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2019 - Shortlisted
Why would a popular priest in a Riverina town open fire on members of his congregation? That is the explosive question at the centre of Chris Hammer’s Scrublands. Yet there is much more to it than that. There is drought, there are families struggling to survive, there are age-old friendships and disputes, there is passion where it should and shouldn’t be. Into this comes a city journalist, revisiting the town of his past, searching for the truth. He is a man marked by exposure to war zones, yet even he soon realises he has walked into something he has not seen before.
With this page-turning, high-minded novel, his debut work of fiction, Hammer takes his place alongside the writers who are kicking down the door between ‘crime’ novels and ‘literary’ fiction.