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100 Books A Year 2014 part II.


here come the dogs

Here Come the Dogs by Omar Musa

There’s a reason why this book is appearing in a myriad ‘best of’ lists this year – well more than one actually – in short; it’s really fucking good. It’s a bleak, unflinching and sometimes hallucinatory piece of work that flips between poetry and pose with disconcerting ease. Omar’s finely honed skills as a poet and lyricist are well manifested in his debut novel. I had the pleasure of featuring on a panel with Omar at the National Young Writers’ Festival earlier this year and he is a fiercely intelligent and yet incredibly good natured and friendly soul. His music is also highly engaging and arresting, well worth a listen.



Blindness by Jose Saramago

Okay, I’ll be honest. I’m only halfway through this one, but it’s nevertheless one of my favourites I’ve read this year. I saw the film some years ago and it was passably entertaining and featured a great cast, but the book is exponentially more interesting. Saramago uses the allegory of a strange infectious blindness to examine complex themes such as morality, governance, greed and politics. There are elements of scifi thriller here, but it’s a primarily a work that examines humans at their best and worst and basically exemplifies all the strengths of the novel as an artistic format. No wonder he managed to bag himself one of those peskily elusive Nobel prizes. I spent some time in Lisbon last year and in Portugal Saramago is revered as a national icon, it’s easy to see why.


five wounds

Five Wounds by Johnathan Walker & Dan Hallett

This was a profoundly fascinating piece of work, but not an easy read by any means. Visually it is inventive and captivating, simultaneously old and new. The story content is interesting but quite hard to follow and incredibly dark. I tend to enjoy fairly morbid territory in literature but this was a little to grim even for my tastes. However, if you enjoy particularly macabre writing then this might become one of your favourites.

Definitely worth the cover price just to see what the creators have done in terms of aesthetic and layout, but if you’re into conventional structures or are looking for an easy read you’re probably better off searching elsewhere.


tainted trialThe Tainted Trial of Farah Jama by Julie Szego  

I’m not usually a fan of true crime, but I was invited to interview Julie about the book at the Reader’s Feast Crime & Justice Festival earlier this year and it ended up becoming one of my favourites of 2014. The book follows the trial of Jama; a young Somalian refugee who has been falsely accused of rape via inexplicable DNA evidence. The way that Szego unpacks the multitudinous issues surrounding the case including race, religion, rape culture, assimilation vs integration and the limitations of the justice system is relentlessly beguiling. I also recommend Anna Krien’s Night Games, which covered some similar territory and was equally brilliant.



Adulthood Rites (Xenogenesis book 2) by Octavia E. Butler

While not quite as fascinating as the first book in the trilogy, the second book of the Xenogenesis series is nevertheless essential reading. Butler remains one of the (unfortunately) few African-American authors to be really successful in the scifi genre, and her work is a fascinating study on human nature and behaviour. The story follows a group of humans who have been interbred with an alien species and their return to a ruined earth. The complications in the narrative come from the various groups attempting to eek out an existence and warring over various genetic modifications they have undergone during their time away from earth. Recently there has been a push for Butler to be used in place of H. P. Lovecraft as the World Fantasy Award Statuette. More on that here.

                                       Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel 

StationelevenUKHCThis book was recommended to me by Black Cat Books, one of my favourite book stores in the world which is sadly about to close its doors. If you live in Brisbane, you have a couple of weeks left to check them out before they are gone forever. Lately I’ve found myself increasingly frustrated with the commonly held attitude in the Australian literary scene that ‘scifi is not a high literary art form.’ Despite the fact that the Booker of Bookers was awarded to Rushdie’s novel about kids with superpowers, there remains a prevailing attitude that if a novel isn’t literary realism, it’s just pulp fiction. This work is one of many (see also the Bone Clocks) that happily and successfully blends genres. The story follows an acting troupe that roams across a post-apocalyptic world where 99% of the population has been wiped out by disease. It flips between characters and eras in a manner that is spellbinding and highly satisfying.


The Special by David Stavanger

Despite having appeared on countless stages in Brisbane and all over the country both as himself and alter ego Ghostboy, this is Stavanger’s first published volume. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him perform a number of times and he is always wildly unpredictable and incredibly entertaining, and this collection lives up to Stavanger’s live performances. Dark, philosophical and funny, this is by far one of my favourite modern poetry collections. Stavanger has just been named as one of the cohosts of the Queensland Poetry Festival, so we’ll certainly be seeing plenty more of him in the very near future.


anthony A Difficult Place To Be Human by Anthony Anaxagorou

I met Anthony at the December edition of Brisbane’s infamous Ruckus Slam (where I managed to take home 2nd prize and win a woodford ticket yessssss). I was completely astonished by the way he weaved words together, a very honest and passionate performer. Poets are often admonished for putting on airs, and I personally am very fond of poets like Anaxagorou who are more concerned with speaking from the heart than trying to sound like the reincarnation of Wordsworth. I was particularly impressed by his piece The Master’s Revenge, which features in this collection. Check out the video here:





Thirst by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi

Lately I’m trying to read more Middle Eastern novels (feel free to send me recommendations!) and I found this slim little piece of genius in the Kinokuniya bookstore in Kuala Lumpur when I was on tour there earlier this year. Apparently Dowlatabadi was arrested by the Iranian regime, not for any specific infringement but because so many dissidents were found to be in possession of his work that the secret police just assumed he was up to no good. What an absolute superhero. This dream-like allegorical story within a story looks at war, humanity and propaganda. His writing is lyrical and captivating and I will certainly be seeking out more of his work.


Rat_Queens_Issue_1_cover Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

There’s a hell of a lot to love about this series. It’s subversive, action-packed, beautifully illustrated and so fucking funny it should be illegal. It also manages to subvert a lot of classic comic book tropes. Thanks to Scott Wings for the tipoff.


saga chapter one


Saga by Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples.

IT’S JUST SO FUCKING GOOD. A beautiful, complex story about war and family and destiny filled with humour and fantastic, insane characters. The art is the best in the business right now. Just read it, for the love of all that’s holy.


That’s my favourites for the second half of 2014! The full list of books I read this year is here. What did you love (or hate) in 2014?

PS I released my latest novel Killing Adonis in October. Let me know if it made it onto any of your lists (favourite books, least favourite books, books I used to fend off Mormons, books I used to prop up creaky coffee tables etc.)





Hello there internet, how are you? I’m fine, thanks for asking. Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been insanely busy promoting Killing Adonis and finishing off the script for the new graphic novel. I’m going to quickly share a couple of highlights from this year’s Supanova festival, because it was one of the best weekends of my life. As a diehard fan of anime, comic books, scifi and video games this whole festival was definitely my bag/jam/cup of tea (bag of jam tea?) Here’s some of my highlights. Apologies in advance for dropping names like I usually drop glasses (frequently, and with much embarrassment).

1 Robin Hobbs educating me on the finer points of bong engineering.

2 Meeting heaps of super enthusiastic fans. After years of tapping away at the keys alone in my room, it’s REALLY nice to meet people who are genuinely excited about this new book.

3 Talking gender in fiction with Robin, Kylie Chan, Steve Worland and Peter Hambleton. It’s a subject that I’m very passionate about and it was great to explore it in this forum. Also I had a few people ask about the ‘ungendered’ story I mentioned: there’s a link here. PS Hambleton loves whiskey. True story.

4 This bullet time photo with all the supanova authors:

5 Alan Tudyk throwing a massive box of maltesers onto the writers’ table.

6 A giant dalek offering the crowd tea and biscuits.

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7 Amazing costumes

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8 The pineapple.

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9 Usurping Matthew Reilly’s signing desk while he was at lunch (sorry Matt!)


10 Getting my ‘yearbook’ signed by some amazing writers and the Supanova staff.

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There’s a few more pics on my facebook page. See you next year!


L to R: Kylie Chan, Matthew Reilly, Juliet Marieller, Robin Hobb, Famous Pineapple, Some Total Loser, Steve Worland, Sean Williams, Scott Baker, Ian Irvine, Colin Taber.

I want to give you synaesthesia

Dearest Person Reading This,

I would like to give you synaesthesia. No, don’t worry, it’s not a sexually transmitted flesh-eating fungal infection. You have to go to some really dodgy Ecuadorian bars to get those (or so I’ve heard). Synaesthesia is a neurological blending of the senses. The lead character in my newest novel Killing Adonis is a synaesthete, and my publishers came up with the wickedly clever idea of making this internet tool.

 nabokov     monroe     Wassily-Kandinsky

Vladimir Nabokov, Marilyn Monroe and Wassily Kandinsky all had synaesthesia. 

Basically what it does is match each letter and number on your keyboard with a corresponding sound and colour, mirroring the way in which a synaesthete experiences the world. You can write whatever you want and share it as a synaesthetic sound/colour/text  experience. Feel free to jump straight in and have a play and write whatever you want. You might even just want to tap out a few tunes. You can write some witty/snarky things and share them around the internet (I believe that is the internet’s primary function after all).

colour blur

However, if you’re not very good at being witty and articulate don’t feel bad. Neither is Tony Abbott and he somehow managed to become PM so clearly it’s no biggie. Perhaps you have other talents like frisbee golf skillz or being very good at finding the best avocados in the pile. Whatever the case, I’ve made a bunch of presets for you that you can tailor as necessary. There’s a selection of threats, insults, pickup lines. Just the usual stuff that a normal person uses a couple of dozen times a day. Click on the links to see and share them synaesthetically. Have fun, make up and share some your own and whatever happens definitely do not send this message to ASIO under any circumstances.


My dearest darling honeyknickers, I have always loved you, despite the fact that you smell exactly like old cheese wrapped in sweaty socks.

Dear Mum, thanks for squeezing me out of your vagina. I hope my annual gifting of a $20 gift card serves as adequate compensation.

Dear [person I am attracted to] I dislike not dating you and would substantially prefer to do the opposite. I do not have chlamydia (at least not according to WebMD).


Dear [coworker], if you continue to eat my yoghurt out of the fridge I am going to start flavouring it with industrial strength laxative. And no, I don’t know what industrial strength laxative is but believe me I will find out.

Dear Neighbours, when you have sex it sounds like a pack of rabid wolves playing in a screamo band. PS Do you want to join my screamo band?

 If your personality were an album, it would be Chinese Democracy.

If your face were a film, it would be The Room.



Dear Tony, the rumours are not true. There is not going to be a G20 afterparty in Obama’s room. Definitely don’t go there because there will be nothing going on, if there was we would definitely invite you because everyone thinks you are great despite what the polls, commentators etc. have to say. PS Putin says he will meet you on the oval at 4. Come alone. – DC

Dear Mr Pyne, I’m contacting you here because my work email has been hacked. Can you ask Malcolm how to delete emails from the cloud? Cheers. – B. Spurr


 Future novel idea.

PS I’m just shy of my 1000th twitter follower. If you become number 1000, send me one of these synaesthesia messages using #KillingAdonis and I’ll write you a lil somethin’ somethin’ special in reply.

Killing Adonis by J.M. Donellan reviewed by J.M. Donellan

KA review

First of all, I was highly disappointed that this novel was not written by Tim Winton. As every reviewer knows, the only good novels in Australia are those that are either written by Tim Winton or try very extremely hard to sound like his work with the addition of a mild idiosyncratic twist. Perhaps a giraffe with OCD and a drinking problem or a sexually confused parking inspector with a penchant for Scandinavian taxidermy.

This book has received a slew of favourable reviews. Books + Publishing said ‘This is a writer with a deft handle on his craft’, Book’d Out called it a ‘surprising page turner‘ and Glamadelaide went so far as to comment that Killing Adonis is ‘great, inventive storytelling from an exciting new Australian author.’ Frankly I don’t see what all the fuss is about. As a post-modern western space opera it leaves a lot to be desired, as an erotic kung fu saga it is (almost) completely lacking in either sex scenes or kung fu sequences and as a technical manual for the Atari 800 it is beyond useless. After reading all 450 pages of this book I am still have no idea how to reboot my mainframe in the event of a lightning strike or zombie apocalypse.

 Killing Adonis is incompatible with:  

Inflatable pool 01       xbox one       Matrix_007

Killing Adonis is completely lacking in digital features. I tried a vast range of swiping and voice commands and it was obstinately unresponsive. The novel is not compatible with OSX , Xbox, Linux or the Matrix and all attempts to connect to WiFi or Bluetooth met with disaster. Furthermore, it proved entirely inadequate as a floatation device in even the most rudimentary inflatable pool testing and when I tried to use it to assemble my newly purchased Ikea wardrobe it was nothing short of unusable.

walther P99

Under ballistics testing, the book did prove somewhat more capable. Its 450 pages and pleasingly tactile faux leather cover do serve to reduce the velocity of a Walther P99 at a distance of 300 feet. However, at closer proximity the bullet will penetrate all the way through, so use with caution.

Overall I’d give this book 5 stars (out of 100) and unreservedly recommend it as a bullet resistant accessory but strongly encourage anyone who is looking for a Tim Winton penned futureproof Bluetooth enabled erotic space opera to look elsewhere. Available from all good bookstores (and some of the bad ones).



   POETRY IS DEAD@thejudith-14 &  scottwings

Dearest the World, we are launching our debut EP/poetry collection this Tuesday September 7pm at the Bearded Lady. Scott Wings will also be performing, fresh from melting faces at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which is the world’s largest festival for people with very symmetrical haircuts. FB EVENT HERE

Album_Chair_01      2014-06-14 13.32.10         2014-06-14 13.26.06



Killing Adonis cover reveal

Killing Adonis_JM Donellan_3D


Dearest denizens of the interwebs, I am extremely incredibly tremendously and wondrously thrilled to present to you the cover of my forthcoming novel Killing Adonis. I’m hugely impressed with the team at Xou Creative as well as my publisher Pantera Press for coming up with a design that enigmatically alludes to the dark and comedic aspects of the novel in a way that is captivating and unusual. The cover itself will have a faux leather feel, and as a huge book nerd I’m excited that it will have a special little tactile element.

The blurb is as follows:




After receiving a curious invitation, Freya takes a job caring for Elijah, the comatose son of the eccentric Vincetti family. She soon discovers that the Vincetti’s corporate rivals have a nasty habit of being extravagantly executed, their labyrinthine mansion hides a wealth of secrets and Elijah was never the saint they imagine him to be.

 As if that’s not enough, Marilyn Monroe keeps appearing, apparently unaware of the fact that she’s very much deceased. And there’s something very strange about the story that Elijah’s brother Jack is writing…

 Killing Adonis is a tragicomic tale about love, delusion, corporate greed and the hazards of using pineapple cutters while hallucinating. 

The launch party will be held at the Motor Room in West End on September 27 and 100% of everyone everywhere is invited. This will not be your ordinary book launch, we are going to have slam poets, bands, circus performers, fireworks and all manner of wonderful weirdness. Official event page and invites will be available soon. See you there.

ex oh ex oh


Casino Battle Royale

Screenshot 2014-06-01 20.45.19

Dear Brendan,

Thank you for noticing that my website is a thing that exists, something that most of the universe has sadly not yet achieved. I’m very flattered by your offer, $85 is more than the average short story anthology will pay for a piece and considering I would have to do almost nothing to get that cold hard cash I’m sure most normal people would enthusiastically accept your offer. Unfortunately for you, I’m not even remotely normal and I would much rather live decently than make a decent living.

I have gambled in a casino exactly once in my life, when I first turned 18. I have never regretted spending $5 on anything so much. Not even the time I bought and ate an entire family sized block of chocolate whilst watching Buffy reruns, because at least that afforded me a momentary burst of sugary pleasure, even if it was followed by the need to vomit. Conversely, watching the dealer scoop up my $5 chip as carelessly as if it was a piece of lint provided me nothing but confusion, sorrow and an enduring hatred of casinos. And also the need to vomit.


I find it genuinely horrifying that an organisation that exists solely for the purpose of slowly crippling a society by preying on the uneducated and impulsive is considered a legitimate business. Recent data shows that Australians spend more per capita than ANY other country on gambling. In 2009 Australia’s total annual gambling revenue was over $19 billion. That’s BILLION. With a B. That kind of money can build a lot of schools and hospitals, instead it went into the pockets of the already rich. More specifically, the pockets of people who have become rich by exploiting and aggravating addiction rather than choosing to invent, innovate, create or cure.

I’ve taught children of problem gamblers. I’ve seen those kids show up to school with not nearly enough food, wearing threadbare jumpers and shoes with gaping holes. You can argue individualism until the bovines return to their domiciles but anyone who can look into the eyes of a kid who who hasn’t eaten a meal in days because their dad spent all their grocery money at the roulette table and then say ‘yes, this system works’ is most likely a sociopath, an idiot or a casino owner.


                                   Writers make HOW much?

If I wanted to make money I would have chosen a career that pays a hell of a lot better than writing, like shoe-shining or being one of those street performers who dress up like statues. On the plus side, I get to spend a lot of time in my pyjamas, wake up when I want and write unnecessarily elaborate responses to spammers. So no, I will not link to your client’s casino. I will instead link to gambling help online and this very useful guide to gambling facts in Australia. And for my readers who do have some spare money to throw around, may I politely suggest that you send your discretionary income where it will be truly appreciated? Any of these are a guaranteed safe bet:

red cross                     amensty2                       Print




The Eternal sneak preview #2


One of the best things about making art in the 21st century is that distance is no barrier to collaboration. Today Tony Gilfoyle and I have been hard at work on our new project, me tapping away at my keyboard in a little cafe in Brisbane, Tony furiously sketching in the Solomon islands.

I am so excited about this project that I want to high five the sun. It’s going to have the widest scope of anything I’ve ever written, spanning centuries and continents, heaven and hell, life and death. Tony’s art is going make these characters so real you might want to wear kevlar while you read it just in case you catch a stray bullet flying out from the pages.



I know I’m getting ahead of myself sharing these images so early in the creative process – but hell, I’m a writer. Getting ahead of myself is what I do. I’m currently waist deep in research covering subjects ranging from Gnosticism, Sufism, the Colombian revolution, the Khmer Rouge, Icelandic volcanoes, obscure mathematical theories and pancultural symbolism. Enjoy these teaser sketches. And If someone could provide me with an image of an Indian rupee from the early 18th century that’d be just swell.

Orion jpeg small



My kid brother and I have a tradition of going to see all the superhero movies. We load up on sugary delights and soak up 90 minutes of explosions and musclebound superhumans with our eyes. It’s appropriate that we accompany trashy action films with junk food, because they are essentially junk food for the brain; delicious, but not something you want as a staple diet. In between each trip to the movies I buy him a couple of books and we make a few outings to the library, beach, rainforest or museum. He’s turning fourteen this year, and seeing him standing precipitously on the brink of manhood has made me concerned about the world he’s about to inherit. As if the usual cavalcade of teenage catastrophes wasn’t enough – carbuncular colonisations, hormones roundhousing him 24/7, voice cracking and breaking like a collapsing shelf of ikea glasses – he’s also got to deal with the tremendous, steaming mountain of bullshit that we are going to leave his generation to clean up. And the locus of this monstrous mess is a prevailing  association of aggression with ‘strength’ and a refusal to engage in rational debate as a sign of ‘toughness.’


“You talkin’ to me? Oh I’m sorry you weren’t? My mistake, terribly sorry please enjoy your evening. Thank goodness we didn’t let that escalate unnecessarily!”

Two weeks ago I was on my way home from seeing one of the greatest bands in the country right now, Blank Realm, and I had to sprint to avoid missing the hourly night bus. When I arrived I saw two men, one of them shirtless, calling each other c*nts and arguing with around the same level of intellectual discourse (and roughly the same sized vocabulary) as a couple of four-year-olds quarrelling over a Tonka truck. As I waited anxiously for the bus to arrive, the shirtless antagonist fired one last blast of expletive-laden vitriol at his companion before smashing his fist into the glass of the bus shelter. A cacophonic explosion of glass ruptured the air around me as he walked off into the night, knuckles trailing a red river in his wake.

Recently our Prime Minister described the prevalence of alcohol-fuelled violence such as this as well as more heinous actions like coward punches as ‘appalling’ and ‘utterly cowardly’, and so he should. Meanwhile, his own administration last week witnessed an incident of violence where a man in their care was killed and 77 others injured. Where is the public declaration of disgust, the contempt for the perpetuation of these abhorrent conditions? Instead we see the exact opposite, Abbott most recently describing immigration minister Scott Morrison as ‘strong.’  In the words of Inigo Montoya:


People who overcome addiction are strong. People who stand up to injustice are strong. People who can watch Tony Abbott’s face spewing inarticulate dross for more than 20 seconds are zen masters with the strength of ten tigers. Morrison, meanwhile, continues to maintain operations in a manner that have been described by the UN as ‘cruel, inhuman, degrading and in violation of international law.’ History will judge Morrison a monster, meanwhile our elected leader describes him as ‘strong’, ‘decent’ and ‘no wimp.’

I don’t want my brother growing up in a culture where strength is associated with violence and oppression. I don’t want him growing up in a culture where rationalism, compassion and emotional intelligence are equated with weakness and abnormality. I don’t know how to fix this, but I know that the hordes of people who struggle to end Australia’s abuse of asylum seekers, the lawyers, activists, protestors, writers, journalists and  everyday people who continue to speak out against this malicious injustice, these are the kinds of people who show true strength. These are the people I hope he regards as heroes.