John Birmingham, author of Angels of Vengeance, the third book in his mega-selling Disappearance Trilogy, answers Six Sharp Questions

by |October 28, 2011

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

John Birmingham

author of Angels of Vengeance, the third book in his mega-selling Disappearance Trilogy

Six Sharp Questions


1. Congratulations, on completing your new book – what is Angels of Vengeance about and is it really the last book in the series?

Yes and no. The story that began with the Disappearance in Without Warning does wrap up in this novel All of the different threads I’ve been pulling together over the years finally link up here. But I got to the end of Angels of Vengeance and was already missing some of my fave characters, so I’m going to write some e-books with stand alone stories featuring them. They’ll sort of relate to the main narative, but spin off on their own tangents.

Order your copy of Angels of Vengeance from
Booktopia Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

2. Time passes. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

Didn’t enjoy watching Ireland beat us in the rugby very much. But didn’t really expect to win the Cup either. Finishing the book has been cool, and I did some radio this year which was great fun. But I think the highlight was talking to Steve Stirling about possibly collaborating on a new series of his Change novels set down here was the biggest fun.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

Ooh, that’s a tough one. I have a lot of faves. But I really enjoy this one from Caitlin. I like it because it reveals a bit about what sort of experiences went into making her what she is:


All Echelon field agents completed the organization’s version of Hell Week at the end of basic induction, and the eight days of brutalizing assessment were enough to break more than three quarters of each intake. But in Caitlin’s memory, the long, slow torture of the Yoshinkan Hombu Dojo was worse, even though formal training ran only four hours a day, and her humbling duties as a gaijin novice for two or three more – mopping floors, cleaning toilets, serving meals to the seniors when she was hobbling from a sprained ankle, or unable to raise her arms above elbow height thanks to training one block, repeatedly for two hours. Hell Week was a torment of hallucinogenic intensity, but it was limited. No matter what the assessors did to break her, she knew that endurance was a matter of degrees, of inches, of pushing herself for a few more breaths, or heartbeats. It would pass.

The dojo was life itself. Unyielding, unforgiving and inescapable.

Lying prone in decaying leaf matter, with insects crawling all over her and slick with sweat, Caitlin reached for the lesson of Yoshinkan Hombu. It was something she had learned only at the very end of her training, when her technique, her ‘jutsu’ or art, had been honed to a cutting edge as dangerous as a Sengo Muramasa blade, a weapon forged by the infamous Muromachi period swordsmith and reputedly imbued with his violent madness.

It was said that the steel of a Muramasa katana was hungry.

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.


Yes. I wouldn’t want to live with me.

My days are a bit different depending on whether I’m on deadline or not. If not, everything is sweet. If I am I get up early, exercise to two hours, smash out about five thousand words, throw furniture around, kicks holes in the wall, abuse dangerous Russian pharmaceuticals I bought off the internet, and mostly work nude.

5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

I write what I like to read, but luckily I have an enormous appetite for mass market faff. I love hyper accelerated stories of the world falling apart. Luckily, they sell.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

How to Be a Man. By me, and my friend Flinthart. Need I explain? We consulted expert lesbains and bar tenders.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Because what the hell, maybe they’ll pick up a bit of the classics.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, might seem counter intuitive to a civilising mission, but Thompson rewrote every page as many times as Dickens. Let them get hooked on the madness, then spring that little factoid on them.

Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide. If you have to ask you’re already Zed’s tasty appetizer.

Aaaand maybe Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers, to let ‘em know just how easy they got it, even with me yelling at their uncivilised arses.

John, thank you for playing… rough.

1 Comment Share:

About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

Follow John: Twitter Website


  • Steve Bandklayder

    May 31, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Loved Angels. Kinda sappy ending, which I love. Only sorry
    Miguel died. And-surprised that with loose ends tied, John
    never completed Caitlin’s connection to Milosz thru Bret’s
    stopover en route to London. Or, was John just making sure
    we read the whole trilogy?
    By the way, I hope we have not heard the last of Sofia…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *