Introducing Bunbury writer Josh Kemp whose manuscript, Jasper Cliff, has him commended in the Fogarty Literary Awards for a second time

Jasper Cliff, is a gothic Australian crime novel which takes us to somewhere near Marble Bar where an ancient storehouse of bad memories ambushes the unaware.

Josh was longlisted for the Fogarty Literary Award back in 2019. His novel Banjawarn was co-winner of the 2021 Dorothy Hewett Award and won the 2022 Ned Kelly Award for Best Debut Crime Fiction. It has just been shortlisted for a WA Premier’s Award too.

Learn more about Josh in the Q&A below or tune in to his episode on the Fremantle Press podcast on your favourite podcast app.

Describe your manuscript in your own words.

Jasper Cliff is an Australian gothic novella. The story follows Lachlan, whose little brother goes missing in the remote East Pilbara region of Western Australia. The last place Lachlan heard from his brother was a little town out in the arse-end of nowhere, a tiny place called Jasper Cliff. When Lachlan’s car breaks down on the edge of the Cliff, he finds himself marooned at the local pub, surrounded by a cohort of ragtag locals.

Lachlan isn’t stuck at the Cliff long before he realises just about everyone in this dying town has lost someone, that Jasper Cliff might be a place where people go missing all too easily. It’s a place where just about everyone has secrets …

And some of these secrets are terrifying.

What inspired you to write it?

I was inspired to write the novella after my first visit to the East Pilbara town of Marble Bar. It was an impromptu trip during which, as a keen bushwalker, I wanted to experience what it would be like to go hiking in extreme heat – Marble Bar is often cited as the hottest town on the planet. The locals have a special name for people like this – a heat tourist.

Just like what happens to Lachlan in the novella, my car broke down and I was stuck in the Bar for a week. I spent this time wandering idly around the streets and along the Coongan River on the edge of town in order to kill time while I waited for my car to be fixed. As these walks went on, I slowly fell in love with the landscape around the town but also Marble Bar itself.

Just about everything I write is a love letter of sorts to the place which inspired it, and this novella is no different. This novella is a love letter to Marble Bar.

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

Back in 2019, my unpublished novel, In the Shadow of Burringurrah, was longlisted for the Fogarty and it was a landmark event in my short writing career. It was confirmation that I was on the right track. The support and publicity I received during that time was invaluable and really spurred me on writing, so I know this is such an important award for young Western Australian authors.

To make the shortlist this time is such a lovely and surprising honour. I wish all the other shortlisted authors the best of luck and can’t wait to meet them and hear about their manuscripts.

To find out if Josh 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:

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