Why write a thriller?

By July 8, 2018Books, Language, Society

First, the bad news. I’ve written briefly about this before, but the fuller news is worse. Over the past six weeks I have had increasing pain in my back, not low down (L5) which has been my companion for 35 years, but quite a lot higher. At about the same time, but perhaps a month earlier, I noticed another pain in my left thigh, a pain which worsened and eventually stopped my playing tennis. My chiropractor (35 years in attendance) could not find anything to stop the pains, and proposed an X-Ray. The observed result was a fracture at T8. The pains were severe indeed, and my wife and I went to A&E in the evening to see what could be done. We returned with an opioid, which was only a bit useful.

My doctor ordered a blood test, and the results were not good. I was given to a good haematologist, who had looked at my bloods before when they had worrying signs, and a pain relief nurse who was said to be astonishing, as indeed she was. The outcome is that I went into hospital again for some work on kidney function. The pain control is much better, and I have returned home from hospital with a new pain regimen. It enables me to write, but the pills have multiplied. I have been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and acute renal failure. I will need chemotherapy, which will start in a couple of weeks. All of this means some massive changes in my life. I will keep the website going, because it is good for my brain. But my typing is now awful, slow and fault-ridden. I will try to produce a column every two weeks, but can’t promise.

So here  is the first attempt. And what a strange title! Writing keeps me sane, and I have been writing political commentaries and other thought-pieces for fifty years now. In the last few years I have turned to fiction, with some pleasure and success. The new book will be launched next Saturday, as you will see. Since most of my readers can’t attend, and I’ve left the invitation very late, I’ve written this piece to let you know what is happening, and allowed you to order a copy if you are so moved (AUD 29.95, p&p included). Here is the invitation:

In this new novel, his sixth, Don Aitkin moves into the world of mystery and darkness. Nick Carrington, New York television scriptwriter, is back in Australia to see his parents. An old friend, millionaire Ben Mitchell, begs him to read the manuscript of a biography of his grandfather, whose author has just had a heart attack, and is on life support. The job will require a weekend, and Nick has only two weeks back home. Equally nettled and intrigued, Nick finally agrees, and discovers he is being taken by helicopter to a grand old mansion on the Hawkesbury River, west of Sydney. He meets the female staff, Kate the housekeeper and Laura the research assistant. The house is wonderful, yet oddly disturbing. There is no ghost, but an air of apprehension hovers over the group.

The biography covers the life and work of Sir Arthur Innings, a most successful immigrant. He seems to have done almost everything right, and the biography makes that plain, as Nick reads on. It’s almost too good to be true, yet Laura says they could not find any great sins, or even any villains. Before the weekend is over Nick finds himself in a plot that is even more intricate and tense than anything he has ever written for television.

Don Aitkin dedicates his novel in tribute to the masters of the thriller, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald. Chris Uhlmann, Channel 9 political editor, himself the author of three crime novels, will launch The Innings Biography at Muse, Hotel East, Kingston, ACT at 4 pm on Saturday 14th July at 4 pm.

Title           The Innings Biography             Author     Don Aitkin AO

Format     235 x 150 mm , ePub to come Length    166 pages

Weight     approximately 300 g                   Imprint     Danbee Books

Category    Fiction  ISBN    978-0-6481130-1-0   Price     AUD 29.95

Why a thriller? I’ve always liked them, starting with John Buchan, and following through with Leslie Charteris (remember the Saint?) and others. Along the way I came across the California detective genre, starting with The Maltese Falcon, written by Dashiell Hammett and memorably starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. He was followed by Raymond Chandler, whose hero was tough and introspective, and played chess. At these times I got up and pushed down the novels of the British crime writers like Agatha Christie and others, which seemed to me long on mystery and ‘detection’, and short on thrills and reality. The along came Ross Macdonald, the third of the Californian thriller-writers, whose best books are major literary works. I read them and keep on re-readimg them.

The day came when I wanted to write one myself, with the Macdonald feature plot: something in the past, long pushed aside, because it could be, finds its tendrils creeping into the present and disturbing a pleasantly ordered current reality. My setting is not the contrasting richness and squalor of postwar California but the reality of contemporary Sydney, and not much of its own squalor. It is not a thick book, but around the right size, I think. Anyway, there it is. I enjoyed writing it, and I hope you enjoy reading it. There will be an ebook version before long.

I might write something on Pain next time, because I’ve learned a lot about it. But in any case there will be a return to my reflections on Australia life, society and politics. We’ll see how I cope,

My many thanks to those who have written to me here, by email and by SMS. Most encouraging support from readers to a writer. Thank you all!























Join the discussion 23 Comments

  • Peter Lang says:


    Sorry you are not well. I wish you well and hope you can get better.

    And congratulations on your new book.

  • Aert Driessen says:

    I was not aware of your situation Don, despite our irregular meetings at the Kingston lunches over several years, and I’m sorry to hear it. I’ll be at your launch and look forward to catching up with you then.

  • Diane Stebbings says:

    Hello Don,
    I have followed you for a number of years after coming across your writing as a ‘climate change sceptic’. It may have been on Anthony Watts blog, Watt’s Up With That. I am a retired public servant , not an academic, but enjoy reading material written by people much more knowledgeable than I am. I am so sorry to hear of your diagnosis with Multiple Myeloma. I am intimately acquainted with the disease through my husband who is currently on a trial for relapsed MM at a Sydney hospital. I wish you well with your upcoming treatment, and hope the pain eases as the bones heal as well as possible. I very much look forward to reading your thriller! Best regards, Diane

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Thank you, Diane. I hope to have an ebook version up soon, and the capacity to buy copies directly from me. And I wish you both every thing good. This disease does draw us close.

  • Peter Black says:


    Also sorry to hear about your current problems. I wish you the best and may your thriller be a success.

  • Neville says:

    I hope your book goes well Don and I’ll buy a copy soon. Your treatment will probably make you weary, but I know you’ll find a way to cope.
    I certainly wish you all the best for the future.

  • Dorit says:

    Thinking of you Don and sending all my love xxx

  • spangled drongo says:

    You’re a very talented feller, Don. All the very best with your health problems and full marks for your positive attitude.

    I very much approve of your inspirations.

  • JMO says:

    Dear Don Frances and I wish you all the best for your treatment. Pain is awful to put up with, you certainly are a positive person. I have always enjoyed reading your essays and hope there will be more in the future. Sorry we ca not attend to your book launch but will buy a book when we return from Melbourne.

  • david purcell says:

    Hi Don
    So sorry to read of your illness. I do hope your writings continue for many years to come. I really enjoy reading them. All the best re the pain management and chemo. Good luck with the book.
    kind regards
    David Purcell

  • MD says:

    Don, sorry to read your news. Your writings may indeed keep you sane and they certainly bring sanity and perspective to your readers, so please continue as best you can. With best wishes

  • Mike Burke says:

    I’ve been following your blog for a long time and admire your work. I’m very sorry that your health is failing and hope that there will be considerable improvement with proper care. Please look after yourself.

  • BB says:

    My Aunt had this many years ago well before the advances we see in medicine now. As you know my elder brother John was very ill with a lymphatic disease but with treatment has improved greatly. We wish you well and hope your health stabilises and even improve with treatment. Mike & Mary

  • David J Barnes says:

    Hi Don,

    I greatly enjoy your blog comments which I read through ClimateScience. I am sorry to hear about your health problems and the pain they bring. I understand, first hand, how difficult it is to deal with constant pain.

    You say you are going to continue your blog. I wonder if you have looked into software and, perhaps, hardware that will turn spoken words into computer text.

    Cheers, Dave Barnes.

  • Boambee John says:

    My commiserations for your ailments, and best wishes for a successful recovery.

  • John BENNETT says:

    Don, sorry to hear of your health problems, and do hope they resolve. I had a major operation many years ago, resulting in the removal of one rib. After 24 hours in Intensive Care, my treating medico put me on the finest and pure morphine. Now that stuff really works, but my treating medico said only for 3 days, as he did not want to turn me into a drug addict. I was kept under close watch for 3 days after the cessation of morphine, to observe any withdrawal trauma. He was relieved that he did not have to treat me for drug addition.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    Mortality is a bitch. So is not knowing how fast to spend your money. Now you know.

    Can you find a local amanuensis?

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Good one! I am still able to do what I want to do, but the hours fill up with the sheer time needed to do completely ordinary things with this disease (like getting up in the morning).

  • Peter Kemmis says:

    Hi Don,

    We’ll keep our fingers crossed. You have given so much, for so long, for so many.

    And we thank you. Deeply.

  • dlb says:

    I hope we will see you back at the keyboard, health permitting.
    Thanks for all your efforts, your posts stimulate our brains too.

  • Ingid Moses says:

    Dear Don,
    on our return to Canberra on Sunday after a month in Qld we heard by chance the distressing news of your diagnosis and this blog confirms it. You will know that you and Bev will be in our thoughts and that we will be sending your positive energy over the next few months. Pl get in touch if you need a lift to a chemo session or Bev needs lifts.
    Your resilience, patience, calm and good humour will assist your, too.

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