Poetic Licence

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Pub Date May 15 2022 | Archive Date May 31 2022

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‘​​a block of shadow pushing against a diffusing moonlight, the golden halo spreading out into the vineyards from its sides draining into the night like blood on a carpet’

Poetic Licence is a political thriller set against the backdrop of Australia's 2013 election where asylum seekers were the football of choice for some very grubby politicians. It follows Art Lazaar, an academic with special access to the seedy side of that which moves and shakes the state, and his struggles to keep a young asylum seeker safe from those who murdered her brother and would likely do the same to her were she found. 

Lazaar's pursuit for her safety takes him into the world of the killers and where he comes up against poisonous political and institutional corruption at the heart of our political system.

It's set in Perth and Fremantle, but that doesn't make it inaccessible to people who live elsewhere, and is timed for release in the lead up to our next federal election, May 2022.

‘​​a block of shadow pushing against a diffusing moonlight, the golden halo spreading out into the vineyards from its sides draining into the night like blood on a carpet’

Poetic Licence is a...

Advance Praise

Poetic Licence dives headlong into a world of political and institutional corruption, exposing the vast gulf between the words and deeds of the powerful, between the lives of the haves and have-nots, and the casual mistreatment of asylum seekers. Written in terse, propulsive prose, Poetic Licence is a clever thriller that won’t disappoint. David Whish-Wilson


A vividly-realised Fremantle is the apt setting for this zeitgeisty thriller. Hunter is an original and kick-ass protagonist.  Alan Carter

Poetic Licence dives headlong into a world of political and institutional corruption, exposing the vast gulf between the words and deeds of the powerful, between the lives of the haves and...

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ISBN 9780994211552
PRICE A$32.95 (AUD)

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Featured Reviews

Freedom: 'a bit of a bloody worry'. Kevin Price's upcoming novel, Poetic Licence, is a brilliantly haunting page-turner that may well be the defining political thriller of the Gillard/Abbott election fiasco of 2013. The novel follows writer and academic, Art Lazaar, as he is tasked with protecting a young asylum seeker from the very people who murdered her brother. In this gripping and unputdownable narrative, 'truth' is unravelled through the switching perspectives of various characters, slamming readers into the middle of the action and the mystery surrounding one of Australia's defining contemporary political moments. The strength of this novel lies in its multiple narratorial perspectives and the bending of its poetic licence (aptly made the title of the book). For that, this is definitely a 2022 must read for lovers of Australian political thrillers!

Many thanks goes to Crotchet Quaver for providing this ARC via NetGalley.

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Thoroughly enjoyed this thanks to NetGalley.
The author in not backward in showing his anger, that many people also felt, during the Australian 2013 election where the Liberal Party's xenophobia was rampant and truth was something for others to worry about.
His story of a dead refugee, a closet spy in a university, a journalist hiding as a homeless person, a very smart detective surrounded by yes-men and a Machiavellian Liberal Party puppet master is a real page turner. The journalist was like Jason Bourne in his abilities to thwart his foes, the closet spy had friends in high places and the detective is constantly thwarted by the male dominated world she worked in. But no one did understand the big picture except for the puppet master and that is what made this book special.
The only thing that didn't work for me was the constant references to songs and lyrics. You would need to be a lover of Rock Quiz to enjoy the author's knowledge here.

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What an incredible novel ... just loved it and impossible to put down. Political corruption taken to the extreme and a gifted protagonist who stops at nothing to overturn the evils that he encounters. A highly recommended read to all readers and a well-deserved five stars. Kevin Price at his best ... superb writing and a brilliant storyline.

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Many thanks to Netgalley and Crotchet Quaver for this advanced reading copy to comment and review. This book is fast paced and a great read.

The book exposes what most people are aware of today in the political landscape where the media, big business and corporate greed control politicians and the political narrative.

The story unfolds in the first person unknown to the reader for some 5 pages (electronic) but is the character of Art Lazaar, Creative Writer at a local university. For the main character he fails to impress, rather it's the character of Hunter that is the most colourful and gutsy.

Hunter, after a prominent career at a certain point he is given an ultimatum from a mafia style criminal gang to either disappear or his family would suffer. He portrays himself as a homeless man but in fact he is simply hiding in plain sight and for the majority of this read he plays a key role alongside the man from his past, Art Lazaar who is aware of his activities but with all contact made in a clandestine manner and involving highly sophisticated electronic means.

Hunter finds himself in the unenviable position of protector of a young Iraqi girl who has escaped from detention and reveals to him her circumstances and the reasons for her fear. It's obvious that human trafficking is involved along with slave labour. As he can be of no assistance himself he contacts Lazaar to pull a few strings to give the girl a new identity. Hunter also learns that the criminal gangs in their search for the girl are now after him. He sets a sophisticated trap and he creates anarchy. Disappointingly, after this trap the author does not fulfill expectations of continuing Hunter's masterful energies and he falls away into oblivion.

Acting Detective Kelly Boulter becomes involved with an execution style murder and it's not long before events converge connecting this murder to the missing girl with all of this eminating from the criminal gang and a top wealthy businessman, where his aim is to run political interference to ensure the outcome of a federal government election. Lazaar and Boulter at different intervals both suffer brutal attacks for their involvement.

The book finishes on the timeline of the election with the result of a change of government that leaves Australia with a poor international humanitarian reputation.

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A story that’s all too familiar in our current world, and all too similar to events surrounding one of our recent elections.

A story based in Perth and Fremantle, an election is looming, and the issue of people smuggling is seen as a tool to secure votes. Writer and academic, Art Lazaar, is asked to hide a young asylum seeker, keeping her out of range from those that murdered her brother.

A classy political thriller told from multiple angles including Art, a closet spy, a journalist hiding as a homeless person, a police officer, and a political puppet master.

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A politics and crime thriller set around a runaway asylum seeker and the people trying to protect or capture her. The main character is an academic given to unusual phrasing and references to old (1970/80’s?) music. His narrative voice put me off a bit but the characters of the detective and the undercover journalist got me back in, along with a compelling plot of conspiracies and abuse of power. Once I was 20% in, I had to keep reading to find out what happened. Not an easy read to start but I enjoyed it. And great to have a story set in Fremantle Western Australia, which is the first I have read with this setting.

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This one hits home in the current world climate. Art Lazaar is asked to hide an asylum seeker from murders. Price wrote his charters with depth and substance. Something I thoroughly enjoyed. Plot was A+.

Political thrillers are always a hit for me and honestly, this one DID NOT MISS.

Thank you NetGalley and Crotchet Quaver for this ARC. All opinions are my own.

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This political thriller set in WA took a while to reel me in but once I was hooked, had me enthralled. The murky world of political power, capitalist greed and the thuggery that supports it, is where Art Lazaar, a university lecturer with a deeper purpose, is called to protect an escaped Iraqi refugee girl whose brother has been murdered.
Along with his co protagonists, a homeless man with skills from a previous life, a female police detective struggling in a male dominated arena, and a shadowy handler, Art attempts to solve the murder and connect the dots of corruption through a maze of spin and misinformation.
People die, go missing, are attacked and tortured….it’s a dangerous game where truth and lies, life and death are all commodities to be traded and exploited for political gain and personal wealth. With an election looming, we are reminded to read between the lines of the slick political spin and focus on simple humanity.
The writing is poetic and complex, the setting is vivid and characters strong. I would definitely be interested in a sequel. Thanks to NetGalley and Crotchet Quaver for the advance digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Kevin Price provides readers with an alternative scenario to explain the flood of refugee boats which descended on Australia in 2011 to 2013 during a time when our government had briefly abandoned the xenophobic policies of the unlamented and shriveled Howard years.

Might this pathetic flotilla have been financed by those who wished a return to strong and conservative government, and resented the policies of the existing government. How better to speak to the lizard brains of a populace who, deep down understood that their forbears had invaded and stolen lands which once belonged to others. Might not those people believe that what has gone around, might come around.

And so a nefarious plot, well in train in the lead up to the 2013 Election. It is told though as a police procedural. A brutal murder, victim and perpetrator unidentified. An inconvenient girl fearing erasure. Asylum seelers all.

Three protagonists, flawed in their own ways and connected through tragedy and misadventure guide the reader through the labyrinth. The first person POV and poetic licence is courtesy of Art Lazaar, former journalist, once a poet and now both a University lecturer and 'asset' of the security services, all courtesy of being in the wrong place at the wrong time in Kalgoorlie long ago. The ghost in the machine is Art's former colleague, Hunter, a man of the mean streets of Fremantle, who has been disappeared a decade past after running foul of the influential Giordani family. The link and the driver is Detective Kelly Boulter, becalmed and denied promotion courtesy of Art Lazaar adding sand to the gears of her progress lest she be crushed by misadventure.

Ranged against them are wealthy aesthete and epicure Roger Lamord and the white shoe brigade of the WA Liberal party, eager to regain the power they believe themselves born to. Lamord's associates include thugish minions, Italian gangsters and rogue former SAS operatives eager to continue their cowboy games once back from 'overseas service'.These evil legions are easy to hate and have the reader rooting for Lazaar and company.

The events take place in a dark and gloomy Fremantle and surrounds. The weather is perennialy bleak, dark cloud always glowering, rain forever lashing. Not the bright lurid Perth of our summer imaginations. And in keeping with the dark and portentious happenings. The novel is well paced, the action propulsive and the tension and sense of danger well managed by the writer. The descriptions of police procedures sometimes in trude on the action, seemingly too much and too long in detail. This fault also rears up in overlong descriptions of clothing and street map geography which occasionally crop up as boulders in the narrative flow.

In keeping with the dark themes, no one wins in this story. It is not an alternate history where realization has dawned on a benighted electorate in the shadows of polling day. There are some who lose more than others. Some deserve those losses. Some less so. Asylum seekers are still imprisoned and demonised as a second election since the one aluded to in this story approaches. Their is restrained and justified anger in this story. Would that it had more effect.

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That was masterfully done. I thoroughly enjoyed this book although I concede it would probably not be for everyone. The plot was rather complex and the narration at times a little cryptic although it was in keeping with the flavour of the story. I also think it might be easier to follow for Australian readers although I would love to hear what other readers thought about it.

The story is set largely in Perth and Fremantle (a port city just north of Perth) in the lead up to the 2013 Federal election and the hysteria surrounding the increasing number of refugees/asylum seekers arriving on our shores in leaky boats. Not all the politicians are named but you’d have to be living under a rock not to know who they were. There were promises of “stopping the boats” - ostensibly to prevent deaths at sea - which led to the implementation of the harsh immigration measures of offshore detention for those who had the temerity to seek a better life (or in some cases, simply survival) in our country. I remember these real events well.

But the story was not simply a political thriller. There was also the criminal activities of the Gordioni mafia family, corruption in the private and public sectors, profiteering from having illegal immigrants working like slaves in illegal ‘sweatshops’ and yet some of the story had the ‘feel’ of a John le Carre spy thriller.

I loved the characters too. The story is told mostly from the POV of Art Lazaar - a former journalist who now teaches a University course in creative writing. But that’s just the window dressing. Lazaar has clandestine connections and influence with some big hitters that he also does a few little ‘jobs’ for (good guy jobs that is). Then there’s Hunter, real name Calvin Bishop, another former journalist who had to stage his own death 10 years ago to prevent the Gordionis from coming after his family. He now hides in plain sight among Perth’s homeless but still has access to resources that would shock many people.

Another wonderful character is Detective Sergeant Kelly Boulter who has not forgiven Lazaar for throwing her ‘under a bus’ to save her a year ago when her undercover legend was about to be blown. She’s prickly but conscientious enough to balk when told to stitch up an innocent man for murder, the “body in the bin” case.

That is the context of the story. What brings it all together is the hunt for Falullah Salim whose brother is the body in the bin. When she was shown the photo of her brother’s body during the bus ride to the sweatshop she bolted from the bus at the first opportunity and Hunter has been hiding her ever since. Everyone, it seems, is looking for the girl who is considered ‘lost property’. Naturally the story is littered with other bodies and some desperate circumstances and you have grave fears for the welfare of our ensemble of characters and it races to an exciting conclusion.

I’m sorry for such a long review but I did want to give a good sense of the flavour of this book. Many thanks to Netgalley and Crotchet Quaver for the much appreciated arc which I reviewed voluntarily and honestly. I can’t wait to see what Price up with next!

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Art Lazaar teaches creative writing at a Perth university. He also has links to a shadowy spy agency that occasionally asks him to investigate matters on their behalf. He refers to this as his "poetic licence".

This story is set in the lead-up to the 2013 Federal election in Australia. Asylum seekers, specifically boat arrivals, are a huge and controversial issue that threatens to decide the election. In the midst of all this, a female asylum seeker escapes captivity and throws herself on the mercy of Hunter, a street-dweller who calls in Art to protect her.

The plot rapidly thickens, with a heavily influential political player putting pressure on Art to give up the girl, some gangsters putting pressure on Art to hand Hunter over to them, the local cops putting pressure on Art to get a murder solved, and his Vice-Chancellor putting pressure on Art to try and shove him out the door.

I enjoyed this book, because it captured the atmosphere of the 2013 election very well, as well as being a rattling good yarn. The book had a feeling of being a sequel to an earlier Art Lazaar book, but there is no such earlier book that I'm aware of. One of the minor characters appears in another book of Price's, which I thank I will try to track down.

It took me a little while to realise that the chapter headings are song titles, and I got some extra fun out of looking those up and compiling a "Poetic Licence" playlist.

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Political stories usually don’t keep my interest, this book took hold of a sensitive subject and delivered!
Set in Western Australia, the storyline covers all aspects of the issue of refugees seeking a new life in our amazing country.
I’m also intrigued by the author’s depth and honesty as he delved into the criminals and associated corruption that is a part of every day life, for some!
The characters with their varying degrees of seediness, connections in high and low places and the influences that some have over others is both shocking and confronting.

Thanks to Crotchet Quaver, NetGalley and Kevin Price for the opportunity to read this intriguing book.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Thank you NetGalley and Crotchet Quaver for an eARC for an honest review.

Political stories usually don't keep my interest, but this book explores a fictional underbelly of Australian politics, which I found, to my surprise, interesting.

Based in Perth and Fremantle, with a looming election (days counting down shown as you reach each chapter), sue of people smuggling is seen as a tool to secure votes, where academic Art Lazaar stumbles upon a young asylum seeker, whose brother was murdered, keeps her out of range from the people hunting her down (the very same people her murdered her brother).

I found this story very gripping and found myself wanting to know what happens next. I will acknowledge that this book may not be for everyone, especially being a political story, but it is definitely worth the read.

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‘There’s an election looming. Things are always strange when there’s an election looming.’

Perth and Fremantle, in Western Australia, provide the setting for much of this novel in the period leading up to the 2013 Federal election. The main characters are Art Lazar, an academic with links to a mysterious government agency, Hunter (real name Calvin Bishop) a former journalist who staged his own death to avoid being murdered, and Detective Sergeant Kelly Boulter. The three of them are drawn together by a young asylum seeker who is running from those who murdered her brother.

This fast-paced complex story draws together several themes, including corruption across different levels of government, various criminal enterprises and the unscrupulous involved in people-smuggling, as well as those caught up in their net. Art Lazar, helping Hunter and the young asylum seeker, is in danger from those whose interests are threatened. Hunter, who has already survived ten years on the street, draws on his survival skills to try to stay ahead of those looking for the young asylum seeker. And in the background, there are those seeking to manipulate the situation for their own nefarious, political purposes. There are plenty of people who would like to keep various truths hidden.

Many Australian readers will remember the context of the 2013 Federal election, with the hysteria surrounding asylum-seeker boat arrivals. This provides the uncomfortable backdrop to this story, with echoes in the present.

Highly recommended!

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Crotchet Quaver for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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Set in Perth and Fremantle in the days leading up to the 2013 Federal election, Poetic Licence focuses on the hysteria surrounding the increasing number of asylum seekers arriving in Australia in leaky, dangerous boats. Academic and occasional political fixer Art Lazaar is happy to be an observer of the chaos, until a friend from the old days drags him into the efforts to keep a young, female asylum seeker safe from some very nasty, and powerful, characters. Also caught up in the resulting carnage is Detective Sergeant Kelly Boulter who has good reasons for distrusting Lazaar.

Poetic Licence is peopled with characters who are tormented by their mysterious pasts, from Lazaar who is somehow linked to a secret government agency, to Hunter, an ex-journalist who now lives on the streets to keep his family safe from reprisals from a local Mafia gang, to Boulter, who is bitter about a failed undercover operation. All of this adds a good sense of mystery to the opening stages, but does require close reading to keep all the linkages clear.

Despite the intrigue and the large cast of characters, the Poetic Licence moves at a brisk pace and there are plenty of twists and turns to keep the tension at a high level. Lazaar and Hunter are interesting, multi-faceted characters, and the asylum seeker at the core of the novel is nicely drawn and sympathetic.

Price ably recreates the mood of the 2013 election, which was disturbing replicated in the final days of the current election, with Morrison claiming that asylum seekers were again on the move and had to be stopped. The cynicism of conservative politics is well captured in the novel, as is the manipulation of the news cycle for political effect. Price also makes good use of music lyrics to add atmosphere and commentary to the story.

In all, Poetic Licence is an engrossing and compelling crime thriller that raises some serious issues.

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This is a compelling read, fast paced and it had me turning the pages as the author digs deep into people smuggling, fraud, police corruption and so much more, set in and around Fremantle Western Australia this story starts just before an election, so many secrets so many dishonest people and a few that try to uncover the truth.

Art Lazaar is an academic, ex journalist and is teaching creative writing at the university but he is somehow linked to a secret government agency all because of his past and the secrets he keeps, just before the election he is contacted by someone from his past about keeping a young asylum seeker safe, this will turn his life upside down.

Hunter, another ex- journalist lives on the streets keeping secrets to save his family and himself, and Detective Sergeant Kelly Boulter all get involved in this case to find a murderer and protect a young woman, along with Art, what they uncover is so much more, there are many dangerous situations throughout this story that had me turning the pages.

This is a well written story that pulled me in, the characters are multifaceted and some are very difficult thinking that they safe from the law, I really liked Art and his strength and determination and the song quotes and titles added throughout were really good. This books takes in the plight of the asylum seekers and it was done really well. This is a story that I would highly recommend.

My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy to read and review

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