Author of The Hunted, Gabriel Bergmoser, shares his favourite crime novels.
Author of The Hunted, Gabriel Bergmoser, shares his favourite crime novels.

Author chooses his perfect crime

Just about every rural Australian town has stories about that other, more isolated town up the road that you just shouldn't go to.

 

Most of the time these stories are just urban legends or else good-natured ribbing.

Most of the time.

I was never brave enough to indulge my teenage Kerouac fandom and take a trip of self-discovery across Australia, but I had friends who did and some of the experiences they related upon returning were more than a little disturbing.

Wrong turns resulting in creepy encounters, nights spent in tucked away little towns where the locals were welcoming until they found something to take offense at, camping on the side of the road hearing what could be gunshots out in the night.

All told, the kind of stuff that reaffirmed my belief that I was right to never take a similar trip.

But I couldn't stop thinking about these strange, off-the-beaten-track places.

The Hunted, then, was an idea that had been floating around in my head for years before I finally sat down to write it.

I had a vague sense of what I wanted the story to be - something sunbeaten, bloody and terrifying, but I couldn't quite work out how to differentiate it from Wolf Creek or Wake in Fright.

The Hunted is published by Harper Collins.
The Hunted is published by Harper Collins.

Solving that problem, in the end, came about by accident.

I wish I could say that the things I most love about The Hunted were part of some grand design, but the time-jumping structure, exploration of Australian masculinity and central character with whom I fell deeply in love were all elements that only became clear as the narrative developed from film treatment to short story to novella to novel (and, with the recent optioning of the novel to be developed for the screen, back to film again).

It was one of those magical cases where every successive version yielded greater depths, new discoveries, an increasing sense that there was something really exciting here.

The Hunted won't be for everyone. It's only fair to make that clear. It's brutal, violent and relentless.

But I'd also like to think it's more than just gritty pulp, that it has something to say about our country and culture, that it's satisfying and, in its own twisted way, fun.

It's also something that couldn't have been written without the influences that I've spent my career so far shamelessly stealing from, the work of genius storytellers that have inspired me for years.

If you haven't yet, now is the perfect time to check out some of the below thrillers - but please try to make time for The Hunted as well.

 

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

While The Silence of the Lambs tends to get all the attention, the best Hannibal Lecter novel remains the first; for my money the greatest crime novel of all time.

Red Dragon is special because it both transcended and revolutionised a genre, turning the tortured criminal profiler and the Machiavellian evil genius operating from behind bars into ubiquitous tropes while also setting a benchmark for both that has yet to be topped.

Later Lecter books could be flowery and pretentious but Red Dragon is taut, direct, fast paced and, in its totality, a powerful exploration of humanity found in the most unexpected places.

 

cover of book Red Dragon by Thomas Harris - books Sept 2002
cover of book Red Dragon by Thomas Harris - books Sept 2002

 

Faithful Place by Tana French

I only discovered Tana French last year but in that time her work has totally shifted my understanding of what a crime novel can be.

She uses the framework of the whodunnit to write haunting, lyrical, and often funny portraits of damaged people trying to do what they can to make a difference in a world that defies easy answers.

While all of her books are worth reading, the standout and arguably best introduction is her third, Faithful Place, a riveting prodigal son story about the ways in which the past can shape, define and destroy us.

 

Cover of book 'Faithful Place' by Tana French.
Cover of book 'Faithful Place' by Tana French.

 

 

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Jane Harper's work was a massive influence on The Hunted.

Her mysteries, apart from being impossible to put down, stand out due to their stark and vivid sense of place, the feeling as you read that you are there with the characters, trying to get to the bottom of a tangled crime while fighting off scorching heat and growing menace.

The Dry made her a star, but The Lost Man is comfortably her best; a wrenching story of pain, loneliness, redemption and a family trying to heal from the wounds inflicted by one of its own.

 

 

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Tom Ripley is one of the great literary antiheroes; beguiling, slippery and, despite a range of lauded performances from brilliant actors, next to impossible to capture on screen.

To understand his darkly entrancing appeal you can't go past the original 1955 novel, a book that matter-of-factly puts you into the shoes of a sociopath and leaves you rooting for him to win, no matter how many people he kills in the pursuit of wealth and comfort.

Ripley is the cold-blooded devil inside all of us, doing and saying the things we all at times wish we could.

There's a vicarious, heady and troubling thrill to his company, but it's worth keeping.

 

Talented Mr Ripley
Talented Mr Ripley

 

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Wilde's only novel is famous for many reasons, but what it does so beautifully is balance a hugely entertaining gothic horror yarn with the author's deep dive into the concerns that fixated him; duality, morality, the pursuit of artistic and aesthetic perfection and ultimately the meaning or lack thereof of art itself.

It applies Wilde's singular wry and witty voice to a story that has its place with Dracula and Frankenstein as a classic of the genre but dives deeper than either, standing apart in the canon of Victorian horror as an utterly unique thesis of personal philosophy.

There really is no other book like it.

 

Oscar Wilde Collection, featuring dramatisations of The Importance of being Earnest, An Ideal Husband, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Lady Windemere's Fan.
Oscar Wilde Collection, featuring dramatisations of The Importance of being Earnest, An Ideal Husband, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Lady Windemere's Fan.

 

 

The Hunted, HarperCollins Australia. Available as an ebook and audio book on Monday via Apple Books, Kobo, Amazon.com.au, Audible.

Originally published as Author chooses his perfect crime



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