The Ozone Cafe – fact or fiction?

I grew up on The Central Coast of NSW, (a fictional setting for the novel). I stayed until the age of eighteen or so, and moved down to Sydney working in the Bank of New South Wales.  When I heard of the Ozone Cafe’s demise I set about writing the story about the life inside the cafe and its three separate fictional owners. Fact or fiction? I think I came close to telling the story of this unavoidable architectural loss.

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My latest novel, The Ozone Café, published by Adelaide Books, New York USA on 14th December is available to readers on Amazon Australia.  I can also visit book clubs and notes on the storyline can be provided. Contact Helen @ hagemann(dot)helen(at)gmail(dot)com – See my page Book Clubs.

Satara Bay NSW, 1957 and the Ozone Café is a newly built three story café adjacant to the beach and esplanade. A few months before the cafe was built, its first owner Vincenzo Polamo befriends three children, including Nicolas Battersby who is in a wheelchair. The connection of the children lasts throughout the novel including the eldest, Winifred. She becomes the driving force behind the events of three separate owners; firstly Vincenzo Polamo, Joe Pendlbury and finally the Greek boys, Con & Dion Lasaridis. The narrative, however, is not only about the occupiers of the cafe, but also about its demise through council corruption.

The Ozone Café is an exploration of power and control and of those who survive the most powerless of unfair situations. It is a David and Goliath story; the café just as fragile as the people who inhabit it, does not survive while Shire authorities prepare to tear it down. One small glimmer of hope remains – a surviving last piece of the Ozone Café.

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The Personal Story behind The Ozone Café

The Personal Story behind the Ozone Café



The black & white photographs might reveal a little of the setting of my 2nd novel The Ozone Café.  The literary world often states for writers, “write what you know”. I have used my hometown in the setting of the novel, however the names have been changed to protect…yes no novelist wants to be sued or face undue litigation esp. when one writes about a corrupt shire. It was common knowledge in the area, that because the Ozone Café sat on prime property (a stone’s throw from the beach), it attracted the moguls and thus disappeared through dubious means.

Ettalong was and has always been a small community lifestyle: a population of less than 5,000, an older community with shopfronts like the cake shop, chemist, newsagents, banks and supermarket. It hasn’t changed in 50 years. There’s fishing, prawning, oysters in the myriad of waterways that is known as Broken Bay which sprawls to Gosford and is known as the Brisbane Water District. What has replaced the café is a very large monolith resort-type building that I understand is not liked nor valued by the locals. Well, it’s a holiday venue for the “rich”.

I went to Ettalong Primary, and then later attended Gosford High School. As a teenager and even younger I frequented the café with girlfriends, esp.one in particular named, Heather. We would have a milkshake, buy lollies, click on the jukebox and if we had any money left we’d slide a twenty shilling piece into one of the pinball machines. Looking back, it was actually a challenge to enter the Ozone café as it was daily occupied by Bodgies and Widgies. They were the rock-n-roll gangs of the sixties, rather harmless, but I guess it was the leather jackets, the chewing gum and sneers that made you feel uncomfortable. Nevertheless, the café was so close to the beach, that after a swim  being hungry we often bought an icy-pole or ice-cream. So, my local teenage haunt was a vivid memory that I would never forget.

When my younger brother, still living in the area, told me that the Ozone had been pulled down, I wanted to write the story of life inside its walls and its ultimate destruction.

The Ozone Café, with three separate owners therefore, is the nemesis of my story and its demise through council corruption.

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The Ozone Café is out now!

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Available on Amazon Australia and in the US – Available on Amazon.com 

Also available on Publisher’s Website @ Adelaide Books, New York

Soon as an ebook / Kindle on Amazon.com

The Ozone Café, a historical novel with three separate owners, is about the café’s demise through council corruption.

Vincenzo Polamo, a Calabrian, builds the Ozone Café with his builder-brother in 1957 in fictional Satara Bay. He meets three children, Winifred, Casey, and Nicolas, creating a seascape mural on a café wall that includes them. The café changes from Italian to Australian cuisine. However, due to long hours of hard work and Vincenzo’s wife unwilling to migrate to Australia, Vincenzo sells the café.

Joe Pendlebury suffers setbacks with too few customers, poor health and problems due to a violent storm causing structural damage close to the mural.  In major scenes, Pendlebury goes missing, and Nicolas dies from muscular dystrophy, heightening Winifred’s concerns to keep the mural sacred.

Con & Dion Lasaridis experience problems with the damage. Unable to convince the Heytesbury Shire the café is sound after a rebuild, they lose ownership in a court battle; the Shire evoking a Demolition Order, 1946. The Lasaridis believe this is due to an undercurrent of well-known council corruption; Mayor Tyrone being a principal player in corrupt land and property dealings. Vincenzo (et al) removes the mural reinstating it at his home. The mural becomes a lasting memorial to Nicolas Battersby, as well as the sole surviving piece of The Ozone Café.

The Ozone Cafe- 2nd novel forthcoming

Updated_CoverA little History of The Ozone Café

One of the most satisfying things about getting a novel published is that finally all your hard work comes to fruition. My second novel is due for publication in December and will be available in Australia sometime in February (approx.).

The Ozone Café has been 11 years in the making. I started first drafts back in 2010 and later in 2011 worked on the manuscript when in residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Newbliss, Ireland. In 2015 I was still working on the novel while in residency at the Arvon Foundation in Shropshire, England.

Thanks to Adelaide Books in New York, the story of the demise of the café will arise like the Phoenix and be available for interested readers, esp. for those good townsfolk in my hometown Ettalong, Woy Woy, Ocean Beach and Umina. I joined a Facebook page called Good Old Woy Woy and so I have been posting news of me writing the novel, albeit not the “TRUE” story of the café’s demise. My postings generated over 350 likes and an amazing amount of comments by folks who frequented the café. I have stressed that my book is a fictional characterization of several owners, the third losing the café through no fault of their own. At the time back in 2010, I didn’t know that the café was built by a Razor Gang criminal known as Phil (the Jew) Jeffs in the 1930s. That could be a non-fiction book by possibly a future author, but not me. I have written about my teenage memories and included some great landmarks of the area.

The Ozone Café was a teenage haunt of mine where a girlfriend and I used to have a milkshake, play the jukebox, snooker and pinball machines (when we had money!). When I got married and left for Western Australia, my brother, still living in the Central Coast, told me that the café had disappeared from the landscape. It was common knowledge at the time that corrupt officials in association with others in the Memorial Club were responsible. Therefore, it became an idea to write about the disappearance of the café and its imagined early life and owners. As a kid, I didn’t even know that we had such an infamous crook in the area, nor did we really appreciate the architectural significance of such a beautiful building.

My only hope is that all those who walked the floors of the Ozone will like the story and may bring back memories of their youth.

Ettalong

My experience with KIRKUS REVIEWS – did not have a pleasant experience!

This post is mainly to alert Australian authors about my unpleasant experience using the services of Kirkus Reviews to attract a national, US or international readership.

You may have seen the Australian eBay advertisement on TV called eBay Tuesday where customers who do not use eBay are insulted. The actor’s spiel is a mantra called, RIPPED OFF, ROZ.  Let me tell you if I were to do an advertisement on KIRKUS REVIEWS I would use the same spiel, yes – this author is a RIPPED OFF, ROZ!

Several, well in the main, disadvantages that I have faced by getting published in the United States, New York City, has been due to COVID,  the lockdowns, its restrictions, and the disadvantages of being unable to achieve an American promotion of my novel over there.

Unable to travel to New York, I sought the services of KIRKUS REVIEWS.  Firstly, I paid for a review. It was so, so. In the opening sentence, my young couple were “feckless”. The rest was slighly positive, except for the very negative comment by the reviewer saying it was : An often entertaining, if unevenly executed, tale of the extraordinary lengths that people can go in pursuit of their dreams.

That didn’t bode well for me, since the idea of a review is to sell the book, esp. in the US. I thanked Kirkus Reviews for their effort, but $400 later, I now realise I was a RIPPED OFF, ROZ!

My other effort was to place a book advert on their website. $1,600 later, I was again a RIPPED OFF, ROZ!  Not only didn’t the ad appear the first time, the 2nd time on contacting them asking for a refund, OR what transpired was a second screening in November. Again, the advertisement was meant to show on several pages, as follows, Homepage 970×250: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/ (third integrated) – Review pages 970×250: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/discover-books/fiction  (third integrated) – News and Features 970×250: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/news-and-features/genres/fiction/ (third integrated)  and Book List 970×250: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-lists/ (third integrated). However, it only appeared a couple of times on “DISCOVER BOOKS” – a quick flash and it was gone! (some sort of page rotation system). I spent hours scrolling through only to find it twice above a novel by Isabel Allende.

I have since written to Kirkus, complained that the ad should have been a fixed/static showing for 2 weeks, and asked the ad girl to let the company know about my book ad expectations and criticisms. Of course, a RIPPED OFF, ROZ, should not complain to an American Company – how dare she!

So folks, save your money. Don’t use KIRKUS REVIEWS as your book advertisement will only be  a quick “FLASH IN THE PAN”,  that neither ‘you” or ‘book buyers’ will see.

Acceptance into KSP’s Fellowship 2022

I have recently received the good news of an acceptance into KSP’s fellowship program 2022. They state on their website “The KSP Writers’ Centre is proud to host this annual fellowship program for adult authors, providing placements for dedicated aspiring, emerging and established writers looking to develop a writing project.” The importance is that the writers’ centre offers space and time which benefits the author to sink deeply into their work or project. I am always very grateful for any assistance this provides as when one writes at home it is not always productive. At least this is my experience. The concentration away is vital. The quiet and contemplative environment is essential. The host and the membership who visit the centre are vital to a writer’s well-being. You are being supported for your art. This support does not always come from your family, not even from your neighbours who appear to dismiss your success (or perhaps they don’t understand). Having said that, however, writing colleages send ‘congratulations’, close friends also and your previous book buyers gradually understand and learn that you are committed and dedicated to your craft. I’ve had comments such as “you never give up” or “there’s no stopping you, hey” which confirms they see that you’re in the process of production. And that production is a book.

I believe my success has been based on the project submitted.

I am writing a third novel which is domestic noir/crime titled “The Tattooed City or Tattoo City” – a working title.

PREMISE: Recently widowed Clare Landers struggles financially and emotionally after the death of her husband. She aims to meet another man to support her family’s lifestyle. In a series of misadventures esp. commencing with online dating, Clare discovers that matters of the heart are fraught with problems. Her dalliance with men goes from bad to worse. After futile dates with incompatible, bad men and not finding love online, Clare tries an overseas cruise, various clubs, and finally engages house maintenance men. A garden maintenance man ie arborist proves to be a besotted menace, ultimately obsessed and threatening. Ignoring his advances, his phone calls and texts, he stalks her constantly. She buys a gun and learns how to shoot it by joining a gun club on weekends. There is a parallel story of various murders in the novel. Police characters Sergeant Max Shultz and Detective Angela Macri investigate tattooed corpses that are being dragged from various Perth and metropolitan waterways. The juxtaposition of dead tattooed bodies aligns at the end of the novel with Clare’s stalker being found dead. The police drag his decayed body from one of the city’s muddy creeks. However, he is not shot, but rather his neck has been garotted, similar to the other murdered tattooed bodies.

Against Certain Capture on Rochford Street Review

Mytime@Varuna

Against Certain Capture: my review at Rochford Street Journal

With some very good advice from BookBub Partners, I called for reviews of my novel The Last Asbestos Town. Lucky for me, a poet who I’ve known since university days, Miriam Wei Wei Lo, brilliantly suggested that we swap reviews of our books; hers being poetry. I think I drew the shortest straw and was able to read her collection in a matter of days. Miriam had the task of reading a novel. No matter, we each enjoyed the works and of course wrote those very important reviews.

Rochford Street Review had previously published the launch speeches of my novel by Richard Regan and Leanne Searle a while back and so I made that earlier connection with Mark Roberts, the Editor. He often publishes launch speeches of poetry collections and to my surprise wanted to feature The Last Asbestos Town.

I have often wondered where this connection came from. Did I meet Mark Roberts while being at Varuna in 2008? His review journal is based in the Blue Mountains where I spent a week after winning a Macquarie/Longlines Poetry Award. Does he recognise me from this time? Or is he an egalitarian when it comes to Australian literature? I rather believe the latter, pinioning Mark as a rare breed who sets himself apart from the populist, Eastern States centric journalism that favours E.S. publications and writers. Any West Australian writer will tell you how hard it is to crack into the market of most Australian journals. Those prime ones being the Australian Book Review, the Sydney Review of Books, and journals such as Meanjin, Southerly, Quadrant, and Overland.

So, I deeply value Mark Roberts and the Rochford Street Journal. His support is invaluable, revealing WA writers such as myself, Miriam Wei Wei Lo, her collection Against Certain Capture and my novel. I am also chuffed that he has published my review of Lo’s collection, verbatim, as well as giving me the opportunity to include my bio, that showcases my current work.

CRIME FOR NOVEL NO. 3

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“No sign of the intestines that had vanished from Quine’s body, nor of any forensic evidence that would have pegged the potential killer (for he knew that a rogue hair or print would surely have prevented yesterday’s fruitless interrogation of Leonora). No appeals for further sightings of the concealed figure who had entered the building shortly before Quine had died.”
― Robert Galbraith, Silkworm

My second novel, The Ozone Cafe, touches on white collar crime, however, crime writing is not really my area of expertise. I’m wondering if J.K.Rowling thought the same when she decided to pen her Cormoran Strike crime novels by Robert Galbraith. I’m not going to write under a pseudonym, but, as one does, you learn as you go. I am attempting a Domestic Noir / Crime novel as my third work of fiction.

My working title is The Tattooed City, the setting is Perth and surrounds, and especially includes dead tattooed bodies being recovered from various waterways. My protagoniist is Clare, newly widowed, and it’s her story with alternate crime chapters, mainly as a backdrop to a mysterious death and crimes that are indicative of a capital city. I have loosely plotted the novel, developing family characters early on, but for the life of me I will not know where this story will go. As they say, sometimes characters take over, sometimes your best intentions and storyline take several twists and turns and like my first novel, The Last Asbestos Town, I know I will have fun writing this one.

I have two police characters in mind. Sergeant Max Schultz and Detective Angela Macri. Although I have watched a slew of TV crime series, like SBS’s Nordic Crime Noir, countless BBC series, esp with James Nesbitt, Midsomer Murders and also Australian crime series like Jack Irish and Mystery Road to name just a few, writing scenes of dead bodies floating in the river, lakes and streams, will be the ultimate test. I have often wondered, do the bodies float face up or face down? Why do they surface even if the corpse has ingested an enormous weight of water far heavier than their body weight?

Research is the key. I am currently reading two books by Robert Galbraith, The Silkworm and The Cuckoo’s Calling, also Crimson Lake by Candice Fox.

REVIEW OF COMPLICITY CITY by Guy Salvidge

 An Enthralling Read – Due August 2021

Complicity City is the story of one woman’s pursuit for justice. Klara has died from an overdose of drugs and alcohol, and her best friend, Lesley, believes she’s been murdered rather than taking her own life.

Lesley wants revenge as she sets out on a quest to find out who has been complicit in the committing of this crime. Her days are spent determined to uncover the reason for Klara’s death. Lesley devotes her time to pursuing Patrick a guy she has had a brief relationship with and who has spurned her for Klara. She vehemently believes that he is responsible for her demise. Early in the narrative, his reputation precedes him as a sleazy, rich, misogynistic Irishman.

Through quick, page-turning chapters, we discover that Lesley, Patrick and Klara, before her death, all work in the same company, yet when a meeting is called, Patrick is nowhere in sight. Searching for the man at his home address, Lesley meets Maria, Patrick’s Filipina housekeeper. In the following scenes, Lesley learns from Maria about the debauchery going on under Patrick’s roof. The latest is a consensual ménage à trois of sexual activities between Klara (last known sighting), Patrick and a so-called Tony. She becomes suspicious and more aware of the possible dangers that Klara faced, especially involving herself as a dominatrix in this illicit underworld of a corrupt, male-pimping culture. It is basically a man’s club where the most depraved of sexual acts, BDSM and sado-masochism are enacted. The club is called the Knights of Apollo, a boy’s club where many scurrilous acts occur ‘after a few too many sherbets of an evening.’ However, further in, more detail emerges about these characters that inhabit this underworld. It is a world of crime, company fraud, embezzlement, sex trafficking and rape.

Without revealing too much for the reader, one main character remains a constant focus, Klara’s brother, Frank. When Lesley visits Klara’s home in Piara Waters, she meets Frank, a man on the edge of drugs, booze and trying to get sober. He is also like-minded about his sister’s death, both agreeing it’s not suicide. He remains her sidekick until the very end.

There are parallels of China Miéville’s The City & The City with themes of a hidden or unseen city where the two exist in the same physical space, including a murder and an uncovering of the mystery. Salvidge’s Complicity City of Perth juxtaposes a picturesque river town of pelicans, white swans and cranes with a menacing, degenerative social world of sex, albeit power and control, and also a dead girl. The story reveals that Klara works as a dominatrix to supplement her income, but being involved in this sleazy, working environment in order to save for her own home, ultimately has its consequences.

Other characters are involved in Patrick’s life of crime, his henchman Sando, Royce who works for the company he embezzles, and his accountant Bill Darko. In her search, Lesley meets Bill Darko’s wife, Anna, and both try to find the missing housekeeper, Maria. In her attempts for the truth, without the aid of the police, Lesley’s travels begin at the heart of her concern, become all time consuming, then circular. We are led on a road map from one environment to another, from suburbs to freeways, from houses to a character’s business or workplace. In final scenes we move to a disused railway tunnel and a killing.

Salvidge’s writing bursts with energy and suspense and his chosen words exemplify the seedy underworld that is on display. His descriptions of the city are pictorial and his action scenes are both authentic and cinematic, which makes the reader imagine this book as a TV series or movie.

Guy Salvidge is one of Western Australia’s young and up-coming writers. He’s published widely, and is active in the Susannah Prichard Writers Centre where he gives his time in helping others. His first novel is The Kingdom of Four Rivers, 2009. His second novel Yellowcake Springs won the 2011 IP Picks Best Fiction Award, and in 2012 it was short-listed for the Norma K. Hemming Award for speculative fiction in Australia. Yellowcake Summer followed closely behind and was a Winner (Best Fiction) in the IP Rolling Picks 2013.  I look forward to his next enjoyable work which I understand is an historical novel set in Tasmania.

Helen Hagemann

M. Lo’s Review of The Last Asbestos Town

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I’m going to include the review, verbatim. One thing I have noticed is that no 2 reviews of my novel are alike. Somehow, readers have viewed the story on many and different levels. I like Miriam Wei Wei Lo’s review and will need to take her advice about predicability. I didn’t see that coming!

*The Last Asbestos Town* is the first novel by poet Helen Hagemann. A young couple, May and Isaac leave the city for the South-West. They buy a house in a country town only to discover that it is haunted and potentially made of asbestos. Their biggest external challenge is with asbestos-removal bureaucrats who want to evict them and tear down their house. The biggest challenge in their marriage is Isaac’s “Kelp” habit. Then there is the small problem of the ghost, Cheryl, who alternates between being helpful and being menacing.

What this novel does really well is place. If you read to appreciate landscape you will enjoy this evocation of South-Western Australian towns:
The park had three miniature gazebos, barbeques, swings and a large stretch of grass that ran down to the river. The tended park with all its shelters, basketball courts and soccer field held no
excitement for her. Rather, the river fascinated May … There was something mysterious about its
quiet repose. In the early morning, the bright sun highlighted the dark inky colors of the purple
swamp hens, and demarcated the dark to light brown tones on the wood ducks. (p. 11)

I enjoyed trying to guess which South-West town this might be based on … Nannup? Bridgetown? Collie? It could be any of them. The horror element of this book is also grounded in place and I will probably never look at a country town’s large drainage pipes in the same way again.

Hagemann also does a good job of creating recognisable contemporary Anglo-Australian characters. May and Isaac are like so many white hetero couples who move to picturesque country towns thinking it will save their marriage. Hagemann’s decision to alternate between May’s and Isaac’s points-of-view in each chapter is ambitious for a first novel but it does give a pleasing complexity to their dilemmas as the reader is positioned to see them from alternating perpectives. Isaac fits the irresponsible-but-charming male archetype and May matches him with the female opposite of responsible-but-controlling.

Plot is the area where this budding novelist probably has the most room for future growth. I like to be surprised by what happens next and I want the conflict, crisis and resolution of stories to be intertwined with character growth in a way that feels (to echo Harold Bloom on good poetry) inevitable without being predictable. There was a little too much foreshadowing in this novel for there to be genuine surprise and while things happened, I’m not convinced the characters grew that much as a result. What I did enjoy in the story, though, was the indigenous characters, particularly Steve and Buzz, and the role they played in bringing the story to its climax.

Western Australia needs as many stories as it can get and I have enormous respect for older women who try new things. I hope to see more fiction from Helen Hagemann that builds on the achievements of this book. I am grateful for this opportunity to swap book reviews with her. By paying critical attention to one another’s work, we create possibilities for the future growth and transformation of one another’s writing.

Miriam Wei Wei Lo is the author of a 2nd Edition collection titled “Against Certain Capture” – re-released in February 2021 by an imprint called the Apothecary Archive, formerly 5 Islands Press.