Can the past be really left behind?: Chris Stuart

They lie, the men who tell us for reasons of their own, that want is here a stranger and misery’s unknown. (Henry Lawson from the poem, “Faces in the Street”)

Henry Lawson is considered one of Australia’s greatest poets and wrote at a time in Australian history when struggle, pain, and triumph went hand in hand with corruption, ignorance, and injustice.

As a crime writer, I ask myself if the past can really be left behind and has anything essentially changed? To me, the Great Dividing Range is not merely a geographical feature, it is a legacy we have inherited; it is the divide in society between those who have power and those who do not and it is the motivational pivot on the pendulum of life on which a murderer frequently sits.

As soon as I read the first two lines of this poem, I knew For Reasons of Their Own was going to be the title of my debut crime novel. Every single day, ordinary faces in the street are lied to in a hundred different ways, and disinformation and misinformation are now regarded as threats to our national security. But we also lie to ourselves and this is perhaps even worse because we are all so very quick to justify our reasons, as are killers.

As a former humanitarian worker, the human faults and frailties mentioned earlier existed to some degree in nearly every country where I worked, and in those places where disease, conflict, or disasters had ripped apart people’s lives, corruption made everyone’s lives so much worse. In wars and emergencies, there are no laws, no rules, no moral compasses, no boundaries, no winners or losers, only a cruel path to survival and I believe there really is no such place as a safe refuge anymore.

Over the years, I would return home between assignments, but couldn’t really talk about what I had seen or done, and some my stories made for uncomfortable listening. I learned it was easier to remain silent, but the stories, the inequity, and the tragedies were ingrained in my head and cemented in my heart.

I am a crime writer and believe in certain circumstances, murder may well be justified.

Australian-born Chris Stuart now lives in New Zealand where she won the 2021 Ngaio Marsh Award for Reasons of their Own. Chris’s latest novel is The Glasgow Smile which she will launch in Melbourne later this year.

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