Townsville’s 2019 Festival of Stories boasts its most diverse program ever, featuring workshops and author talks for everyone from the youngest princesses to the oldest of detectives.
In a special event, this year’s Festival will unite two of Australia’s biggest contemporary crime writers at the Old Courthouse Theatre for A Night of Crime with Mark Brandi and Matthew Condon.
The event, facilitated by Magistrate Cathy McLennan, will see the authors meet and discuss their novels together for the first time, delving into some of the real-life events that inspired their work, discussing crime writing in general, and signing copies of their books.
Matthew said the night would be made even more special with true stories hitting close to home.
“I’m very excited to be coming to Townsville, and to meet Mark, and can guarantee that you will hear some incredible stories about Queensland’s dark past, some that you simply could not make up,” Matthew said.
“I haven’t worked with either Mark or Cathy in the past, so the night will be a great treat for me. Both are fantastic writers. Who knows what might happen when we put our heads together!”
With three decades of writing under his belt, Matthew has plenty more biographical novels in the pipeline.
“I had no idea what I was walking into when I sat down to interview corrupt former Queensland Police Commissioner Terry Lewis in early 2010. I was just curious to meet him and hear what he had to say.
“I then needed to verify his allegations to me, and this grew into a monolithic investigative task, and unearthed so much more to the story than I could have imagined. That story, after five books, is still expanding. I will never be able to tell the full story. There isn’t the time, it is so huge. But I’ll do my best.
“The project has taken me away from fiction completely, but I don’t feel I can stop now. I can’t turn the cruise ship around and return to port. My job isn’t done.”
The first three of these novels – Three Crooked Kings, Jacks and Jokers, and All Fall Down – have already been released.
“I have a number of books in the series waiting to be written. It’s just a question of choosing which one.
“I have already done some substantial work on a string of cold case murders in Queensland from the 1960s and 1970s, all of which touched on police corruption at the time, so I may go ahead with that. I’m calling it The Bodies Left Behind.”
As part of A Night of Crime, Matthew will discuss his latest work, The Night Dragon.
“I had always been fascinated by the cold case murder of Barbara McCulkin and her two daughters in Brisbane in 1974. It would take forty-three years for two men – Vince O’Dempsey and Garry “Shorty” Dubois – to be convicted of that crime.
“For decades the rumour was that O’Dempsey may have somehow been involved in the fatal firebombing of the Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub in Brisbane in 1973, 10 months before the McCulkin killings, and that the two events may have been linked. So I set out to try and tell that story.
“I have been working on crime and corruption in Queensland for almost 10 years, and that research has produced five books so far. A lot of my preparatory research into the new book was done years earlier and fed into this latest project. I have literally lost count of the number of people I have interviewed for these books. And each time a new book is released, new information pours in.”
To hear first-hand accounts of these interviews join Matthew Condon and Mark Brandi for A Night of Crime at the Old Courthouse Theatre on 12 July. Entry is free, but bookings are required through What’s on Townsville.