Writer, comedian and journalist Patrick Marlborough’s ode to Magda Szubanski has helped get them onto the Fogarty Literary Award shortlist for a second time

In Nock Loose by Patrick Marlborough, a retired Olympic archer and former stuntwoman inspired by Magda Szubanski loses her granddaughter in a fire. This is the beginning point of a wild and lively novel centred around the town’s violent medieval festival, Agincourt. Patrick has been published in many national and international publications, and their novel, A Horse Held at Gunpoint, was shortlisted in the 2021 Fogarty Literary Award.

Learn more from Patrick below and don’t miss their podcast episode with Brooke Dunnell. Just subscribe to the Fremantle Press podcast on your favourite podcast app and you’ll be alerted when it goes live.

Describe your manuscript in your own words.

Nock Loose is Kill Bill meets A Song of Ice and Fire meets McCleod’s Daughters: an action-comedy satirising the ‘small town with a big secret’ novels which riddle Australian literature, Nock Loose is the story of an elderly former-Olympic archer/stuntwoman who embarks on a quest for vengeance after her granddaughter is killed in a bushfire. This takes place in a country town in WA’s South West named Bodkin’s Point, a town with a 150-year tradition of hosting a mediaeval-ish festival (Agincourt) with its own rich/complex/ultra-violent meta history, fiction, and lore, renowned globally for its tonal and anachronistic inconsistencies, as well as the odd lost limb/life/mind.

What inspired you to write it?

Magda Szubanski. Back in 2017, I had the idea for a film like Charles Bronson’s Death Wish but starring Magda Szubanski. I had the opening image in my head for years, the hero, the villains, the setting, but little else. I soon realised I don’t have any 1) friends 2) money, so I can’t make a film. Being friendless and moneyless, I settled on a book instead. I started writing exactly two weeks before the 2023 Fogarty Award deadline, after having completed and readied a different manuscript that I realised was ‘too naughty’ to submit (even by my standards). I thought I’d try and turn in a semi-serious revenge thriller that slyly pokes fun at the ‘middle-aged detective solving a mystery in Albany etc’ books that Australian publishing loves (and I loathe) so so much. Instead, all these gags about knights and bandits spilled out of me, and I ended up with a manga-inspired romp cross meta-commentary on Australian history, mythmaking, and publishing. Whoops!

I guess the main question I like to interrogate with my writing is: can an Australian novel be … fun???*

*(the jury is still out)

What does it mean to you to make the shortlist of the 2023 Fogarty Literary Award?

This isn’t my first rodeo (2nd consecutive listing for this award), so as far as getting thrown off my horse and conking my head goes: sure, why not? But twenty thousand dollars and a publishing contract would dramatically change my life in a way that is hard to describe. I could finally fund the completion of my album and afford my meds. But more importantly: I could write and publish more books. I reckon I have about 50 novels left in me (if I live to 70): five of these are great, ten of these are good, ten of these are perfectly fine, ten are barely passable, ten are unforgivable, and five will put me on the no-fly-list. I just want to be able to write my books my way without having to ever step foot in a ‘masters in creative writing’ type situation. I’m ready to get going. Put me in, coach. What’s the hold-up?

To find out if Patrick has won the award, join us at the Fogarty Literary Ceremony on Thursday 25 May at The Edith Spiegeltent at ECU. Tickets are free and available from Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/fogarty-literary-award-and-great-big-book-read-2023-tickets-557569474307

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