Conversations in Crime Alley: Malla Nunn & PM Newton

Malla & PamLast week I had the pleasure of attending Conversations in Crime Alley at Abbey’s Bookshop with Malla Nunn and PM Newton. Both accomplished and award-winning writers, I was a wee bit nervous going in despite having already interviewed them for my blog. Email is a wonderful and safe invention when you’re awestruck!

The store was already buzzing, despite the dreary weather outside and I spied Malla and PM surrounded by a circle of admirers – naturally! They were deep in conversation and while I distracted myself with their books on display until they finished. I managed to corner them while they were scanning the shelves of the store to add to their bookshelves and they were very, very enthusiastic despite me interrupting their book-buying time.

Malla and I got to talking about South Africa, and how its changed since we both left the country. PM was given the task to get some bubbly for Malla and soon enough our reminiscing ended as the talk was about to begin.

PM Newton is … taller than I expected in real life. I don’t know why, but I keep thinking that of meeting her. Her humour is infectious as is her laughter, and I didn’t expect that either. Admittedly, that might be because of her police force background. Malla Nunn is slighter in build, but there’s a straightforwardness about her that commands your attention. When both sat down, and there was a sense of being invited to a table with old friends who’d done this too many times before.

These wonderful ladies were funny, loud and humourous as they talked about their writing process, their books and the authors that they like to read. Some highlights include:

PM Newton finds sees stories in the smallest of things – a small article in a Cabramatta paper led to Beams Falling.

Malla Nunn hates research. Hired someone to do it for her.

Both their books ask a very difficult questions: how do you find justice where there is none?

Malla’s books are set in 1950s South Africa and she’s drawn to an era where a white government thought it was logical and legal to legislate how races could live.

Talked about her dad and his reaction to her research and finding an error in her books. A cop in South Africa is another reader of her work, picking out any errors – she writes and then she researches.

Their work also asks how do people trust the police? In PM’s work, how do migrants trust police when they are as corrupt as the police in the countries they’d fled?

They’re not fans of true crime. Malla because there is often no resolution and for PM, she finds it’s getting more voyeuristic than before. Said there’s probably an Oscar Pistorius book waiting on the verdict.

Too soon the night was over, but with Malla’s new book coming out in June, perhaps there’s another in our future?

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