Inspired by the true events of an unsolved murder
Sydney, 1946. Eleven-year-old Frances and her best friend, Nancy, are growing up in the doglegged streets of Newtown and into a world they do not understand. It is the aftermath of World War II, and thousands of damaged soldiers have returned to their homes, bearing the psychological scars of battle with them.
Meanwhile, in the seediest part of the city, fifteen-year-old Templeton lives amid bootleggers, gangs, and prostitutes with his sister Annie and her friends. Threatened by Annie’s abusive lover, the nefarious Jack Tooth, they are forced to seek protection from a Darlinghurst madam: the once-powerful grog runner Dolly Jenkins. Soon, Templeton is drawn into an enigmatic underbelly of violence, sexuality, and secrets.
When Frances witnesses a shooting one night, these two worlds become inevitably intertwined. Templeton and the girls must grow up quickly and confront the darkness in the lives of those around them.
Dark Fires Shall Burn is a superbly atmospheric, powerful debut about justice, vengeance, and the power of grief.
PRAISE FOR ANNA WESTBROOK
‘Anna Westbrook delves into Sydney’s seedy underbelly for this story, based on a real crime, set in 1946 … Westbrook has created an atmospheric tale of post-war life, full of sly grog, war-damaged soldiers and prostitutes … Verdict: dark and gripping.’ The Herald Sun
‘a richly textured, entertaining caper ... convincing.’ The Saturday Paper
'A powerful and compelling story, Dark Fires Shall Burn balances survival and salvation against the accommodations and betrayals of a shifting post-war world. With a voice that's as imperative as it's alive, Anna Westbrook conjures her 1940s Sydney with a visceral sensuality and a poet's eye. A seductive tale that will draw you in and on, Dark Fires Shall Burn bristles with necessity and heartbreak.'
Ashley Hay, author of THE RAILWAYMAN'S WIFE
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'Sydney in the late 1940s, a real unsolved murder, and a delightful cast of colourful characters -- Anna Westbrook has plucked this story of hardship, murder, and friendship from history and given it glorious new life. The plot throbs with unsettling dark notes, and above this, Westbrook's sentences soar with a musical grace. All together the elements add up to a virtuosic debut that deserves a standing ovation.'
'Anna Westbrook wields the pen so assuredly that it's hard to believe this is her debut novel.'
The Big Issue
‘Vividly brings to life the wretchedness of postwar Sydney ... Westbrook's rendering of the period has an air of authenticity I have rarely found in contemporary novels, thanks in part to her shrewd use of recognisably Aussie vernacular. But what I loved most was how convincingly Westbrook depicts the precarious nature of women's lives and livelihoods, and their desperate fight for some level of control -- often at great personal cost.’
‘Anna Westbrook delves into Sydney’s seedy underbelly for this story, based on a real crime, set in 1946 … Westbrook has created an atmospheric tale of post-war life, full of sly grog, war-damaged soldiers and prostitutes … Verdict: dark and gripping.’
'Dark, tender and gripping; this book sent my heart racing.'
Mette Jakobsen, author of THE VANISHING ACT
'With her marvellously suggestive title, Anna Westbrook takes us to a dramatic era in recent Australian history. The time is 1946 and the place is Sydney's Newtown, where a critical housing shortage, impoverishment, post-war trauma and lawlessness have created a ferment of chaos and danger … Dark Fires Shall Burn reminds us just how close the past is to our present.'
Sydney Morning Herald
'a richly textured, entertaining caper ... convincing.'
The Saturday Paper
'It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel.'
The West Weekend
'Compelling ... wonderful contrasts of light and dark ... These make the crime when it occurs even more poignant, and the reactions heartbreaking. This is fiction that draws a strong line between the battle to survive and the actions of a man with an entitlement complex that is breathtaking in its savagery.'
Newtown Review of Books
'Based on the true events of a local, unsolved murder, Dark Fires Shall Burn is an atmospheric literary crime novel ... a terrific read to be enjoyed by crime, literary and history buffs alike.'
Better Read Than Dead
'Anna Westbrook delves into Sydney’s seedy underbelly ... Templeton, in particular, is heartbreaking ... Despite the lurid subject matter, which made it a sensational crime in the newspapers of the day, Westbrook avoids taking an exploitative approach.'
'This year was also very good for debut novels of Australian historical fiction. I particularly enjoyed Anna Westbrook’s Dark Fires Shall Burn, based on true events ... remarkable for the way in which the setting is rendered, in extraordinarily vivid detail. I hope that Westbrook continues to write: she clearly has an abundance of talent.'
Hannah Kent, Guardian Best Books of 2016