Forgot Your Username and Password? Click here.

Podcasts Historical Fiction

  Good Reading Podcast logoClick here to return to the Podcast Homepage


The Paris Bookseller

Kerri Maher on the history-making life of Sylvia Beach in The Paris Bookseller

When Sylvia Beach opens an English-language bookshop on the bohemian Left Bank, Sylvia cannot know she is making literary history. Shakespeare and Company soon becomes the meeting place for emerging writers and a second home for the American Lost Generation living in Paris.

Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound are frequent visitors and profound friendships blossom within the welcoming and tolerant atmosphere of this unique bookstore. None more so than that between James Joyce and Sylvia Beach. When Joyce's controversial novel Ulysses is banned, Beach takes on the task of publishing the most infamous book of the century but at deep personal cost.

In this episode Gregory Dobbs chats to Kerri Maher about the real Sylvia Beach, walking the line between fact and fiction, and finding the real people behind the towering literary legacy of some of the greatest writers of the 20th century.


'There was a need to finish what Tilly Dunnage started' - Rosalie Ham on The Dressmaker's Secret 

It is 1953 and Melbourne society is looking forward to coronation season, the grand balls and celebrations for the young queen-to-be. Tilly Dunnage is, however, working for a pittance in a second-rate Collins Street salon. Her talents go unappreciated, and the madame is a bully and a cheat, but Tilly has a past she is desperate to escape and good reason to prefer anonymity.

Meanwhile, Sergeant Farrat and the McSwiney clan have been searching for their resident dressmaker ever since she left Dungatar in flames. And they aren't the only ones. The inhabitants of the town are still out for revenge (or at least someone to foot the bill for the new high street). So when Tilly's name starts to feature in the fashion pages, the jig is up. Along with Tilly's hopes of keeping her secrets hidden...

In this episode, author Rosalie Ham joins Gregory Dobbs to chat about returning to Tilly Dunnage and the residents of Dungatar, 20 years after readers were first introduced.


Meg Keneally on confronting (and escaping) the past in her colonial-era novel The Wreck

In 1820 Sarah McCaffrey, fleeing arrest for her part in a failed rebellion, thinks she has escaped when she finds herself aboard the Serpent, bound from London to the colony of New South Wales. But when the mercurial captain's actions drive the ship into a cliff, Sarah is the only survivor. Adopting a false identity, she becomes the right-hand woman of Molly Thistle, who has grown her late husband's business interests into a sprawling real estate and trade empire. As time passes, Sarah begins to believe she might have found a home - until her past follows her across the seas ...

In this episode, Meg Keneally joins Greg Dobbs to chat about her new historical fiction novel The Wreck.

Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick on changing Australia's history in On a Barbarous Coast

On a night of raging winds and rain, Captain Cook's Endeavour lies splintered on a coral reef off the coast of far north Australia. A small disparate band of survivors, fracturing already, huddle on the shore of this strange land - their pitiful salvage scant protection from the dangers of the unknown creatures and natives that live here.

Watching these mysterious white beings, the Guugu Yimidhirr people cannot decide if they are ancestor spirits to be welcomed - or hostile spirits to be speared. One headstrong young boy, Garrgiil, determines to do more than watch and to be the one to find out what exactly they are.

In On a Barbarous Coast, Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick tell a story of what might have been if things went a little differently. The pair joined Max Lewis to chat about creating fiction from reality, and the importance of Indigenous perspective when it comes to the discovery of this land.

The Dictionary of Lost Words


Pip Williams on missing words and forgotten women in The Dictionary of Lost Words

In 1901, the word bondmaid was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it.

Motherless and irrepressibly curious, Esme spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of lexicographers are gathering words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary.

Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day, she sees a slip containing the word bondmaid flutter to the floor unclaimed. Esme seizes the word and hides it in an old wooden trunk that belongs to her friend, Lizzie, a young servant in the big house. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. She begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.

In this episode, Pip Williams joins Greg Dobbs to share the true stories (and real women) behind the first Oxford dictionary, and how they informed her latest book.


Lauren Chater on telling the untold story of a classic in 'Gulliver's Wife'

From the author of 'The Lace Weaver' comes a new historical fiction novel, drawing from the unseen character of a Jonathan Swift's classic 'Gulliver's Travels'.

London, 1702. When her husband is lost at sea, Mary Burton Gulliver, midwife and herbalist, is forced to rebuild her life without him. But three years later when Lemuel Gulliver is brought home, fevered and communicating only in riddles, her ordered world is turned upside down.



The Darkest Shore by Karen Brooks


Karen Brooks on unearthing forgotten women in her bewitching historical novel The Darkest Shore
1703: The wild east coast of Scotland.

Returning to her home town of Pittenweem, fishwife and widow Sorcha McIntyre knows she faces both censure and mistrust. After all, this is a country where myth and legend are woven into the fabric of the everyday, a time when those who defy custom like Sorcha has are called to account.

Based on the shocking true story of the witch hunt of Pittenweem, The Darkest Shore is a beautifully written historical tale of the strength of women united against a common foe, by one of Australia's finest writers - Karen Brooks.

Emma Harvey chatted to Karen about how her history in the army inspired her love of maps, representing the women ignored by history, rude Scottish booksellers, and the novelty mug her step-mother hates.



Anita Abriel on the true story of survival and hope in The Light After the War

Anita Abriel based The Light After The War on her mother Vera's experiences of surviving the holocaust and carving out a new life for herself in Naples, Venezuela and finally Sydney.

Max Lewis chatted to Anita about the personal story behind the book, her experiences in writing her first historical fiction novel, and the powers of love and fate in her writing.




Katherine Johnson on the hidden history of 19th century human zoos

Paris Savages is a fictional account of events from the late 19th century when human zoos were big business across Europe. It follows the journey of three Indigenous Australians from the Badtjala tribe of Fraser Island who make the perilous journey to Germany and France where they are admired, feared and exploited for mass entertainment masquerading as science and education.

In this complex and powerful story, layers of history are carefully peeled back to reveal a hidden world driven by profit and racism. Gregory Dobbs talks to award-winning author Katherine Johnson about the real people behind the story of Paris Savages.


Heather Morris on the woman who survived Auschwitz and a Siberian Gulag

Cilka Klein is just sixteen years old when she is sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Constantly in the shadow of death she quickly learns that survival comes at a price. She eventually finds herself imprisoned in the Russian gulag where survival is no less easy.

In this sequel to the international best-seller The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris explains how this heart-breaking story came to be. Gregory Dobbs talks to Heather about the research, how she found the story and the real person behind Cilka's Journey.

Tidelands Philippa Gregory


Philippa Gregory: 'It’s extraordinary how little ordinary women have been recorded in history.'

Join Emma Harvey as she chats with the cover star of our September issue, Philippa Gregory, about her spectacular new series that exchanges the prosperity of the royal courts for the tidal marshes of 15th century Southern England.


'We prefer to forget': Armando Lucas Correa on the doomed voyage of the S.S. St. Louis

When he was ten years old, Armando Lucas Correa’s grandmother told him: ‘Cuba is going to pay very dearly for what they did to the Jewish refugees.’

She was referring specifically to the 1939 voyage of the St. Louis, an ocean liner that transported 937 Jewish refugees out of Nazi Germany to Havana, Cuba. Upon their arrival, the Cuban government refused to accept the passengers, and the United States and Canada also denied them entry. When the war broke out, 254 St. Louis passengers were killed in the Holocaust.

In this podcast, award-winning journalist and writer Armando Lucas Correa talks to Gregory Dobbs about the second instalment in his bestselling historical fiction trilogy, 'The Daughter’s Tale,' which continues to chronicle one of the most harrowing atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis during World War II.



Alli Sinclair on how scaling mountains turned her into a storyteller

In 1994, location scout Claire Montgomery is trying to secure permission to shoot a TV show at a historic art deco cinema near a country town in Northern Queensland. In 1950, we meet Lena Lee, an ambitious Hollywood actress holding out for bigger roles and better characters, who is challenged by the male-dominated film industry and a scandalous affair.

In her decade-spanning new novel The Cinema at Starlight Creek, author Alli Sinclair asks one question: 'How far would you go to follow your dream?' In conversation with Angus Dalton, Alli tells us about exploring Hollywood in two different decades, scaling mountains, and writing romance.


The Turn of Midnight


MINETTE WALTERS on the silver lining of the Black Death

What do you get when you put the story of history's greatest pandemic in the hands of the Queen of Crime? Something truly un-put-downable.

Minette Walters had sold over 25 million crime thriller novels when she stopped writing in 2007. In the midst of a 10-year hiatus, she made a grisly discovery in her town near Dorset, UK. That discovery inspired her new series about the Black Death that follows a heretical young woman, Lady Anne, as she defies the church to protect her people.