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Crime, conflict and politics at Adelaide Writers' Week

Adelaide Festival

The year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week will have an increased focus on crime and a packed program of non-fiction sessions tackling topics including US politics, conflict in the Middle East and the “feminist manifesto”.

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The full program for the six-day event will be announced tonight and sees a further 29 names added to the list of authors already announced.

They include Elizabeth Harrower (to whom the 2017 event will be dedicated), Kate Grenville (The Secret River, The Case Against Fragrance), Patrick Allington (Figurehead), Jessa Crispin (Why I’m Not a Feminist) and Man Booker Prize finalist Graeme Macrae Burnet (His Bloody Project).

Writers’ Week director Laura Kroetsch will host the session with Crispin, which she acknowledges is likely to be controversial.

“Yep, I think it’s going to annoy people – and good on her!”

Crispin, creator of online literary magazine Bookslut, unleashes a fierce attack on the current feminist movement in her new book and calls for a radical revolution.

“I think she’s very smart,” says Kroetsch. “And I agree with her – feminism has to be a political action. I think we have to bring a bit of rigour back to the idea of feminism.

“She will upset people but I think that at the same time what she has to say is important. The book is really interesting; very dynamic.”

Kroetsch believes her sixth Writer’ Week program is her best yet, saying she is excited by the diversity of stories told by the 86 guest writers.

She anticipates that some of the most popular sessions in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden will be those featuring non-fiction writers discussing challenging and topical issues.

Among them will be UK journalist and war correspondent Patrick Cockburn (The Age of Jihad; The Rise of Islamic State) and Newsweek Middle East editor Janine di Giovanni (The Morning They Came for Us), who will take part in a joint discussion about Syria, and American journalist Thomas Frank, whose book Listen, Liberal explores the failures of the American Left.

Another session Kroetsch will chair is “Forgiveness”, with Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger, co-authors of South of Forgiveness. The pair wrote the book after meeting to reconcile their pasts some eight years after Stranger raped Elva as an 18-year-old Australian exchange student in Iceland.

“I think it will shock people but I hope that ultimately they will come away feeling very positive because I think it’s a very brave book,” Kroetsch says.

An obvious feature of the 2017 program is the strong contingent of crime writers whose work encompasses literary novels, true crime, historical fiction and popular contemporary thrillers.

The line-up includes Adelaide writer Hannah Kent (Burial Rites, The Good People); Ian McGuire (The North Water); Peter Robinson (the Inspector Banks series), Adrian McKinty (Rain Dogs, Gun Street Girl), Barry Maitland (the Belltree Trilogy), Kate Summerscale (The Wicked Boy) and Graeme Macrae Burnet (His Bloody Project).

“It was very much intentional,” Kroetsch says of the focus. “Some of the feedback I’ve had over the past few years is that I don’t do enough with crime, so this year I wanted to make a really concerted effort … and it will continue in 2018.”

2017 Adelaide Writers’ Week dedicatee Elizabeth Harrower, described as a “titan of the post-war era” who stopped writing for almost 50 years after her 1966 book The Watch Tower, will take part in a conversation with publisher Michael Heyward on the first day of the event.

“She’s one of those Australian writers that was just about lost to history and hasn’t been and now, in her 80s, is enjoying this complete, wonderful international revival,” Kroetsch says.

“To be able to have her in Adelaide and give her this big Adelaide audience is such an honour.”

Adelaide Writers’ Week will take place from March 4-9 in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden. The full guide is on the Adelaide Festival website.

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