Tag Archives: Peter Doyle

From True Crime to Purity: the 2016 Sydney Writers Festival

It’s that time of year again, as the Sydney Writers Festival gets up and running, with another impressive line-up of writers, critics, poets and more. Included on the list of free events is ‘The Underbelly of Sydney‘, a panel featuring Australian lecturer and author Dr Peter Doyle. Doyle will join Eleanor Limprecht, Anna Westbrook and Tom Wright in a discussion on the dark history of the city of Sydney. The panel will be held on Thursday, May 18 at Walsh Bay, from 11:30am-12:30pm. Here is a description:

Behind a pristine harbour and blue skies, our city has always hummed with an underbelly of adventure and misadventure. In the early days of Sydney, the cobblestone streets were lined with vice and violence. History’s players were the crooks and cops, thugs and judges, mad women and missing people. Local authors Peter Doyle, Eleanor Limprecht and Anna Westbrook join Tom Wright to share true tales of the colourful characters who shaped this city’s sordid past.

An associate professor at Macquarie University, Doyle is also an established crime author, the recipient of two Ned Kelly awards for fiction, as well as the recipient of a Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. Doyle’s latest work includes his new novel The Big Whatever, published in 2015.

The highlight at this year’s festival is the appearance of Jonathan Franzen, whose new book Purity (2015), said to be modelled on Dickens’ Great Expectations (1861), looks at contemporary surveillance culture and social media through the lens of his Julian Assange-esque character, Purity ‘Pip’ Tyler, whose name alone has evident Dickensian origins. Franzen’s  rather sanctimonious attitude in particular regards to social media (a trait that is well known amongst his fans and discreditors), has been the target of many an unfavourable review, including one that appeared in the Gawker Review of Books entitled: ‘Jonathan Franzen’s Purity Is an Irrelevant Piece of Shit’. Franzen will discuss his latest novel in conversation with Anna Funder on May 21, 2016 at Sydney Town Hall from 8:30-9:30pm, with tickets still available for purchase (his talk ‘My Reading Life’ on the 20th is sold out).  In spite of the author’s declining popularity amongst contemporary readers (especially those embracing social media platforms), the event is expected to garner a big crowd. Other ‘big names’ to appear at the 2016 festival include Julian Barnes, Jeanette Winterson, and feminist critic Gloria Steinhem, along with 2015 Booker Prize winner Marlon James.



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Peter Doyle’s new book and seminar

The Big Whatever

Associate Professor Peter Doyle, part-time curator and full-time writer, will be releasing his new book, The Big Whatever, in July, 2015. With an introduction by Luc Sante, the book sees the reappearance of Doyle’s protagonist Billy Glasheen, previously seen in Get Rich Quick, The Devil’s Jump, and Amaze Your Friends. Below is a description of the book:

When it comes to sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, Billy Glasheen’s always been in the vanguard, but as the swinging 60s turn into the 70s, he’s living a quiet life. He has kids now, and he’s in debt to the mob, so he keeps his head down, driving a cab, running some low-level rackets. He may as well have gone straight, it’s so boring. Then one day everything changes. He finds a trashy paperback in his cab whose plot seems weirdly familiar. Billy himself seems to be a major character in it. He can’t think who could’ve written it other than Max, his old partner in crime who double-crossed him and left him in the mess he’s in. Only Max is dead. He went up in flames, along with lots of cash, after a bank heist. But if Max is alive, Billy has a score to settle. And if he didn’t get fried to a crisp, maybe the money didn’t either. Billy has to find out, by following clues planted in that strange little book. He soon discovers he’s not the only one on Max’s trail, and has to deal with enemies old and new in his strangest adventure yet.

On Wednesday, May 6, 2015, Peter will also be giving a talk on forensic photography called ‘Ways of looking, limits of seeing: displaying the forensic photograph​’. Here is the description: ​

The Forensic Photography Archive (FPA) held at the Justice & Police Museum, Sydney comprises around 130,000 negatives produced by Sydney police between 1912 and 1964. Selected material from that collection – crime scenes, mugshots, interiors etc – has been exhibited and published over the past twenty years, to the great interest of the general public, as well as international scholarly, art and design communities.

In the period since FPA material was first exhibited (1999), various regulatory systems, including privacy legislation, victim protection legislation, evidence law, state archiving laws, FOI provisions, departmental guidelines and policies and so on have become considerably more complex. Over that same time the rapid transmission of digital media has become a commonplace, and a number of FPA images have been the subject of near-viral on-line sharing in which process, typically the carefully researched narrations, captioning and spoken interlocutions which accompanied the original museum installation or book publication are omitted.

Previous public expositions of FPA material have focussed largely on older holdings, mostly photographs taken before 1945. When attempting to exhibit forensic material from the 1950s and 60s however, in cases where participants in the events – victims, perpetrators, witnesses etc – may still be living, often conflicting codes and constraints come into play. Some of those codes are regulatory, and thus explicit. But others, although strongly felt, are much less articulated. At the same time the material is of high value as public heritage, as visual artefact, and according to some, as “art”.

For the current book project — Suburban Noir (2016) – I am mindful that I will likely be required to make a case to FPA custodians for the inclusion of a number of “difficult” but particularly rich photographs. This has obliged me to reconsider the complex networks of prohibitions, both explicit and covert, as well as opportunities and benefits resident in this volatile cache. This paper will examine a selection of specific images in order to outline some possible strategies of display, narration and interlocution.

The talk will take place at 3pm, in the Drama Studio, Y3A at Macquarie University. All are welcome.

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Pulp Fiction: Quick and Dirty Publishing from the 40s and 50s (2015)

It has been a busy couple of years for crime writer and academic Dr Peter Doyle, who has had launched several popular exhibitions, and whose books, including City of Shadows and Crooks Like Us have become hugely popular amongst crime history aficionados. And, following his 2013 exhibition Suburban Noir, Doyle will start off 2015 with a new exhibition in February: Pulp Fiction: Quick and Dirty Publishing from the 40s and 50s. Doyle will be the curator of the exhibition, to be held at the State Library of New South Wales. The exhibition will feature vintage cover art from crime books, illustrations, and comic book panels from the Sydney publishing house Frank Johnson Publications.

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Criminal Exhibitions in the Justice and Police Museum

Black and white mugshot of man against wall, left hand side image closeup without hat, right hand side image full standing shot with hat on, leaning on chair.

Two new exhibitions are currently doing the rounds at Sydney’s Justice and Police Museum: Notorious Criminals: A Snapshot of Sinister Sydney, and Breakers: The Dying Art of Safebreaking. Following on from the hugely successful series City of Shadows and Suburban Noir, both of which were curated by Dr Peter Doyle, these latest exhibitions focus on notorious Sydney gangsters from Kate Leigh to John ‘Chow’ Hayes. Curated by Nerida Campbell, the Notorious Criminals series delves into Sydney’s crime world from the 1860s to 1990s, while Breakers features the tools confiscated from real-life breakers. Here is a description of Notorious Criminals:

Sydney’s first European settlers were criminals – not an auspicious start – and the city has maintained its reputation for breeding some of the world’s hardest, most malevolent and cunning crooks. From surreptitious poisoners, smoothing their victim’s brow while holding a poisoned cup to their mouth, through to low-lifes who would kill you for the coat on your back, this city has seen them all….

The newest display at the Justice & Police Museum tells the story of nine of the city’s most notorious criminals. Stretching from the 1860s-1990s it features well known gangsters like sly-grogger Kate Leigh as well as forgotten criminals such as the Parramatta River murderers Lester and Nichols. Using intriguing objects and crime scene images it showcases a remarkable array of criminals including bushrangers, gangsters and a serial killer. Previously unpublished crime scene images of a cold-blooded murder committed by gangster John ‘Chow’ Hayes will be on display along with deathmasks, cut-throat razors and a poison bottle. Visitors can also explore the museum’s courtrooms and cells where many of the featured criminals spent time before doing time in jail.

Here is the description of the Safebreakers exhibition:

Sydney was once infested by safebreakers. Some were sophisticated specialists like Richard Reynolds, who used the latest technology to crack safes. Others like Kong Lee had a more slap-dash approach – stuff the safe with explosives and hope the neighbours don’t complain about the noise when it blows. Investigating safebreaks was an everyday occurrence for police. Legendary undercover policeman Frank ‘the Shadow’ Fahy  used his superior surveillance skills to foil many safebreaking plots. He was so successful at blending in with criminals that he was regularly arrested by cops who were unaware of his true identity. In the Breakers display you will see the tools confiscated from safebreakers, hear a policeman talk about his experience investigating  safebreaking during the 1950s and see the remarkable story of Sydney’s safebreakers as captured in the NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive.

Both exhibitions are open only on weekends in Sydney’s Justice and Police Museum, corner of Albert and Phillip Streets, Circular Quay, Sydney.

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The Future of Writing (2014)


Following the popular and successful symposiums in 2012 and 2013, media scholar John Potts has published his new work on the theme The Future of Writing (2014), featuring talks from the first symposium held November 13-14, 2012. To be launched by author and scholar Peter Doyle on June 11, 2014 at Macquarie University (5pm), the work looks at ideas of writing, journalism, and the novel in the context of intellectual, technological and social change and development. The book includes chapters focused on themes such as ‘Storytelling in the Digital Age’ (Garry Linnell), ‘Culture is the Algorithm’ (Richard Nash), ‘Creative Writing and New Technologies’ (Nigel Krauth), and ‘The Design of Writing: 29 Observations’ (Kathryn Millard and Alex Munt). The book also features work from eminent scholars including John Potts himself, Catharine Lumby, Mark Evans and Sherman Young, among others, and is published by Palgrave MacMillan (where it is available for purchase).  Although notably absent from the book, there were plenty of other segments from both symposiums that proved intriguing and insightful in regards to book publishing and creative writing in contemporary society, including Matthew Asprey and Theodore Ell on the art of beginning a literary journal in The Contrappasso Experiment, and Peter Doyle’s (Not) Giving Up the Day Job: Writing as Profession, as Pursuit, as Thing You Do, both of which stressed the importance of endurance in an otherwise fickle literary marketplace.

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Identity, Crime and Philosophy: Sydney Writers’ Festival 2014

It’s that time of year again, as Sydney puts on its annual Writers’ Festival, with highlights this year including David Malouf and Alice Walker, among hundreds of sessions variously dedicated to writing that addresses and challenges concepts of identity, history and culture.  Among the many offerings is the City of Shadows Revisited session, featuring Australian writer Peter Doyle discussing his hugely popular exhibition with photographer Pedro de Almeida and curator Nerida Campbell. Other intriguing sessions include The Real Sydney, a session focusing on Sydney’s inner-city including Parramatta and King’s Cross; Culture Wars, presented by the Griffith Review and focusing on the notion of culture in a political context; The Politics of Translation, which looks at the curious developments in author-translator relationships, and a gamut of others, many of which are free and require no bookings. This year’s festival also takes a look at the notion of ‘literary friendships’, and features The Curiosity Lecture Series on the Bloomberg Stage, with philosophical sessions such as On Epicurus and On Love on offer, as well as the session On Oulipo, which looks at the 1960s Parisian Literary Group, Oulipo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, which roughly translates as “workshop of potential literature”), who attempted to bridge literature and mathematics to form a drastic new way of writing. Its founding members included Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, as well as Jacques Roubaud, who will appear at this year’s festival. For those more accustomed to the visual culture of television and film, one of the festival’s highlights this year is Breaking Bad Creator Vince Gilligan, who will speak to Adam Spencer about his popular show, offering a behind-the-scenes look at how to program was conceived and filmed. The festival also provides more philosophy, with the session Hang Up Philosophy aiming to discuss philosophy’s place in contemporary society. The festival will also focus on emerging Australian writers, including the SMH Best Young Australian Novelists session, and will celebrate the UTS Anthology Launch from the creative writing program at the University of Technology, Sydney. The festival will take place from the 19th-25th of May.

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Nights of Noir: New Launch and Exhibition

Coinciding with the launch of Matthew Asprey’s ‘Noir’ edition of Contrappasso Magazine on November 27 at Newtown’s ‘Midnight Special’ bar, crime writer and researcher Peter Doyle will be launching his new exhibition, Suburban Noir, on November 30. The exhibition explores the “darker side of 1950s and 60s Sydney”. The launch will feature Peter Doyle discussing his research and latest work, and will take place at 11:30am-12:30pm on Saturday, November 30 at the Museum of Sydney. Below is a description of the exhibition:

Postwar Sydney wasn’t only about shiny cars, motor mowers and happy families. Suburban Noir explores the raw, half-built Sydney of the 1950s and early 60s through recently uncovered crime-scene images from the NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive, as well as contemporary artworks. The exhibition breaks with the tradition of presenting Sydney as a visual splendour, finding instead a more reserved city. The police photographs capture the spaces left behind: a moody catalogue of vacant lots, empty roads, desolate interiors and everyday fragments of life in these hard-bitten slices of Sydney. Look at these images long enough and everything starts to look like a crime scene.

Guest curator Peter Doyle invited a group of visual artists to loan existing works or create new works in response to the forensic photographs. They have responded with diverse visual sensitivities and understanding, finding drama and tragedy but also surprising stateliness and dramatic beauty. The artists are Vanessa Berry, Dallas Bray, Rhett Brewer, Charles Cooper, Theresa Darmody, Di Holdsworth, Bruce Latimer, Michael Lewy, Frank Littler, Reg Mombassa, Peter O’Doherty, Ken Searle, Susannah Thorne and Anne Wallace.

Matthew Asprey’s fourth, double issue of Contrappasso is now available on Amazon.com, or else purchase copies at the launch, held at The Midnight Special, Newtown, November 27, from 6pm. See their website for more details.

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