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16th Seduction
16th Seduction Extract

That muggy morning in July my partner, Rich Conklin, and I were on stakeout in the Tenderloin, one of San Francisco’s sketchiest, most crime-ridden neighborhoods. We had parked our 1998 gray Chevy sedan where we had a good view of the six-story apartment building on the corner of Leavenworth and Turk.

It’s been said that watching paint dry is high entertainment compared with being on stakeout, but this was the exception to the rule.

We were psyched and determined.

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A Dangerous Crossing
A Dangerous Crossing Extract

September 1939, Sydney, Australia

Sandwiched between two policemen, the woman descends the gangplank of the ship. Her wrists are shackled in front of her and the men grip fast to her arms, but her back is ramrod straight, as if being held in place by the flagpole at the ship’s prow. She wears a forest- green velvet suit, the fashionably slim skirt skimming the top of her calves, and black stockings that end in green leather shoes with a delicate heel. Around her shoulders is a rust- coloured fox- fur stole, the head hanging down at the front as if it is watching how her shoes kick up the dust as she walks. The outfit is far too warm for the seventy- degree heat and the small crowd of onlookers feel grateful for their cool cotton clothes.

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A Horse Walks Into a Bar
A Horse Walks Into a Bar Extract

Good evening! Good evening! Good evening to the majestic city of Caesariyaaaaaah!’

The stage is empty. The thundering shout echoes from the wings. The audience slowly quietens down and grins expectantly. A short, slight, bespectacled man lurches onto the stage from a side door as if he’d been kicked through it. He takes a few faltering steps, trips, brakes himself on the wooden floor with both hands, then sharply juts his rear-end straight up. Scattered laughter and applause from the audience. People are still filing in to the club, chatting loudly. ‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ announces a tightlipped man standing at the lighting console, ‘put your hands together for Dovaleh G!’ The man on stage still crouches like a monkey, his big glasses askew on his nose. He slowly turns to face the room and scans it with a long, unblinking look.

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A Legacy of Spies
A Legacy of Spies Extract

What follows is a truthful account, as best I am able to provide it, of my role in the British deception operation, codenamed Windfall, that was mounted against the East German Intelligence Service (Stasi) in the late nineteen fifties and early sixties, and resulted in the death of the best British secret agent I ever worked with, and of the innocent woman for whom he gave his life.

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A Stranger in the House
A Stranger in the House Extract

Chapter One

On this hot August night, Tom Krupp parks his car – a leased Lexus – in the driveway of his handsome two-storey home. The house, complete with a two-car garage, is set behind a generous lawn and framed with beautiful old trees. To the right of the driveway, a flagstone path crosses in front of the porch, with steps leading up to a solid wooden door in the middle of the house. To the right of the front door is a large picture window the width of the living room.

The house sits on a gently curving street that ends in a cul-de-sac. The surrounding houses are all equally attractive and well maintained, and relatively similar. People who live here are successful and settled; everyone’s a little bit smug.

This quiet, prosperous suburb in upstate New York, populated with mostly professional couples and their families, seems oblivious to the problems of the small city that surrounds it, oblivious to the problems of the larger world, as if the American dream has continued to live on here, smooth and unruffled.

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A Woman's Place
A Woman's Place Extract

Nothing in my early life indicated that one day I would find myself sitting around boardroom tables with some of the most experienced and influential businesspeople in New Zealand, nor that I’d be helping to set strategy and reviewing the accounts of multi-million-dollar companies.

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After the Fire
After the Fire Extract


The Ocean of Emptiness

Chapter 1

My house burned down on an autumn night almost a year ago. It was a Sunday. The wind had got up during the afternoon and by the evening the anemometer indicated that the gusts measured over twenty metres per second.

The wind was coming from the north and was very chilly in spite of the fact that it was still early autumn. When I went to bed at around half past ten I thought that this would be the first storm of the season, moving in across the island I had inherited from my maternal grandparents.

Soon it would be winter. One night the sea would slowly begin to ice over.

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AJ Extract

I didn’t go racing for anyone other than myself and, to a lesser degree, my team. I didn’t crave fame – in fact, I worked hard to avoid it, although I did enjoy some of its trappings. In my early years, I made it clear to anyone who employed me that I was there to race and to race hard enough to win. If you couldn’t help in that quest, I was going elsewhere.

I believe I acted throughout my career with honour and stuck to the values I have held since my early years. I have never wanted anything more or anything less than has been agreed. If we do a deal, I expect you to honour your part of the agreement, just as I will mine. My old man also taught me manners come cheap. They cost nothing. Everyone deserves respect: a waiter, a bellboy, a cleaner – say thank you and don’t take those people for granted. I’ve tried to stick by that all my life: not to be arrogant and to treat all people the same way. In many ways, despite my dad’s flaws, I did learn from him . . . in some ways I am more like him than I ever wanted to admit.

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Albanese Extract

Anthony Albanese never knew his father growing up. For his success in politics and in life, he credits his mother, Maryanne, most.

Bad health since childhood had made life a battle for Maryanne Therese Albanese – born Mary Anne Therese Ellery – and her schooling had suffered. She was determined her son would have the best sort of life she could make for him, starting with a good education.

She also encouraged his interest in politics. Her devotion to the Labor Party, and her parents’ before her, meant he had little hope of escaping it.

From before she had even given birth, Maryanne had set her own direction by putting her son first in everything.

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All Fall Down
All Fall Down Extract

As Janice drives onto the bridge, bitumen hums beneath her tyres, sleek after the gravel corrugations that trail the rest of Mululuk. She barely notices. Too irritated by the blaze of lights.

Out of habit she flicks off her headlights, wishing for quiet black. But there is no relief: enormous globes jut upward from the railing, scorching the night air and romancing insects to a quick, sizzling death. Perhaps if there were water flowing underneath the bridge, a gurgling river, the harsh glare would be carried away over ripples, or reflected gently back. But there is only a chasm of dry red dust, so the hot lights wick what little moisture there is from the desert air and, outside this skirt of light, Mululuk’s houses, pubs, dongas and mining machinery are bathed in black. Gone.

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Already Dead
Already Dead Extract

Jax loved a good what-if, especially the kind that offered a bit of safe, imaginary action. Back in the days when she’d worked in a newsroom, carjackings had always started the round-the-office hypotheticals. What would you do if someone got in your car with a gun or a knife or a syringe of blood?

There was never a shortage of escape plans: grab the weapon in a surprise counterattack, leap out of the car when it slowed for a corner, slam a fist on the horn to attract attention. A muscled-up cadet once tried to demonstrate a Hollywood-style headbutt-and-run manoeuvre, as if anyone other than Tom Cruise could pull that off.

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Amber and Alice
Amber and Alice Extract

Amber cracked an eyelid and sunlight hit her optic nerve like a tetanus shot. Why was blind used to describe drunk but not hungover?

Squeezing her eyes tight, she tried to force some synapse activity into the achy sludge in her head and figure out where she was. That single brief glimpse had told her she was in the front seat of a car – not her own. A steady, nauseating vibration said she was going somewhere at speed. The upholstery she was slumped on smelt new. Her dress had ridden up her thighs, she was wearing stockings but not shoes, hairpins were sticking into the back of her head. Her mouth tasted of red wine and felt like she’d been licking gravel.

Okay, enough with the mystery. She covered her eyes with spread fingers and peered through the gaps at the driver, blinking a couple of times at the mane of long, straight golden hair, the one purple-clad arm she could see, the crocheted vest. A bittersweet warmth trickled down Amber’s spine. It looked like…

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An Uncommon Woman
An Uncommon Woman Extract

The land was thick with aged trees and prickly pear. The smaller succulents grew in dense clumps, ?eshy and spine covered, while others stretched skyward, tangling with their brethren ten feet into the air so that the way ahead resembled an ancient forest. Overhead snatches of blue sky teased the riders as they picked their way through a section of countryside made unusable by the prickly invaders. The noxious plant covered the ground in varying sizes with scant dirt in between and Edwina Baker, accompanied by her brother, Aiden, was somewhat surprised to ?nd birds still present, as if the very presence of the spikey monstrosities should surely compel them to ?y elsewhere.

This part of their property suffered from one of the worst infes­tations, with the pear having made a good two-thirds of their land useless for any form of agriculture. Edwina didn’t normally ride out here. Just the sight of so much of the weed made her mad with frustration. They had cut, burnt, hoed and applied chemical to the invasion for as long as Edwina could remember. It was an ongoing battle to eradicate the dreaded plants and she hated to think of the money and effort that had been expended on the task. The plant was virulent and drought tolerant. Its seeds were carried by birds, especially crows who loved the ?eshy cactus. Their father said for many years that the bush carried an albatross about its neck until something could be done about the species. By 1920, millions of hectares of land across Queensland and New South Wales had been infested. Now useless, enormous areas were abandoned by their owners.

But there was hope and they carried that hope in a saddlebag.

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Animal Heroes
Animal Heroes Extract

When my book Young Digger was launched at the Australian War Memorial, a friend, Norma Allen, suggested I should tell the story of ‘Horrie the Wog Dog’ – another wartime waif who was adopted as a mascot by his soldiers and smuggled back to Australia. ‘But that book has already been written,’ I said. ‘Horrie was destroyed by quarantine officials during the Second World War.’

‘I mean,’ Norma replied, ‘that you should tell what really hap­pened.’ And for the first time in nearly sixty years, she broke her silence and whispered Horrie’s secret. The true end to his tale as told to her by Horrie’s late master, Jim Moody. Even then, Norma said a silent sorry to those still in the know: for it was a deep secret, and the past can throw long shadows.

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Anything is Possible
Anything is Possible Extract

 Tommy Guptill had once owned a dairy farm, which he inherited from his father, and which was about two miles from the town of Amgash, Illinois.  This was many years ago now, but at night Tommy still sometimes woke with the fear he had felt the night his dairy farm burned to the ground.  Their house had burned to the ground as well; the wind sent sparks onto the house, which was not far from the barns.  It had been his fault – he always thought it was his fault -- because he had not checked that night on the milking machines to make sure they had been turned off properly, and this is where the fire started.  Once it started, it ripped with a fury over the whole place.  They lost everything, except for the brass frame to their living room mirror, which he came upon in the rubble the next day, and he left it where it was.  A collection had been taken up: For a number of weeks his kids had gone to school in the clothes of their classmates, until he could gather himself and the little money that he had; he sold the land to the neighboring farmer, but it did not bring much money in.  Then he and his wife, a short pretty woman named Shirley, bought new clothes, and he bought a house as well, Shirley keeping her spirits up admirably as all this was going on.  They’d had to buy a house in Amgash, which was a run-down town, and his kids went to school there, instead of in Carlisle where they had been able to go to school before, his farm being just on the line dividing the two towns.  Tommy had taken a job as the janitor in the Amgash school system; the steadiness of the job appealed to him, and he could never go to work on someone else’s farm, he did not have the stomach for that.  He had been thirty-five years old.

 The kids were grown now, with kids of their own who were also grown, and he and Shirley still lived in their small house; she had planted flowers around it, which was unusual in that town.  Tommy had worried a good deal about his children at the time of the fire; they had gone from having their home a place that class trips came to – each year the fifth grade class from Carlisle would make a day of it in spring, eating their lunches out beside the barns on the wooden tables there, and then tromp through the barns watching the men milking the cows, the white foamy stuff going up and over them in the clear plastic pipes – to having to see their father as the man who pushed the broom over the “magic dust” that got tossed over the throw-up of some kid who had been sick in the hallways, Tommy wearing his gray pants and a white shirt that had Tommy stitched on it in red.

 Well.  They had all lived through it.

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Aus Toughest Prisons: Inmates
Aus Toughest Prisons: Inmates Extract

There is no escaping the truth. Even though some might escape jail – and you will soon hear the first full account of the world’s most famous jailbreak later – every prison in Australia is a house of horrors.

They are all bricks and bars, sex and stabbings, head-jobs and heroin. And in the following pages you’ll read the full and shocking account of what jail is like, with some of Australia’s most infamous inmates going on the record for the first time.

You will meet the alleged hitman and undisputed hardman called ‘Goldie’; John Reginald Killick will divulge how he really escaped from Silverwater Jail in a helicopter and survived Pentridge Prison’s ‘Hell Block’; and former Rugby League star Craig Field will tell you his incredible story in a series of interviews conducted from inside a maximum-security jail.

But first, let’s meet David Hooker … and find out how the juvenile justice system in New South Wales made him a murderer.

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Australian Desperadoes
Australian Desperadoes Extract

The tiny, tattered fishing village of Brighton was fated to change forever when a certain Dr Richard Russell turned his mind to the curious fact that the oceans were so full of salt that salt makers, ‘before they deposit their brine, boil it till it will suspend an egg’.1

From that prosaic observation, Dr Russell deduced:

‘That great body of water, therefore, which we call the sea, and which is rolled with such violence by tempests round the world, passing over all the submarine plants, flsh, salts, minerals, and in short, whatsoever else is found betwixt shore and shore, must probably wash over some parts of the whole, and be impregnated, or saturated with the transpiration, if I may so term it, of all the bodies it passes over: the finest parts of which are perpetually flying off in steams and attempting to escape to the outward air, till they are entangled by the sea and make part of its composition; whilst the salts also are every moment imparting some of their substances to enrich it, and keep it from putrefaction.

‘By these means, this fluid contracts a greater soapiness, or unctuosity, than common water, and by the whole collection of it being pervaded by the sulphureous steams of bodies which pass through it, seems to constitute that ?uid we call sea water, which was intended by the great author of all things to be the common guardian against putrefaction and the corruption of bodies.’2

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Autumn Extract

It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.

Again. That’s the thing about things. They fall apart, always have, always will, it’s in their nature. So an old old man washes up on a shore. He looks like a punctured football with its stitching split, the leather kind that people kicked a hundred years ago. The sea’s been rough. It has taken the shirt off his back; naked as the day I was born are the words in the head he moves on its neck, but it hurts to. So try not to move the head. What’s this in his mouth, grit? it’s sand, it’s under his tongue, he can feel it, he can hear it grinding when his teeth move against each other, singing its sand-song: I’m ground so small, but in the end I’m all, I’m softer if I’m underneath you when you fall, in sun I glitter, wind heaps me over litter, put a message in a bottle, throw the bottle in the sea, the bottle’s made of me, I’m the hardest grain to harvest

to harvest

the words for the song trickle away. He is tired. The sand in his mouth and his eyes is the last of the grains in the neck of the sandglass.

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Be My Baby
Be My Baby Extract

I want to throttle her. I want to reach across the oceans and continents between us, grab her by her pudgy neck and squeeze it until her eyeballs bulge like a goldfish’s. I want to shake her by the shoulders until she’s dizzy. I want to slap her, scream at her, clench my fists and stamp my feet until she realises what a colossal idiot she is. Instead, I employ my extensive journalistic vocabulary and say, ‘Huh?’

‘I said I’m pregnant,’ Helena repeats patiently. ‘Sixteen weeks along.’

‘Sixteen weeks! And you’re only telling me now?’

Pregnant. Just the word sends chills up my spine.

She sighs. ‘Well, I only found out myself at twelve weeks. And I’ve been trying to speak to you for a month. Haven’t you got my phone messages or my emails? You’re not the easiest person to get hold of, Anna.’

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Beauty in Thorns
Beauty in Thorns Extract

O’er the Hills and Far Away
Winter 1852

‘Imagine falling asleep for a hundred years. Would it not be awful?’ Georgie Macdonald whispered to her sister.

Carrie gave her a quick, crooked smile, but the shabby young man who sat at Georgie’s feet laughed. ‘Why? I think it’d be marvellous.’

‘Sssh!’ Georgie’s eldest sister, Alice, pressed her finger to her lips.

Will Fulford, holding high a small leather-bound book, declaimed: ‘All round a hedge upshoots, and shows at distance like a little wood; thorns, ivies, woodbine . . .’

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Behind Bars
Behind Bars Extract

A Day in the Life

Six-thirty in the morning. Every day. The sound of boots outside the door, the jangle of keys and the sound of metal being pushed into the lock, twisting and unfurling the cylinder, pulling the bolt out of place. Every day, the same sound, the sound of freedom — of sorts. The heavy door is hauled across, light and cold air pouring into the cell, and a voice on the other side calls out, something to the effect of good morning, wake up, unlock time. The inmate stretches, rolls over and opens an eye to see the guard in the open doorway. It’s time to start another day behind bars.

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Best Laid Plans
Best Laid Plans Extract

It was never my intention to take my son kerb-crawling to pick up a prostitute. Nope. Kerb-crawling was definitely not on my ‘To Do’ list after ‘Buy hummus, sort sock drawer, do Pilates’.

A mother does many things for her son – running trays up to his bedroom for nothing more serious than a stubbed toe, detecting lost bits of sports kit, secretly completing overdue homework … But soliciting a prostitute shouldn’t be one of them. ‘So, how much to initiate my son sexually?’ are just not the words a bookish, cake-baking, cryptic-crossword-ninja, law-abiding mum of one ever expects to say to a working girl in thigh-high boots and leather hot-pants in the dead of night in a seedy backstreet.

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Beyond Fear
Beyond Fear Extract

They were going north this year, just the four of them heading out again on a cold, winter’s Friday night. Jodie smiled as she drove, watching the lights of a small town disappear in her rear-view mirror.

There was a hint of mist in the bush on either side of the road and her headlights cut an eerie passage in the darkness. Like a tunnel guiding her safely through the night.

Or straight to hell.

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Beyond Veiled Cliches
Beyond Veiled Cliches Extract

Dubai is many things – interesting, enthralling, unusual – but it’s not a genuine glimpse of the Arab world. That’s not to say I didn’t like it. But it felt more like a business centre dropped into the middle of the desert than the Middle East I knew. It’s a world designed to encourage and promote the growth of ideas and invention. And it’s making great inroads in the representation of Emirati women in the workforce and in government. At the time of my visit, the UAE had eight female ministers in its thirty- member cabinet, and its ambitious 2020 Expo was being led by Reem Al Hashimy, another high-achieving woman. With its large expat community, many women are also active in the workplace. Laudy Lahdo, a Lebanese-Australian woman, is based out of Dubai as the general manager of Servcorp Middle East. She has found great success in her industry: in her first year working there, she won an award for manager of the year. So Dubai may have its critics, but arguably it is a place of dreams – easier to reach than the US if you’re from the East; attractive to Westerners for its financial benefits and imitations of Western life.

But my authentic Bedouin experience was quickly turning sour.

I had longed to touch the desert sands, and after a month of intense interactions and travel in the region, I wanted to have some fun with Chris. So I’d registered us for this expedition of desert exploration. I had no idea at the time that trips like this in Dubai constituted an entire industry, so large in scale that the only variations between tourist providers was whether you paid more and got a bottle of booze thrown in.

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