'Gone Girl' of Australian crime fiction, Jane Harper's The Dry, gets 2017 Indie Book Award

'Gone Girl' of Australian crime fiction, Jane Harper's The Dry, gets 2017 Indie Book Award
  1. 'Gone Girl' of Australian crime fiction, Jane Harper's The Dry, gets 2017 Indie Book Award
    Jane Harper's initial hopes for The Dry, a page-turning murder-mystery set in drought-stricken rural Australia, were modest enough. Firstly, it was to finish the manuscript she had started, then it was to get published and onto boo…

Jane Harper's initial hopes for The Dry, a page-turning murder-mystery set in drought-stricken rural Australia, were modest enough. Firstly, it was to finish the manuscript she had started, then it was to get published and onto book shelves.

But the enthusiastic reception for Harper's debut novel has exceeded all expectations – and then some.

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First-time success: Jane Harpers <i>The Dry</i> has exceeded all expectations. First-time success: Jane Harper's The Dry has exceeded all expectations.  Photo: Pat Scala

Having gone to Pan Macmillan in a publishing auction, and sold to 20 countries, The Dry was optioned before its release by Reese Witherspoon, whose film production company spotted the Hollywood potential of Gone Girl and Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies.

Since June 2016 the book has sold more than 50,000 copies in Australia helped by the passionate support of booksellers who pressed it into the hands of their customers.

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And on Monday night those independent booksellers named the novel overall winner of 2017 Indie Book Awards, from category winners The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith, Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner, Circle by Jeannie Baker and Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley.

"I was happy enough just being published," says Harper, who gave up journalism to write full time in April and is a relatively new mother to seven-month-old baby Charlotte.


"Before that, even before I started writing it, my real aim was to actually finish. I had ambitions to write a novel for years, I'd never done it, I never really tried very hard and didn't get far with any of my attempts. And I wasn't sure if I could. So I really wanted to just try and finish, I wanted a beginning, a middle and an end story.

"I entered the Unpublished Manuscript award in 2015 and I just did that for a deadline for myself to try and get to the stage where I could show it to other people and get some feedback and once I won that it snowballed from there."

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The Dry is a tense thriller that follows investigations into the suspected murder-suicide of a farming couple and their eldest child. It's told from the viewpoint of a Australian Federal Police investigator who, with his father, was run out of town years before following the discovery of a girl's body.

Like Peter Temple's Truth, The Dry manages to avoid the stereotypes of traditional crime fiction while invoking the crushing claustrophobia of the Australian landscape in drought.

Mosman bookseller Jon Page was a fan the moment he finished the a…

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