Williams, Darren 1967-

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WILLIAMS, Darren 1967-

PERSONAL: Born 1967, in Australia; married; wife's name, Santina (a policy officer for Queensland government);

ADDRESSES: Home—Sydney, Australia. Offıce—c/o Author Mail, Random House, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.

CAREER: Novelist.

AWARDS, HONORS: Australian Vogel Literary Award, 1994, for Swimming in Silk.


Swimming in Silk, Allen and Unwin (St. Leonards, New South Wales, Australia), 1995.

Angel Rock, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: Darren Williams is a novelist whose first book, Swimming in Silk, was published to wide critical acclaim in Australia. His second novel, Angel Rock, reaffirmed Williams as a talented writer. According to David English in the Sydney Morning Herald, Williams' most promising gift as a writer is his "evocation of place, the Australian rural hinterland and how life is there." Williams grew up in the timberland country of New South Wales, Australia.

While still in the manuscript stage, Williams' first novel Swimming in Silk won the Australian/Vogel Award, which is given to a writer under thirty-five years of age for an original unpublished manuscript and includes a $20,000 Australian cash prize. The novel was published the next year and received widespread favorable reviews. As described by Nigel Krauth in the Australian Book Review, it is "a multifaceted narrative set in the hippie landscape of northern New South Wales. Hypnotic, floating, enigmatic, it traces several days in the lives of a brother and sister brought back together by the impending death of their grandfather." In addition to siblings Cliff and Susan, the novel's primary characters include Cliff's old friend, Daniel, and Daniel's lover, Jade. The four hang out together for several idyllic days as they confront their real-life problems, live out their fantasies, and explore friendship, loyalty, desire, and family ties.

A reviewer writing in Publishers Weekly called the novel "baffling, because there's little distinction between actual events and the fantasies of characters." The reviewer noted that "Williams does have talent—particularly in describing setting and feelings of his characters" but said that the book lacks a "compelling plot." In his Australian Book Review article Krauth called the novel "hypnotic" and found the plot intriguing. "How did he seemingly cast aside plot and character and build a narrative out of setting?," asked Krauth. He went on to say, "There is no pinning this novel down. Every aspect of it is a jig-saw puzzling." Krauth concluded his piece by noting that although the two runner-ups for the Vogel Prize had "marvelous voices," their books reminded him of "certainties." He continued, "That was wonderful. But Darren Williams made me think of possibilities. That was hypnotic."

Despite the success of Swimming in Silk and its award of Australia's most distinguished literary prize, Williams struggled to get his next novel published. Living in London while his wife supported them on a social worker's wage, Williams found writing the book to be a long, laborious, and painful process. "Through 1996 and 1997 I had a lot of false starts and ideas . . . but I didn't know how to place them together," said Williams in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald. When he did finally take the completed manuscript to agents, no one was interested in publishing it. When one agent said they would be interested in his next effort, Williams was on the verge of giving up. As he recalled in the Sydney Morning Herald: "I thought, 'There is no next one. This is it. If this isn't it, then I'd better look for another career.' I'd sacrificed income for four years, my wife had made a lot of sacrifices, and I wasn't prepared to just keep on doing that."

Williams eventually found a book agent who helped him pull the manuscript together into the 2002 novel Angel Rock, which introduced Williams to American readers. Set in a community like the one Williams grew up in, the novel centers on the disappearance of four-year-old Flynn, who goes out for a walk with his older brother Tom, but never returns. The town of Angel Rock tumbles into turmoil, and fuel is added to the fire when one of Tom's friends is found dead, the victim of an apparent suicide. When the local sheriff's investigation turns up nothing, an out-of-town detective named Gibson, who is battling his own demons, comes on the scene and uncovers a town infested by jealous rivalries.

Writing on the dotlit Web site, Neil Foster called Angel Rock a "blend of literary and genre fiction" that combines a "coming-of-age story" with a "conventional mystery thriller." Foster also said, "Each character in Angel Rock is searching, physically and metaphysically; for the missing boys, for ways of coping when only one is found, for answers to life, for the meaning to suppressed memories, for forgiveness and redemption." Writing in Bookpage, contributor Mike Watt commented that Angel Rock "is less a mystery than an intense study of the town itself." He went on to note that "The mystery of the story is what keeps the pages turning, but the strength of the characters is what holds the reader's attention." A reviewer writing in Publishers Weekly remarked, "The shocking ending packs a major wallop, establishing Williams as a writer with a formidable array of skills, including the ability to twist both his plots and the genre in some startling, unexpected directions." Calling the novel an "affecting work" in a review for the Times Literary Supplement, Royce Mahawatte concluded, "An examination of male sentiments through the harshness of the bush or rural experience, Angel Rock has strengths which lie not in the tale itself but in the telling."



Australian Book Review, September, 1995, Nigel Krauth, "Which Is Worst? Winning the Vogel, Not Winning It, or Judging It?" pp. 45-47.

Booklist, June 1, 2002, Kristine Huntley, review of Angel Rock, p. 1689.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2002, review of Angel Rock, p. 611.

New York Times, July 14, 2002, Taylor Antrim, review of Angel Rock, p. 20.

Publishers Weekly, March 11, 1996, review of Swimming in Silk, p. 56; May 27, 2002, review of Angel Rock, p. 35.

Times Literary Supplement, July 19, 2002, Royce Mahawatte, "Death in the Bush," p. 24.


BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (October 23, 2002), Mike Watt, review of Angel Rock.

dotlit Web site,http://www.dotlit.qut.edu.au/ (January 7, 2003), Neil Foster, review of Angel Rock.

Sydney Morning Herald,http://www.smh.com.au/ (April 13, 2002), David English, review of Angel Rock; (May 4, 2002) "Lost and Found."*

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