Category Archives: Writing

Writing place

 

I’m thrilled to be one of ten writers invited to participate in an exciting new
Darebin City Council initiative called Writing this Place. The project aims to uncover ‘hidden gems’ in the architectural, natural and social spaces in Darebin, and to celebrate local writers.

In a night of fun and mayhem involving bingo and raffles at the very original retro Thornbury Bowls Club, the writers were matched randomly (although I suspect some cheating may have gone on with the wheel spinning for location) with ten iconic places in Darebin. I was the lucky one to spin the wildcard, allowing me to choose my own location. The Westgarth Cinema.

We now have one month to research, explore and immerse ourselves in our matched location. And, of course, write about it — contributing to a new narrative for the city, investigating notions of place and form. Quite a challenge!

Quite terrifying, actually.

I find the short-story form daunting, and stand by whoever said it’s easier to write a novel than a short story [Or was it a long letter is easier than a short letter?].

I think I achieved a strong sense of place in both my novels. But it’s not something I sat at my computer and planned. It just kind of happened. I think it evolved after, or at least alongside, character development. Character usually comes first for me. But it’s hard to remember. I call it ‘novel amnesia’ — the thing that happens after you’ve written a book and have no idea how you did it. It’s like childbirth — a defence mechanism kicks in, making you forget the pain so you’ll go back and do it again.

I’ve tried to document my process while Writing this Place so I could share it here.

So, how to ‘write place’?

1. Researching online
For starters, I searched for information online. I found a lot of details about my place, especially the architecture. Post WWI eclectic Free Classical style; articulated engaged piers; cantilevered awning; smooth banded rustication; deep, dentillated cornice. That all sounds clever, but would make most people’s eyes glaze over, except for architects.

You need to let go of most of the technical terms and think about what the place looks like to you. Put it into your own words; give it your unique perspective.

While researching, I stumbled across war stories from the city of Darebin, which gave me the germ of an idea for a historical piece.

2. Visiting location
I know some authors have written wonderful, believable books about places they’ve never visited, but I don’t think I could ever do that. I spent time hanging around — immersing myself in my place, asking the staff questions. I even caught a movie while I was at it (research!). [Lucky I didn’t get a pub as my location.]

I took copious notes at my place. I also took photos. [Sometimes I record sounds when researching locations.]

My notes weren’t just about visuals. Sensory details drawing on all the senses bring stories to life.

When writing, think about:
Sight
Sound
Smell
Touch
Taste

3. Finding character and story
As well as WW2, I was interested in the Greek-language films that brought Northcote’s large Greek population together in the 60s and 70s. But I also wanted to incorporate present day into my narrative.

Hmm … Maybe three short story-vignettes?

Two of the three vignettes spoke louder to me, and I started weaving them into a single connected story. Finding characters and story was important for me — without them, place is just exposition.

4. Framing
I liked the idea of using frames to write about a place that showed pictures. Framing devices as well as literal door and window frames.

I try to capture subjects visually in my writing the same way a camera would. This seemed even more pertinent for this project.

Start with a close-up frame on an object or person in your story and then ‘pan’ out to a mid and/or wide shot. For example: go from a feature of a face, a brooch on a dress, and then out to the surroundings. Or start with a wide frame and then zoom in. The façade of a building, to the window, to a smaller detail on the signage. [I don’t think about this in the first draft, but when rewriting I check that I haven’t jumped around too much with the ‘framing’.]

5. Metaphor, simile and symbol
These literary devices can make your place more interesting.

Think about the green light in The Great Gatsby and the moors in Wuthering Heights.

I was interested in exploring contrasts like the dark and light spaces in a cinema. Past and present, love and loss, war and peace, life and death.

Memory is like a camera, recording the bright flashbulb moments. But what about the dark or blank spaces in between? This idea kept popping up in my thoughts.

6. Finding historical details
To get the historical details right, I visited my local library (Northcote), and the State Library Victoria for advice and information. Old newspapers and maps help build up a snapshot of a time. I was also in the wars a lot (sorry!) — searching the National Archives and War Memorial websites.

The Darebin Heritage website was another useful resource.

7. Seeking Feedback
Feedback is a very important part of the process. I can’t say I’m a big fan of it. All is happy and perfect in story land — until you ask for it. I have learnt / am still learning that seeking feedback too early on can fill you with doubt and derail your idea. Given enough time (and rewrites) you will come to a deep understanding of your story — and that’s when it’s time to ask for feedback. However, I didn’t have the luxury of time on this project. And, yes, conflicting feedback (from a few trusted readers) on my first draft did throw me off track for a while.

One point I took on board was that I had tried to include too much in my piece. I left in my [short, OK, short!] reference to the Greek films, but took out the stuff about Walter Burley Griffin and the lost building plans.

 [Also not included in my piece, but just so you know: INXS filmed the music video for ‘Listen Like Thieves’ at the Westgarth, and in 1940 double-decker buses replaced the cable trams on High Street.]

8. Other stuff
I like to use the light in my writing, and how it can alter the appearance of things. In fact I found the word ‘light’ ten times in my first (1000 word) draft! Light (harsh or soft?) can be a way of signalling to your reader that something needs to be examined.

Music inspires me. I listened to music from WW2 time while writing this piece. I wanted to include a song from the 40s in the past section, and ‘Unchained Melody’ in the present, but I restrained myself from going overboard on the sentimentality.

9. Above all
When writing about place, ask yourself:
What is the feeling here?
What is the universal truth that embodies this place?

For my place — a purpose-built picture theatre from the 1920s — it was nostalgia.

Art-inspired writing

I was recently invited to speak to a primary school class about writing and Storybird. Storybird is an educational platform, where students can create art-inspired stories, with the options of publishing their work and connecting with a community of readers, writers and artists. In
Storybird, writers start by choosing illustrations, which lead them into the writing process. A great way to prevent writer’s block.

I decided to make my talk a little about structure and process, and a lot about the artwork that inspired my books (leaving out the gory bits, of course!). The kids loved discussing art and stories, and their teacher is trying to organise an excursion to an art gallery before the end of the year.

dd101465

Lovers | Charles Blackman | NGV

Lovers
One of my writing lecturers at RMIT taught a class about ekphrasis [Greek ekphrazein to speak out, to call an inanimate object by name — Macquarie Dictionary], a concept that goes back to Plato. Put very basically, ekphrasis is the use of one art form to provide a commentary on another art form. Our class had an excursion to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Fed Square where we chose an artwork to write about. This was a very powerful exercise for me and it’s where I first became enamoured with Charles Blackman’s Lovers. I spent a lot of time admiring this painting. I occasionally visit it now, and it still always brings a tear to my eye. Lovers informed my first novel Please Don’t Leave Me Here so much that it appears as a print on Brigitte’s apartment wall, and is referred to several times — in real time, memory and dreams.

‘She looks across at the print hanging on the wall behind the sofa: two lovers embrace against a background that looks finger- painted — frosty white smears tinged with aqua. If you could taste it, it would be spearmint. The female figure rests her head against the man’s neck. She is veiled in black, her face hidden by a hood. He is shadow-like, grey, his face visible but chiselled, without detail like a sculpture. Against the small of her back he holds a bouquet of flowers: white, perhaps daisies, with centres the colour of fresh blood. Is this their last time together? Is she in his dream? A memory? Or a ghost? Why can’t they just be together?’
— Please Don’t Leave Me Here

68-9_rothko_imageprimacy

Four Darks in Red | Mark Rothko | Whitney Museum of American Art

Four Darks in Red
This was Aidan’s artwork in Dead in The Water. Brigitte disliked it and described it as: ‘… four lozenge shapes in different shades of red, from crimson at the bottom to liver-brown at the top … She’d never told him that she didn’t like it. It reminded her of bloodstains.

Four Darks in Red became a metaphor for blood.

‘There were stains on his clothing the sombre colours of his Rothko Four Darks in Red — he’d been to the accident scene.’

‘It wasn’t raindrops: it was crimson. Four darks in red.’
— Dead in the Water

epub000615

Feet Beneath the Table | Charles Blackman | NGV

Alice in Wonderland series
Strangely enough, I’m drawn to the artwork of Charles Blackman again — in particular his Alice in Wonderland series — while writing my third book, You Used To Love Me. The story (at this stage) is about memory, time and the line between sanity and insanity. For me, it seems to have many parallels with Alice in Wonderland.

‘Alice: How long is forever?
White Rabbit: Sometimes, just one second.’
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

dd103476

Collins St, 5p.m. | John Brack | NGV

Collins St, 5p.m.
Again, I’ve placed artwork within my story. In You Used to Love Me, Sidney studies this painting in Year 10 art, and twenty years later finds herself in the setting of the painting.

‘… Glass towers had replaced the sandstone buildings of Brack’s 1950s background. Not all the faces were white, and mobile phones were stuck to ears, but the blank expressions were the same. Strange now that here I was — that girl grown-up — in the street, in the picture I remembered. My past self in the future. Or my future self in the past? Or the present? Thoughts like that — time plains, continuums, illusion — could do my head in …’
— You Used to Love Me (work in progress)

the-mice-and-me-2008_meghan-boody_mona_mona-blog

Of Mice and Me | Meghan Boody

Of Mice and Me
I didn’t show this image to the Grade 2s! The germ of the idea for You Used to Love Me came to me while viewing this sculpture a year or so ago at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Tasmania. A lot of the museum-visitors were walking away shaking their heads, but I was utterly mesmerised. When I listened to an interview with the artist, Meghan Boody, I understood why this piece had captivated me. Boody describes it as ‘an ode to staying forever young’. And says, ‘I often feel a strange tug or presence when I walk by the apartment where I grew up. I look up into the window of my bedroom — and wouldn’t it be wild if I saw myself as a child looking back down?’ Boom! That, in a nutshell, was the essence of my vision for You Used to Love Me.

Back to my Year 2 talk … In case I’d traumatised them (which, of course, I hadn’t — eight-year-olds are very switched-on little people and they love scary stories), I finished with these images of On Days Like This There Are Always Rainbows, an installation by Pip and Pop, which I saw recently at NGV. The rainbow-candy-coloured miniature wonderland — mountains, valleys, pathways, crystal forests, and fluorescent flowers and animals constructed from glitter, clay, foam, sequins and pom-poms, topped with coloured sugar and cake decorations — was inspirational enough to me as an adult, but it would have been absolutely magical as a child.

20161108_110508 20161108_110657-1

On days like this there are always rainbows | Pip & Pop (Tanya Shultz)

I would love to hear about artwork that has inspired you.

Writer vs. Storyteller

photo-on-18-10-2016-at-11-02-amI’m stuck in the middle of my WIP (that’s why I’m writing this post instead of writing-writing) because the Writer and Storyteller in my head are fighting. I’m just under 50K words into what I think is a complex, layered, deeply nuanced character study, which the Writer is totally in love with. But now the Storyteller is trying to crash the party with questions like: Is the storyline strong enough to pull the reader along?

Writer: I don’t care what the reader thinks. I just care about my character.
Storyteller: I’m sorry, did you just say you don’t care about the reader?
Writer: I didn’t mean it. Of course I care about the reader. I’ve worked so hard on this characterisation — won’t it be enough to pull them along?
Storyteller: I don’t think so.
Writer: Then how about elegant sentences, and beautiful punctuation?
Storyteller: How about a plot twist in act three?
Writer: That would make it contrived.
Storyteller: That would make it a story.
Writer: It would cheapen the whole thing.
Storyteller: No it wouldn’t.
Writer: Yes, it would.
Storyteller: No.
Writer: Yes.
Storyteller: What about Peter Temple?
Writer: What about Peter Temple?
Storyteller: You’re always going on about how much you like him, and he does both.
Writer: I like — believe in, care about, fall in love with — his characters (and his stylish prose). I couldn’t care less about his plots. In fact I think they interfere with the characterisation.
Storyteller: That’s ridiculous.
Writer: And I still don’t get why there were chocolate wrappers in the bin at the end of The Broken Shore.
Storyteller: *Sigh* How many times do I have to tell you — I think it’s an implication of how Cashin will eventually, sometime in a future book, solve the mystery of what happened to the missing boys who made the ceramic pots back in 1988.
Writer: You have no idea either.
Storyteller: Margaret Atwood is good at both too.
Writer: I love Margaret Atwood.
Storyteller: David Mitchell.
Writer: I didn’t love Cloud Atlas.
Storyteller: I did.
Writer: You would. How about The Bell Jar?
Storyteller: Let’s not have that argument again. So what are we going to do?
Writer: About what?
Storyteller: Our story, for fucks sake!
Writer: Sorry, I was just thinking about the way the green light from the motel’s ‘Vacancy’ sign shimmers in a rain river along the ground to Dean Cola’s feet, just before Sidney leaves town with him.
Storyteller: Oh my God, you’ve just given away the ending!
Writer: That bit won’t be there if you get your way with the plot twist.
Storyteller: So you do want to give it a try?
Writer: I didn’t say that.
Storyteller: We’ll foreshadow it right from the start.
Writer: And if I don’t like it, I could take it out?
Storyteller: Of course.
Writer: I could do it with TrackChanges turned on — like a safety net, just in case.
Storyteller: You know we stopped using TrackChanges long ago. And you’re too stubborn to try Scrivener.
Writer: If it’s wrong, changing it back would be so much work, when I could be polishing prose instead.
Storyteller: You’ve done it before. Remember how many times you rewrote Please Don’t Leave Me Here?
Writer: *Curls up in corner and starts to cry*
Storyteller: You’ve learnt a lot since then.
Writer: No, I haven’t.
Storyteller: You — I mean I know what I’m doing now.
Writer: I’m not so sure.
Storyteller: Stop being a baby! It’ll be fine.
Writer: It might not be.
Storyteller: Then rewrite it again. And again, until it is fine.
Writer: But …
Storyteller: You know I’m right. Trust me.
Writer:
Storyteller: Trust me.
Writer: OK.

Write truly and not care

In my post Losing the Plot a few months ago, I wrote that I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with my characters, ideas were coming at me from all directions, the words were flowing.

Well, now the words have stopped flowing. It’s more like squeezing drops of blood. I’m stuck, stalled, lost. With so few words coming out, there’s plenty of room for self-doubt to come in.

What am I doing? This story is too dark. It’s far more psychological study than thriller. There’s no crime-fiction-style murder. My protagonist, Sidney, is not funny; she’s not Brigitte. Nobody’s going to like it.

I came across this letter on Letters of Note that Ernest Hemingway wrote in reply to F. Scott Fitzgerald asking for feedback on Tender is the Night, and the advice struck a chord with me. It’s from a book called Letters of Note. If you don’t feel like reading the whole letter, the takeaways (for me) are:

  • You cannot make characters do anything they would not do
  • Don’t worry about what people will think
  • Listen to advice from those you trust
  • Use your pain
  • Don’t drink too much (hard to believe Hemingway would say that, I know)
  • Write truly and not care about what the fate of it is
  • Make time for your friends
  • Go on and write

While I’m waiting for the words to return and for self-doubt to leave so I can ‘go on and write’, I’m going to read Tender is the Night to see if I can get what Hem was on about.

Beer, Berettas and bonsai: Researching novels

Research for my first novel, Please Don’t Leave Me Here, involved sifting through 1990s newspapers on microfiche at the State Library, frequenting coffee shops in Degraves Street and drinking beer at featured pubs.

My second novel, Dead in the Water, required a lot more research. I stayed at the place where it’s set — Raymond Island, a tiny island in the Gippsland salt-water lakes system, with a population of about 540. There are plenty of koalas, but no shops or other businesses. If you run out of bread or milk [OK, wine], you have to catch the cable ferry across to Paynesville on the mainland for supplies. After the last ferry crossing between 11pm and midnight, there’s no way on or off. The perfect place to set a crime story!

Dead in the Water deals with trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, so I spoke with a police psychologist and officers suffering PTSD. I also made friends with forensic scientists who told me more than I needed to know about dead bodies in water, DNA and gun shot wounds.

The hardest research was learning to shoot a gun. I wanted to write a shooting scene and, being a ‘method writer’, didn’t think I could do it without knowing how it really felt. So, I booked into a course at a pistol club.

330px-Bullet_coming_from_S&W

You can hear gunshots from the car park. Inside, people are lying on mats, shooting rifles at targets on the range. I go the wrong way and end up in the bistro instead of the training room. You can relax and enjoy a drink in the lounge or licensed bar after shooting the crap out of stuff. There are taxidermied animals around the room and deer heads on the wall.

The training room is full of mostly young men. Anybody — who doesn’t have a police record — can do the handgun-shooting course. So how dangerous can it be? Our instructors enter the room — one has an arm in a sling; the other has a leg missing below the knee.

They teach us about the safety equipment required on the shooting range. Special earmuffs, because guns are louder than a jet engine and can cause permanent hearing damage. Safety glasses, because pieces of shrapnel can fly back and hit you in the eye. And be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards, because handgun ammunition contains some very hazardous materials like lead styphnate, which can cause heavy metal poisoning. That’s if you have any hands left: Never cross your thumbs behind the slide of a semiautomatic pistol (the slide is the thing on top that flies back from the recoil of the shot, forcing the empty round from the chamber out through the ejection port). Not because it might break your thumb, but because it could slice it right off. Excellent. I start to think maybe I don’t need that gun-shooting scene in my book after all.

shooting range

Relaxed on the shooting range. “Never cross your thumbs behind the slide …”

Out on the range, each shooter is allocated a shooting bay. Always make sure the gun is pointing in a safe direction, and the only safe direction is DOWNRANGE! (they shout a lot on the range). Be especially careful of turning around to talk to the person next to you because … [Remember that scene in Pulp Fiction — ‘I just shot Marvin in the face’? You get the picture]. There is a yellow safety line along the back of the bays, and a red line along the front. NEVER REACH ACROSS THE RED LINE! At this stage, my legs have started to shake and my mouth is very dry.

They said we’d have plenty of time to get the ‘feel’ of the guns before shooting at the targets. But I’m still getting to know my gun, and so not ready when the Range Officer commands ‘EYES AND EARS!’, a reminder to get your safety equipment on. Trying very hard to suppress a panic attack, I put on my earmuffs and safety glasses. ‘MOVE FORWARD. LOAD. FIRE!’

I have a go at shooting semiautomatic pistols of increasing calibre, my mantra the whole time: Never cross your thumbs behind the slide, never cross your thumbs behind the slide, never cross your thumbs behind the slide. Then I try some revolvers, including a Magnum (or was it a Beretta? — same name as a cop show from the 1980s), which has quite a kickback.

The cylinder on one of my revolvers seems to be stuck. I keep trying to pull the trigger, but it won’t work, so I hold up my hand. The Range Commander comes over to check what’s wrong. Lucky I asked for help because one of the rounds is stuck in a chamber and, had I kept trying to shoot, it could have caught fire and exploded in my hands. That’s enough for me. I donate my remaining ammo to the guy in the next bay who is enjoying himself far more than I am. I come away with my eyes, ears and thumbs intact, and enough details to write the gun-shooting scene.

220px-Japanese_White_Pine,_unknown-2007

In my work in progress (working title: You Used to Love Me), my protagonist’s hobby is bonsai. I’m looking forward to a relaxing short course, researching the gentle art of bonsai. Careful with the trimming tools?

So, what do you write?

Look away now if you can’t stomach another piece about literary vs. genre fiction.

So, what do you write? This is the question I try to skirt around when somebody finds out I’m a writer. I usually say novels, or fiction. ‘But what genre?’ I’ve always felt like a fraud calling myself a crime writer and I used to say, ‘Literary thrillers’, or go off on a tangent about how my work is hard to categorise. Now, I just smile and say, ‘Psychological thrillers’, feeling that’s not quite true, but I don’t have a better alternative. The response to this is often — down their nose — ‘Do you write under your own name?’

Before I was published, a writer friend warned me to be careful of falling between the stools of literary and genre fiction. At the time, I thought it wouldn’t be such a bad thing — something for everybody.

My first book was marketed as ‘A riveting psychological thriller’. In the UK, it had an ‘If you liked The Girl On The Train, you’ll love this’ sticker on the cover. The hashtag for the blog tour was #WifeOrKiller. Some reviews attacked the marketing instead of focusing on the book, which was perceived as more character study than ‘riveting psychological thriller’. One reviewer praised my writing but said the book was flawed as crime fiction as there weren’t enough suspects. The same reviewer said of a book that readers sometimes compare mine to — by an author marketed as literary — that it worked on all levels, including crime fiction [there was only ever one suspect in this story]. In defence of the marketing — my book had to be promoted as something and I’m not sure what else it could have been labelled. It’s a hard one to put in a box. I’m over the moon just to be published, and happy to be called anything [Well, almost anything].

Marketing is interesting. I recently read an interview with Peggy Frew (author of Miles Franklin shortlisted Hope Farm) where she says that one commercial publisher wanted to make her books more ‘chick lit’ and less ‘literary fiction’. Hmm.

Some authors manage to balance comfortably between the two stools. Peter Temple comes to mind, but he is absolutely a crime writer following the classic structure and using every trope in the book. What sets him apart, I think, is his brilliant characterisation and stylish prose. Maybe Chris Womersly? Margaret Atwood, Cormack McCarthy … There must be millions of others. I haven’t read The Dry (Jane Harper) yet but, by all accounts, it’s up there with the best literary/crime.

Perhaps we should concentrate on writing stories that we’re passionate about, that are interesting and challenging to us, and try not to worry about what they will be labelled as and into which box they will be packaged.

Good writing — whether literary or genre — is good writing.

In [David] Mitchell’s words, “the novel’s the boss”, and arguments about marketing categories are not the writer’s concern.
Literature vs genre is a battle where both sides lose, Damien Walter, The Guardian, 20 Nov 2016

In case you were wondering exactly what happened to Eric Tucker …

It’s been exactly a year since PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE was published in Australia. I thought I’d celebrate its birthday (and the shortlisting for best debut novel for both the Davitt and Ned Kelly awards 🙂 ) by posting the ‘deleted scene’: my beloved Coroner’s inquest report. I wrote the Coroner’s report as a sort-of prologue, and it almost made it into the book (‘this close’) — it was cut during the final proofreading stage when it was decided that such a dry, bureaucratic piece of writing might not be the best opening for a novel.

STATE
CORONER
VICTORIA

CORONERS REGULATIONS 1996
Form 1

4th April 1997
Case No: 2418/94

RECORD OF INVESTIGATION INTO DEATH

I, BRONWYN WRIGHT, Coroner,

having investigated the death of ERIC ALAN TUCKER with Inquest held at Coronial Services Centre, South Melbourne on 27 June 1996

find that the identity of the deceased was ERIC ALAN TUCKER and that death occurred on 23 December 1994 at 1/49 Rathdowne Street, Carlton from

1 (a) HEAD INJURY
in the following circumstances:

Summary overview

On 23 December 1994, at approximately 10.40am the body of Eric Alan Tucker was discovered at 1/49 Rathdowne Street, Carlton by the apartment complex caretaker, Sean McMahon. The apartment door was open and the deceased had been covered with a blanket. There was wine and a small amount of broken glass on the carpet.

See Sean McMahon statement, Exhibit 2, dated 23/12/1994.

Detective Sergeant Sam Campbell was the first on the scene, having received a call from D24 while driving past the Rathdowne Street address. Uniformed officers and paramedics arrived half an hour later.

A neighbour claimed to have seen a young woman leaving the apartment at approximately 7.00am that morning.

While some neighbours reported seeing a woman, known to them as Brigitte Weaver, coming and going to and from the apartment; others, including Sean, could not verify seeing any other person aside from Eric at the apartment.

See Detective Sergeant Sam Campbell statement, Exhibit 10, dated 23/12/1994.

In the wake of the discovery of Eric’s body, Police Investigators, led by Detective Sergeant Sam Campbell, commenced trying to locate Brigitte in order to pursue their investigation into the circumstances in which Eric’s death occurred.

While initially a person of interest, Brigitte was excluded of involvement in the death. At the time of Eric’s death, Brigitte had been critically injured in a hit-and-run car accident in East Melbourne. Doctors at St Vincent’s Hospital operated, placed her on life-support and induced coma. On waking, she had no memory of Eric Tucker when questioned by Detective Sergeant Sam Campbell. This may have been due to amnesia caused by head trauma during the accident, or simply to the fact that she did not know Eric. Brigitte lived with her grandparents in North Fitzroy and there was no conclusive evidence of her having been at the Rathdowne Street apartment.

Sean, diagnosed with depression, committed suicide on 25 January 1995.

Police investigations found no further suspects in the Eric Tucker homicide case.

Background

Eric was born in Tasmania on 15 July 1949. He was an only child. His parents separated when he was 15 and the whereabouts of his father is unknown. Eric left home at the age of 16 and found employment at a musicians’ booking agency in Melbourne. He married his first wife, Margaret, at 20 and they had two children. He married his second wife, Michelle, at 27. They moved to Sydney and had another child.

Eric was a successful concert promoter with his own business, Tucker Touring. His work colleagues described him as entrepreneurial; a respected business and family man.

At the time of his death, Eric was 45 years old. His place of residence was Sydney, where he lived with Michelle Tucker. He also rented the Rathdowne Street apartment where he stayed when in Melbourne. Neighbours said he kept to himself, was rarely at the apartment and had few visitors. There was confusion as to whether or not a woman was also living at the Rathdowne Street address. However, there was no evidence to support any persons aside from Eric residing at the apartment.

History of violence

The relationship between Eric and Margaret Tucker featured a clearly documented history of family violence. This included physical and verbal abuse and controlling behaviour perpetrated by Eric against Margaret.

On 11 December 1975, Margaret Tucker obtained an interim- intervention order against Eric. The application stated that on 30 November 1975, after she requested a divorce, Eric had physically assaulted her, leaving her with a fractured nose and bruising to the face, head and body. The application also set out other instances of physical violence to Margaret and her young children that Margaret stated had occurred in the months preceding this event. The order was revoked on the return date for the hearing on 15 January 1976.

On 28 May 1976, Eric and Margaret were divorced. On 18 August 1976, Eric remarried.

Further, friends and family members of Eric’s second wife, Michelle, claimed Eric was abusive and threatening to her. However, no incidents were ever reported to the police.

Both Margaret and Michelle were excluded as persons of interest in the investigation.

Events preceding Eric’s death

On 16 December 1994, Eric was managing the concert tour of rock band Death Rowe. The tour was about to commence when the lead singer, Calvin Rowe, was detected by security staff at Melbourne Airport to be carrying cocaine. Police arrested Calvin for drug possession, and Eric made arrangements to immediately cancel the tour.

After being questioned and cleared of any involvement in the incident, Eric returned to 1/49 Rathdowne Street, Carlton at around midnight.

Eric made one phone call to his wife and several calls to work colleagues including, friend, Ian Willcox. Ian said Eric sounded optimistic and was planning the next concert tour. Several calls were made to Eric’s mobile phone and to the landline, but there is no evidence of any person having seen Eric leave the apartment between 17 December and the time of his death. No phone calls were answered after 7.30pm on 22 December 1994.

Cause of death

Dr Simon Marks, Forensic Pathologist at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, attended the scene of the incident. Due to the blood stain and bone fragments on the carpet, and the absence of blood spatter elsewhere, Dr Marks provided his opinion that Eric had been covered with a blanket at the time of death and the cause of death was head injury from multiple blows inflicted by a person or persons with a heavy, blunt object. Dr Marks estimated the duration of the post mortem interval as approximately one hour prior to being discovered.

On 24 December 1994 at 1.00am, Dr Marks performed an autopsy. He attributed the cause of death to intracerebral haemorrhage secondary to skull fracture. Dr Marks also noted significant bruising in the groin area.

Toxicology analysis of body fluids disclosed the presence of benzoylmethylecgonine, tetrahydrocannabinol and alcohol. No evidence of any significant natural disease process was present.

Due to the severity of injury, Eric was not considered suitable for visual identification. Eric’s identity was established by way of dental records examination.

See Exhibit 50, statement dated 24/12/1994 adopted at transcript.

Investigation

Victoria Police Homicide Squad attended the scene and conducted the investigation into Eric’s death. Detective Sergeant Sam Campbell of the Homicide Squad was in charge of the investigation.

An extensive search of Eric’s Rathdowne Street premises and the vicinity on 23 December 1994 did not locate a murder weapon.

During the investigation, Detective Sergeant Sam Campbell was accused by Senior Constable Colin Moore, who also attended the scene, of evidence tampering and falsifying reports. An independent police investigation cleared Detective Sergeant Sam Campbell of all allegations.

Senior Constable Colin Moore died on 15 March 1996 from a gunshot wound while cleaning his service revolver. His death was ruled as accidental.

Detective Sergeant Sam Campbell prepared the Inquest brief and gave evidence at the Inquest of the investigations undertaken in an endeavour to get as much information as possible about how Eric died, and of the search for the person or persons who may have been involved.

See Exhibit 56 Inquest brief.

Findings

Having considered all of the evidence and the inferences that can properly be drawn therefrom, and having directed myself in regard to the standard of proof, I make the following findings:

Eric Tucker was killed unlawfully by person or persons unknown.

There is insufficient evidence to establish which person or persons were responsible for the unlawful killing of Eric Tucker. There are no witnesses to the killing known at this time.

This then concludes my findings.

Finally I would like to thank Police Investigators and others so involved, as well as counsel and instructing solicitors, for their assistance. I would encourage the State of Victoria to continue with its efforts to bring justice to those responsible for the death of Eric Tucker.

Dated at Melbourne on this 4th day of April 1997.

BRONWYN WRIGHT,
Coroner.