‘Not Landlords Who Are Rats, But Rats Becoming Landlords,’ Says New Novel
Two new novels by Wellington writers, released at Unity Books Wellington on July 23, take on a slew of contemporary themes with a mix of humour and gravitas.
Refugee advocate and publisher Murdoch Stephens releases Rat King Landlord, while Brannavan Gnanalingam – author of the acclaimed Sodden Downstream – puts out his first novel in three years, Sprigs. Both books are released by Lawrence & Gibson publishing and will be some of the first novels launched at a public event at Unity Books in Wellington next week.
“One of the problems I’ve had with Rat King Landlord is that people think Rat King is describing a landlord. This is not the case! In fact, 'landlord' is describing what happens when the mega rats of the town belt start taking up their winter residency in the city’s villas,” says Stephens.
Rat King Landlord is a fast-paced novel with many villains and only a couple of heroes. The book tries to reconcile adoration for the capital with its plentiful housing woes.
By contract, Gnanalingam’s Sprigs – his sixth book – peers into the lives of those young people who are just emerging into the world of responsibility. The novel traces the toxic environment of a private boys’ school and how, after a drunken and violent incident, the institutions of power and privilege circle the wagons to protect their own.
“I’m interested in the way teenagers act like adults and adults act like teenagers, and who, ultimately, is ‘allowed’ to make mistakes,” says Gnanalingam.
The two books, while very different in tone, continue Lawrence & Gibson’s tradition for publishing a very-New Zealand version of literary fiction and cultural satire. Gnanalingam’s previous novel, Sodden Downstream, was short-listed for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Foundation Prize for Best Fiction at the 2018 Ockham Book Awards. Stephens’ previous book was Doing Our Bit: the Campaign to Double the Refugee Quota (BWB Texts; 2018).
The launch will also reveal a collaborative perfume design with ‘aromatic future apothecary’ Of Body for Lawrence & Gibson publishing. The perfume will be available to scent books on the evening, alongside a musical performance by sci-fi goth duo, crone.
Rat King Landlord by Murdoch Stephens (Lawrence & Gibson RRP$25) and Brannavan Gnanalingam's Sprigs (Lawrence & Gibson, RRP$35) will be released at Unity Book from 6pm on Thursday 23 July.