Scoop catches up with Perth-born writer Dave Warner to find out why he waited over 20 years to write a novel inspired by the infamous Claremont serial killings.
For renowned crime writer Dave Warner, his latest book has been a more personal project than his last couple of novels. Clear to the Horizon, draws on the infamous Claremont serial killings for inspiration – but there’s no truth in any of the tale, he admits.
‘It’s a story that’s been part of virtually every West Australian’s life over the last 20 years,’ he says. ‘It’s obvious just how much psychological trauma it gave the whole of Perth, not to mention the people who were directly affected by those horrible killings.’
‘Coming from a personal space of knowing and being in that world at that time, and what my reactions were, as an author it gives me a very direct emotional connection to what I’m writing about.’
Clear to the Horizon is no true crime novel. Although the narrative takes inspiration from the killings, the whole thing is purely fiction. Dave likens his style to that of novelist James Ellroy who would take iconic crimes from Los Angeles’ history and fictionalise a narrative around them. ‘I don’t know anything about the exact victims or people involved in that case other than what anybody reading a newspaper would know,’ says Dave. ‘I didn’t do any research, I haven’t spoken to the police.’
‘I wanted to use my detective character Snowy Lane for something big, but 20 years later still felt too close so I held off. But it kept finding me, and about 3 years ago I had a couple of cold case police turn up on my doorstep here in Sydney. They said I’d been nominated as the Claremont serial killer, so they interviewed me, took my DNA and that was that – nothing came of it. But it prompted me to finally decide to write this story.’
As Clear to the Horizon began to take shape, Dave found some uncanny coincidences. ‘Some of the things I started to do with the narrative when I was a third of the way through the book have actually turned out to be, as far as I understand it, important things now in the actual police case,’ he says. ‘The things I decided that Snowy Lane should pursue have turned out to be things that are pertinent to the actual case.’
Dave says he does worry about how the book will be received, especially by friends and relatives of the missing girls. ‘But 20 years is a long time to not do anything,’ he says. ‘It’s not an easy choice, but it’s one that needed to be made.’
Born in Perth and now living in Sydney, Dave has worked as a musician and screenwriter, as well as being a renowned crime writer. He reckons that Perth’s arts scene today is increasingly vibrant. ‘Perth is more and more frequently carrying its weight in terms of producing fantastic stuff in Australian arts,’ he says. ‘I love getting back to Perth because I have family and friends there, and it’s always great to do events with a home crowd.’
Dave Warner will be at City of Perth Library on October 24, Books and Beer Joondalup on October 31 and will also be part of the Fremantle Press Criminally Good Great Big Book Read on November 8. Clear to the Horizon is published in November.
Find out more on the Fremantle Press website.