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Aug 18

What’s in a Name

Posted on Friday, August 18, 2023 in Uncategorized

These days a lot of people talk about creating a “brand. Which is fine except the downside is that you may also be building a pigeon-hole – a little box that people find easy to put you in (if you’re lucky).

As Jimmy Thomson, my brand is, it seems, to become known as a writer and occasional broadcaster about apartment living. I worked hard at that, among other things, for many years.

However, I have a completely separate life as a creative writer – 16 books and three TV series – and the apartment gig muddies the waters.

Case in point: A few years ago I co-wrote and co-created (with the late, great Tony Morphett) the ABC TV drama Rain Shadow, starring Rachel Ward. A sometime later I bumped into her and her actor husband Bryan Brown in a restaurant in the Rocks in Sydney.

Ms Ward, it turned out, didn’t know me from a bar of soap but Mr Brown said: “Are you that bloke who goes on the radio and talks about apartments?” Guilty as charged.

So what do people think when they see my name and maybe even recognise it on the cover of a crime novel. When I see a familiar name attached to something outside its owner’s usual area of interest – like a boxer writing a kids book, for instance – my instinctive response is “get back in your box!”

So I’m changing my name for my more serious crime novels. It’s a long-standing literary tradition. Did you know that Julian Barnes wrote quirky detective novels under the name Dan Kavanagh? And Agatha Christie wrote romance novels under the pen name Mary Westmacott.

Stephen King used the pen name Richard Bachman for several of his early works, such as “Rage” and “The Running Man,” allowing him to publish more books without oversaturating the market under his own name.

Now, to be fair, if I was as talented as any of the above, I would not be writing my own website entries. But please welcome James Dunbar (my first two real names). Mole Creek, my first serious crime novel under that name was released on August 1, is already selling well, and you order it by clicking on this link.

May 11

Great reviews for Perfect Criminals

Posted on Friday, May 11, 2018 in Uncategorized

Blah blah blah


Apr 5

Bully For You

Posted on Sunday, April 5, 2009 in Uncategorized

Heard Julie Bishop on the TV this morning having a go at Kevin Rudd for “bullying” a defence forces air hostess for not providing him with a hot meal according to his diet.  The poor wee thing (the hostess, not Ms Bishop) was apparently reduced to tears. Can we get something straight?  Raising your voice when you are a bit pissed off is not bullying – it’s being a bit pissed off.  If he had bullied the hostess, he’s have stolen her lunch money.  And why do we have such wimps in the defence forces anyway?  And since when does our PM have to fly on Jetstar?  “Bullying” is the new “unAustralian” – dare to hint that work hasn’t been done to your satisfaction and suddenly you are a bully.  The English language takes another hit from the spin doctors and shirkers who’d rather complain than do their jobs properly.

Mar 13

Confessions of a Venice Virgin

Posted on Friday, March 13, 2009 in travel, Uncategorized

being_john_malkovich_posterBack in September 1999 (was it really that long ago?) Sue and I went to the Venice Film Festival. It was her second time and my first. As a Venice Virgin I found it exhausting and exhilarating in equal parts, as I hope this piece I wrote for the brilliant Urban Cinefile website conveys. It’s interesting reading it back after all this time – did I really think Stephan Elliott’s movie Eye Of The Beholder was that good? And how could I have missed Hilary Swank who, back then, was giving one-on-one interviews to anyone who cared.
Hello, Darling, mwah-mwah! Ciao bella, mwah-mwah! Welcome to the Air-kissing Olympics.
Everywhere you look at the Venice Film Festival somebody is being greeted, farewelled, stroked, smooched and shmoozed with a Double Bay Headbut (it’s the opposite of a Glasgow kiss but with as much genuine affection).
The streets are thick with Armani, Versace and Valentino as immaculately dressed hunks and elegant divas paw and peck each other … and that’s just the Italian journos. In fact, the current trend for stars to dress down means the scruff next to you in the queue for the gents is more likely to be a celeb than the guy in the thousand buck suit and designer shades – he’s the doorman.
Yes, the film world has made its annual migration to Venice or, to be more precise, Lido, a salami-thin streak of an island 20 minutes by boat from St Marks Square and the Rialto Bridge. Most of the place looks a bit like an Aussie seaside suburb Sorrento or Coogee, maybe, before the bulldozers moved in. But on the glitsy strip between the Salon Des Bains and Excelsior hotels, it’s pure Hollywood.
While mobs of star-struck fans look on, palefaced reviewers emerge blinking into brilliant sunshine after their umpteenth screening – the movies start at 8 am and finish about 2 am the next day – and rush off to another press conference, another “round table”, another piadini and aqua minerale, con gas, per favore.
The round tables are interesting. Laughingly called “interviews” you can find yourself with as many as a dozen other journos from different countries, sitting round a besieged star who may be enthused about their new movie or may only be fulfilling their contractual obligations. In maybe only twenty minutes you have to squeeze your questions in between a local pop mag writer who can’t tell the difference between celluloid and cellulite and a black-clad post-modernist with an intense goatee asking Cameron Diaz about the subliminal opera motif in My Best Friend’s Wedding.
This is one area where fortune favours the brave , or at least the brash, and aggressive loudmouths (like yours truly) can verbally elbow their way in and get their question answered before the others realise the session has started. But this does occasionally have its down side.
Mike Leigh, the grumpily egalitarian director of Secrets And Lies and one of this year’s surprise hits, Topsy Turvy, told me to shut up and let somebody else ask a question. At the other extreme, John Malkovich fixed me with his intense, brain-numbing stare and for a terrifying five minutes – OK, it may only have been five seconds – it was just him and me, chatting, with an audience of six reporters relieved that he hadn’t picked on them.
The worst session so far was with JM’s Being John Malkovich co-star Cameron Diaz and director Spike Jonze. First of all, they got back late from lunch, then they reorganised us into bigger groups with less time so the stars wouldn’t have to stay late (poor things) then they spent the whole afternoon having a whale of a time at their interviewers’ expense.
I was in the first group where we managed, just, to stop it descending into farce. Jonze was filming everybody and he and Diaz were answering each other’s questions “hilariously”. But that’s what happens when you have the hottest movie with the biggest stars in town; you can do what you want. In my group we did the unforgivable and talked over the top of them to force them to answer the questions. Apparently, by the time the fourth group sat down with them, the whole thing had unravelled completely and the exercise was pointless. And they wonder why journalists are always trying to put them down. Next time, Spike and Cam, you get a smack.
I know, I know … interviewing Cameron Diaz in Venice? How tough can life be? But it’s not as if she asked me out on a date. And while I was interview number one for her, she was interview number 127 that MORNING for me.
All right, I exaggerate. But it’s not all sucking up to spunky celebs. Malkovich was hard work, Dervla (Ballykissangel) Kirwan was charming but reserved, Mike Leigh was rude but brilliantly insightful, actors Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner (Gilbert and Sullivan in Topsy Turvy) were entertaining, Aussie director Stephan Elliott was frighteningly indiscreet, Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberley Peirce was surprisingly charming when I didn’t know who she was or what her excellent movie was about and the bitch in Fox publicity who doesn’t like Australians is in for a surprise when I pass the message on to her boss.
But it’s been a fascinating first week. Tom and Nicole came and went, leaving Eyes Wide Shut and a lasting impression that Nicole’s stature is growing both as a person and an actor. Woody Allen didn’t come (he never does) but his new pic Sweet And Lowdown did and received a huge ovation. Actually, Woody’s name on the opening credits was enough to get the crowd cheering and clapping; they love him in Europe. And Sweet And Lowdown is a gem of a movie so it was well deserved.
In between Tom and Nic’s departure and Woody’s non-arrival, Topsy Turvy, Mike Leigh’s surprising backstage look at Gilbert and Sullivan won raves, as did Boys Don’t Cry, the true story of a troubled teenage girl, played by Hilary Swank, who decides she’s a boy (NOT a lesbian) and suffers horribly as a consequence. Being John Malkovich – the bizarre tale of a puppeteer who finds a portal into the actor’s brain and takes over his life – was the best movie to be shown. Sadly, Holy Smoke, Jane Campion’s story of religious cults and a self-righteous rescue mission, staring Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel, was one of the most disappointing.
Stephan Elliott’s polished, sexy thriller, Eye Of The Beholder will do nothing to ease the pressures on him to take the money and “go Hollywood”. Aussie actress Gosia Dobrowolska’s decision to take the script and “go Poland” has paid off with a compelling performance in actor-director Jerzy Stuhl’s A Week In A Life Of A Man.
There were a lot of “soft” fims around. Mike Winterbottom’s Irish comedy romance With Or Without You, starring Dervla Kirwan and Christopher Eccleston, was a pleasant slice of whimsy while Meryl Streep’s violin teacher in the ghetto biopic Music Of The Heart was as earnest, uplifting and, ultimately, cloying and sugary as its title suggested it might be. Lasse Haalstrom’s film of John Irving’s The Cider House Rules, starring Michael Caine, was visually sumptuous but emotionally disconnected and failed to match the strength of the novel.

Brad and Edward in Fight Club

Brad and Ed in Fight Club

With stars, publicists and increasingly frazzled looking journalists still milling around the terrace at the Excelsior (coffee nine, count them, nine dollars, grazie) the rest of the week is a race to see the films you’ve written off but which others rate. There’s a buzz of anticipation with Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas (back, ladies) bringing his directorial debut Crazy In Alabama to town, as well as the arrival of Brad Pitt in The Fight Club and Kiwi director Alison MacLean’s competition entry Jesus’ Son.
Otherwise, it’s been so far, so good. You can get a decent cup of coffee for a decent price at one of the many outdoor bars around, provided you’re prepared to stand (I call them knee-tremblers). And to date I’ve only once found myself in the wrong cinema looking at the wrong film with zero minutes to get to where I should have been when the titles started to roll.
Oops, must dash. I’ve got another press conference in a minute, then a screening. Ciao, darlings, mwah-mwah! Waiter, get me a gondola!

Mar 12

No Need for Heroes

Posted on Thursday, March 12, 2009 in Uncategorized

heroes-cover-5-crop1After the Koala Who Bounced was finished, my agent Selwa Anthony put me with a former Australian army major called Sandy MacGregor who won the Military Cross for his exploits in the Vietnam War.

His men in 3 Field Troop were the first to go down the and explore the incredibly complex Viet Cong tunnel systems. The Americans intially just blew them up until Sandy’s guys discovered these underground cities. The name Tunnel Rats rightly belongs, originally, at least, the the men of 3 Field Troop.
The resulting book was called “No Need For Heroes” and it details the adventures of his whole troop. The book was a bit unsatisfactory because I was trying to write in Sandy’s voice while I had found a rip-roaring tale in the “Virgin Soldiers” vein that I wanted to tell in my own way.

The result is a bit bi-polar and Sandy and the guys of 3 Field Troop deserved better. Just as soon as the mainstream here loses it’s paranoia about Vietnam, I might use my notes from all the interviews I did as the basis for a novel. By the way, the cover shown here is for the re-issued version and I designed as a favour for Sandy.  I reckon it looks OK. And it was only very recently that I realised I must have subconsciously stolen the tile from the lyrics of the Cold Chisel song Khe San.

I have a few copies of No Need … (with the old cover) available for $25 including postage. Use this Paypal button and we’ll get a copy to you.

Mar 11

All about me

Posted on Wednesday, March 11, 2009 in Uncategorized

As I write this, I am looking down the barrel of a birthday with a zero at the end of it.  I should be happy it has only one zero … I should consider myself lucky that I’m having another birthday at all.

Anyway, I thought it was time to bring my website up to date. After all, since I last posted anything significant on here, I have had two more books published and acquired a degree.

I have fallen in love with Vietnam and I am planning to lead a couple of tours there – one will be tightly related to Tunnel Rats and A Sappers War (my books with Sandy MacGregor) and the other will be much more about Vietnam as it is now.  You can read about them HERE.

Somewhere along the line, I have become an ‘expert’ on apartment living – if the definition of expert is that I know where to find out the stuff that other people don’t know.  The Sydney Morning Herald Flat Chat column is now has a Melbourne edition (the laws are very different so the columns usually are too) and I have started getting invitations to speak at conferences, which is cool as it scratches the itch that might otherwise have me foolishly try to do an open mike night at a stand-up club.

You’ll find the new, enhanced website here That’s  the place to be if you want to find the most recent examples of my trouble-making and attempts at problem solving in the area of strata living. After a blistering first year when I was getting about 1000  readers a day, it has settled down to a sensible 5-600, although it peaked one day when I had a story in the Herald’s online pages read by 123,000 people and at one point 518 people were all,  at the same time, reading the follow-up on my little website. What was the story? Whether ot not it was illegal to photograph someone’s illegally parked car.  Don’t ask!

Oh, and I finally acquired a university degree – an MA in writing from the Open University and Swinbourne in Melbourne.  So I can now legitimately lecture about writing, as I occasionally do, to students who are less well qualified than I am. And, as part of my final submission, I wrote the first 20,000 words of a crime novel that I desperately want to finish but which has lain untouched ever since.

Time moves on so quickly. The kittens (below) who appeared the last time I revamped the website are now cats – one of them a ginger monster. And I have discovered a new desire – the desire to have done something (rather than wanting to actually do it). I’m calling it my Empty Bucket list.  I would like to have run the City to Surf, I would like to have parachuted from an aeroplane and run for parliament.  I have no desire to do any of these things in the future, I just think it would be cool if I had in the past.

And on that note, I wish I had started fixing up this website two years ago when those kittens were just fluffy little balls of fur.

Mac and Pepper at about 8 weeks

Mac and Pepper at about 8 weeks



 Jimmy Thomson, December 2013