Spillman, Ken 1959–

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Spillman, Ken 1959–

(Kenneth Gaunt)

PERSONAL: Born June 11, 1959, in London, England; son of John J. (an engineer) and M.E. (a psychologist) Spillman; married Trish Johns (a nurse administrator), January 7, 1986 (divorced, 2001); children: Ciaran J., Gabriel J., Paddy J., Zak K. Education: Griffith University and Murdoch University, B.A., 1981, Murdoch University, Ph.D., 1995.

ADDRESSES: Home—Girrawheen, Western Australia. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Writer.

AWARDS, HONORS: National Literary Award, Fellowship of Australian Writers, 1986, and Literary Award, Western Australia Week, 1986, both for Identity Prized: A History of Subiaco; selection as one of the best books of the year, Weekend Australian, 1997, for Fathers in Writing.


Identity Prized: A History of Subiaco, University of Western Australia Press (Nedlands, Australia), 1985.

(Editor, with Ross Fitzgerald) The Greatest Game (anthology), William Heinemann Australia (Melbourne, Australia), 1988.

Custodians and Champions: The Story of the City of Perth Surf Life Saving Club, City of Perth Surf Life Saving Club (Perth, Australia), 1988.

Horizons: A History of the Rural and Industries Bank of Western Australia, University of Western Australia Press (Nedlands, Australia), 1989.

(With Michael Wood) Australian Local Government Today: Issues and Challenges (documentary film), Reel Images, 1989.

(Editor) A Gentle Man: Memories of Professor Gordon Reid, 1923–1989, Cancer Foundation of Western Australia (Perth, Australia), 1990.

A Rich Endowment: Government and Mining in Western Australia, 1829–1994, University of Western Australia Press (Nedlands, Australia), 1993.

(With Andy Collins) A Club for All Seasons: The Story of the Wembley Athletic Club, 1926–1996, Wembley Athletic Club (Perth, Australia), 1996.

(Editor, with Ross Fitzgerald) Fathers in Writing, Tuart House (Nedlands, Australia), 1997.

Diehards: The Story of the Subiaco Football Club, Subiaco Football Club (Perth, Australia), Volume 1: 1896–1945, 1998, Volume 2: 1946–2000, 2000.

Small Packages: A Centenary Celebration: West Leederville Primary School, 1898–1998, West Leederville Primary School (Perth, Australia), 1998.

Silver Celebration: Twenty-five Years of the Graduate College of Dance, 1973–1998, Graduate College of Dance (Perth, Australia), 1998.

Blue: A Novel, Fremantle Arts Centre Press (South Fremantle, Australia), 1999.

Ker-pow (short film), JumpFront, 2000.

(With Jon Doust) Magpie Mischief, Fremantle Arts Centre Press (Fremantle, Australia), 2002.

"Life Was Meant to Be Here": Community and Local Government in the Shire of Mundaring, Shire of Mundaring (Perth, Australia), 2003.

(With Jasmina Brankovich and John McIlwraith) The MERIWA Effect: A History of the Minerals and Energy Research Institute of Western Australia, University of Western Australia Press (Nedlands, Australia), 2003.

The Dreamkeepers: Tokyu Corporation's First 30 Years in Western Australia, Tokyu Corporation (Perth, Australia), 2005.

(With Jon Doust) Magwheel Madness, Fremantle Arts Centre Press (Fremantle, Australia) 2005.

Hands to the Plough: The Shire of Victoria Plains since 1945, Shire of Victoria Plains (Calingiri, Australia), 2005.

Raising Edith: The Transformation of a New Generation University: Edith Cowan University, 1995–2005, Edith Cowan University (Perth, Australia), 2006.

Tales of a Singular City: Subiaco since the 1970s, City of Subiaco (Perth, Australia), 2006.

Love Is UFO, Pan Macmillan (Sydney, Australia), 2007.

For the Good of Many: A History of the Australian Pensioners' League, Retirees WA (Perth, Australia), 2007.

Contributor (under pseudonym Kenneth Gaunt) to The State of the Art: The Mood of Contemporary Australia in Short Stories, 1983. Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including Bulletin, West Australian, Westerly, Southerly, Poetry Australia, Patterns, and Poetique (Brussels, Belgium); some of these also appeared under the Gaunt pseudonym.

SIDELIGHTS: Ken Spillman's writing career began with the publication of poetry and short stories in a number of Australian magazines and journals. His early work, Identity Prized: A History of Subiaco, uses his extensive research of the history and development of Western Australian towns to describe the growth of a town of 15,000 inhabitants into a "trendy suburb." According to Arnold R. Pilling, a reviewer in Reviews in Anthropology, Identity Prized is a "scholarly effort" rich with interviews and historical and cultural contexts. Although written in a "non-anthropologic" way, Pilling pointed out the matter-of-factness of the 150-year history of the town so near Perth, a town once home to "retired workers" and which has developed into "an abode for a new generation of upwardly mobile middle-class couples." Published when the author was twenty-five, Identity Prized won two major Australian literary awards and established Spillman's reputation as a historical commentator.

Spillman's early fiction, written under the pseudonym Kenneth Gaunt, was featured in The State of the Art: The Mood of Contemporary Australia in Short Stories, published in 1983. His first novel, Blue: A Novel, is a collection of interconnecting stories exploring the lives of a half-dozen characters. According to Terri-ann White, a reviewer in Australian Book Review, Blue "is a fascinating project" that "captur[es] some of the movement of becoming an adult." White noted "the ease with which Spillman moves through the streets" and the characters' lives. A reviewer for Melbourne's Herald Sun described Blue as "a warm, perceptive reflection on growing up in the 90s" and "a thoroughly satisfying read." Jennifer Moran of the Canberra Times wrote that "the narratives, circumstances, and dialogue seem wholly authentic: the stories have the carefully observed detail that buttresses believability." David Cohen, reviewing for the West Australian, praised Blue as "a wonderful book and true literary experience." Carmel Macdonald Grahame, writing for Westerly, stated that Blue is "a young adult novel in the way Catcher in the Rye is—the market-driven category does not apply."

Spillman collaborated with Ross Fitzgerald on The Greatest Game and Fathers in Writing. The Greatest Game is a collection of writing on Australian rules football. Sydney Morning Herald reviewer Norman Abjorensen described it as "a fish-eye lens view of the game as culture, as sport, as spectacle, as social phenomenon." Fathers in Writing is a collection of pieces on fathers and fatherhood, and was selected by the Weekend Australian as one of the best books of 1997.

A prolific Australian literary critic, Spillman has reviewed almost 300 books for the West Australian and other journals since 1990. While he continued to write social history and to develop an interest in film writing, Spillman's major focus became fiction. Spillman once told CA: "My primary interest has always been storytelling, and I have a strong sense of audience. My literary heroes include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Vikram Seth and Gabriel Garcia Marquéz, but I equally admire contemporary writers who deal with life's big issues yet appeal to a wide readership. In recent years I have particularly enjoyed novels by Lars Gustafsson, Armistead Maupin, Rohinton Mistry, Rosie Scott, and Dirk Wittenborn, as well as books for young adults by Nick Earls and Scot Gardner.

"When I was fifteen, my English teacher gave me the option of going off alone to write stories instead of attending class. He commented on my work in depth, developed my sense of the power of words and gave me the confidence to keep writing and work toward publication. Much of my current fiction is directed at the young people, and Love Is a UFO particularly reflects my commitment to encouraging imagination and affirming the value of creativity among children and teenagers. In my nonfiction work, I argue the value of empathy, tolerance and community service—and I sometimes dare to hope that the cumulative effect of my writing will be to make the world a more caring place attaching a greater value to the arts and creativity in general."



Australian Book Review, April, 1999, Terri-ann White, "Easy Streets," p. 31.

Canberra Times, February 27, 1999, Jennifer Moran, "All Tangled Up in Blue."

Melbourne Herald Sun, March 6, 1999, "Off the Shelf."

Reviews in Anthropology, January, 1991, Arnold R. Pilling, "Australian Local and Regional Histories as Anthropological Works," pp. 17-27.

Sydney Morning Herald, May 14, 1988, Norman Abjorensen, "Up There with the Gods."

West Australian, February 20, 1999, David Cohen, "Blue Blood in the Suburbs," p. 7; June 22, 2002, Lucy Sussex, "Bookbites."

Westerly, November, 2000, Carmel Macdonald Grahame, "Acts of Noticing: A Consideration of Some Recent Australian Fiction," pp. 23-36.