing a week later, secrets begin to unravel: Rosie’s family begins to come apart at the seams, and drastic measures are taken to ensure their safety, other residents whisper and do their best to cope, and others hide away and keep the truth to themselves, even from the local police officer, keen to aid everyone as best he can and keep things running smoothly.

As Jean witnesses this, her teenage mind keeps her preoccupied with her own secrets and fascination with the new girl in town, Evie, who arrived in the days before Rosie disappeared. Caught between her own secrets and life, and the desire to know what has happened, and the fascination and worry that such disappearances in a town where people die, but don’t disappear as Rosie and Bart have, Jean’s story is fraught with teenage desire to remain innocent yet at the same time, grow up ad find out who they are. Jean’s secrets are slowly revealed throughout the book and hinted at, but they don’t dominate the story – the storyline involving one of her biggest secrets is handled with care and just happens to be a part of who she is, without making it the large focal point. The novel reaches a climax when the secrets about what really happened to Rosie and Bart start to fall apart, and those who know something begin to come forward, their fear dissolving across the course of the novel. A well-written debut that tells a mystery and a coming of age story that engages the reader, and allows them to try to solve the mystery with the clues that are dropped every now and then.