Steve Kilbey is the singer and lyricist of legendary Australian rock band The Church. He's made dozens of albums, and written several volumes of poetry and a memoir called Something Quite Peculiar. He was also the single biggest influence on my own development as a writer. We discuss lyric writing, songs about place, the disillusionment of success, and how music can recall our most intense experiences with vividness and immediacy.
Gordon Peake’s work as an international development consultant has led him to the world’s forgotten corners, places once besieged by anthropologists and now overrun by Western aid workers. He's written books on Timor-Leste and Bougainville, and the inside stories he shares about the big money world of development projects will surprise you and make you laugh.
When I hiked through the Accursed Mountains last June, I met older Albanians who still referred to Edith Durham as their “mountain queen”. Her books provide a rare first-hand look at a turbulent and seldom traveled corner of Europe during the last years of the Ottoman Empire. Durham's biographer, Marcus Tanner, joined me to discuss her travels, her relief work in the Balkans, and her role in helping create an independent Albania.
David Thompson travelled some 90,000 kilometres across North America as a fur trader and surveyor, mapping one-fifth of the continent. His work was so accurate it remained the basis of all maps of the west for almost a century. And yet, he died in obscurity, his remarkable achievements largely forgotten. His biographer D'Arcy Jenish joins me to talk about this remarkable man’s life and work, and his role in creating the Canada we know today.
In 2015, Rebecca Lowe set out on a year long cycling trip from London to Tehran, a journey that revealed a splintered mosaic of cultures, countries and languages, each with their own unique traditions. We talked about the Arab Spring, the promise of Sudan, and the stark cultural divides within cosmopolitan Iran.
Martha Gellhorn wanted to be known as a novelist. Instead, she’s remembered as one of the 20th century’s greatest war correspondents. She wrote about what war does to ordinary people, and the despair of those who have lost everything. Biographer Caroline Moorehead joins me to talk about this remarkable woman.
One People is a comic novel but Cousins Cove is a real village, and the stories Guy Kennaway tells were gathered during his first ten years as an idle British expat. We spoke about Jamaican culture, the legacy of slavery, and why he’s a passionate advocate for Patwa, the national language.
Turn-of-the-century Vienna was a cultural crucible where the air seethed with repressed desire. No artist captured this more vividly than Egon Schiele. Sophie Haydock imagines herself into his world in her debut novel The Flames.
W.G. Sebald has been described as “a writer of almost unclassifiable originality”. He wrote about the plight of emigrants, and in particular, emigrants from the Holocaust. His obsessions included survivor’s guilt, the nature of decline and fall, loss and decay, and the downward plunge of nature and history. I discussed Sebald's life and work with his biographer Carole Angier.
David Eimer is the author of the critically acclaimed The Emperor Far Away: Travels at the Edge of China. We spoke about that country's tumultuous border regions, and how different ethnic minorities have tried to keep their culture alive beneath the Han yoke.