Men should read more women – says Booktopia’s John Purcell in this weekend’s Spectrum

by |August 10, 2013

Bernard BlackYesterday Booktopia’s John Purcell was featured in Spectrum, the nationwide arts lift out in Fairfax papers.

Did you know he was once the spitting image of Bernard Black? Have a gander below, and click on the link underneath to see the full article.

The road from literary snobbery to author of erotic fiction was a covert one for the creator of Emma Benson, Linda Morris writes.

For part of the 10 years he owned a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, John Purcell was scornful of his customers’ tastes in fiction. Purcell spent more time reading and writing his own opus than selling books, inevitably to the detriment of his bottom line.

When a customer walked in, he would try to dissuade them from buying the latest John Grisham or James Patterson thriller, substituting some worthier classic: a Dostoevsky, a Hardy or an E.M. Forster. Even Charles Dickens was once too popular for Purcell’s highbrow tastes.

Dirty secret: John Purcell wrote his first erotic story to impress a girl. Photo: Danielle Smith

Who would have thought this literary snob would one day reveal himself as the standard bearer of erotic fiction, that rather friendless genre of commercial women’s fiction? Purcell recently outed himself to The Australian Women’s Weekly as Natasha Walker, the reclusive author of The Secret Lives of Emma, an erotic fiction trilogy that followed Fifty Shades of Grey into the mainstream in the past year.

The Secret Lives of Emma series has sold more than 50,000 copies and last year made Purcell one of the best-selling debut authors in Australia. As head of marketing for Australian online bookstore Booktopia, Purcell has tracked a further kick in sales since his unmasking.

Don’t miss the full article at:

Click here to buy The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy

Desperately Sensual – author Kylie Ladd reviews

To me, the trouble with the vast majority of erotica is twofold:

(i) the quality of the writing is far more disturbing than anything the protagonists might do to each other, literary merit not usually being the most lasting effect the author hopes to create;

and (ii) there are, to put it bluntly, only so many ways tab A can be inserted into slot B – or even slots B, C and D, simultaneously or in-turn.

As such, I’m not a huge fan of the genre, often finding it predictable, dull, less believable than the letters to Penthouse Forum, and worst of all, execrably written. It’s not that I don’t like smut, it’s just that I’d much prefer to serendipitously stumble across a nice bit of filth in a novel I am already engaged with, where the characters think and feel, and any slot/tab sightings are integral to the plot.

The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings has the potential to change all that. Natasha Walker’s debut novel is eloquent, measured and articulate, its tone – in surely a first for erotica – both wry and playful. More to the point, it’s dirty enough that Walker adopted a pseudonym to write the book, and readers may feel in need of a shower after finishing it, cold or otherwise.

Emma Benson is a 32 year old housewife, not so much desperate as desperately sensual, in thrall to her own carnal nature and, though she loves her husband, questioning her ability to remain faithful to him after less than a year of marriage.

Salvation comes in the form of 18 year old schoolboy Jason, who literally drops into her lap when she is sunbathing in her backyard one afternoon. Though tall, good looking and an accomplished sportsman, Jason is (surprisingly but conveniently) untutored in the ways of the flesh, something Emma sets out to rectify over the course of the book.

One of The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings’ most impressive achievements in this regard is how Walker establishes the sexual tension between the characters early in chapter one, then not only sustains, but mercilessly ratchets it up, for the remaining 250 or so pages.

After the FIFTY SHADES OF GREY phenomenon, it is refreshing to find a female erotica lead who is older, experienced and very much in touch with her sexuality. Quite deeply in touch, as some scenes reveal, but I digress. More interestingly, Emma, like her Jane Austen namesake, is intelligent, self-assured, forthright, scheming and definitely likes to get involved in the lives of her neighbours. Walker’s occasional asides through Emma’s eyes on the nature of monogamy or Australian politics or the particular private school type peculiar to Sydney’s north shore are witty and subversive, a delight to read.

Still, that’s not why you buy erotica, is it? Perhaps I should just say then that yes, the book is filthy, arousing, and features plenty of tabs and slots, with the two sequels to be released later this year and in 2013 promising even greater levels of depravity. Walker – and Emma – are women to watch. I predict The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings will sell like hot cocks. Sorry, cakes.

Click here for more details or to buy
The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings

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About the Contributor

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

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  • August 11, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    Yes. Many people have been saying the same thing for many years. Men are missing out on some of the best literature in Australia if they are not reading women’s writing.

    Look at the Australian Women Writers Challenge and a fantastic blog called Guys Read Gals

    If men are interested they can start with these two sites, because both would love to have more men involved in reading and commenting on women’s writing.

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