The Mary Smokes Boys

Longlisted for the 2011 Miles Franklin Literary Award

A Book of 2010 The Australian Book Review, The Adelaide Advertiser, Readings, Known Unknowns, Avid Reader and Riverbend books.

A new B-format edition of the novel to be released by Transit Lounge in September 2011.

Windswept plains and misty hills form the backdrop to a violent story of horse theft, illegal boxing rings, roadside shootouts and intense jealousies between two men and one’s young sister.

The Mary Smokes Boys is a gem. The writing is absolutely terrific and the characters distinct and deftly revealed. And the story is a heart wrecker.
Barry Lopez, Winner of the American Book Award

This novel is fiercely relevant to contemporary Australia. … The nature writing is no flatly appreciative still life. The wind, the grasses and the creek are palpably animated and connected. Holland is an accomplished short story writer and this shows in his deft economy with words and images. His structure, too, is impressively spare. Barely a scene or image is wasted … He weaves Hemingway’s blunt sentences and carved dialogue with the old fashioned storytelling of a folk tale imbued with the dark romance of a Nick Cave Ballad
Jo Case, The Age

Holland’s second novel is a dark, gorgeously written and emotionally resonant tale of family tragedy. An emerging writer destined for great things.
Patrick Allington, Adelaide Advertiser, Best Books of 2010

Patrick Holland’s sentences are tight yet lyrical – swift, like the passing of time in this novel… I think about a book like Philipp Meyer’s American Rust, in terms of some of the setting and themes – friendship, violence, isolation and most definitely changes over time, and transience; combined with the insular, things-only-getting-worse, narrative of something like the Coen Brothers’ film A Serious Man; but with selective and beautifully rendered features of Australianess.
Angela Meyer, Byron Bay Echo / Literary Minded

This is only Holland’s second novel but I am prepared to bet he will become one of our most significant writers over the next decade. His style is arresting and original; it reminds me most of Cormac McCarthy, but is distinctly Australian. It’s literary but plot-driven ? His use of landscape – not just the lyrical description but the deep embedding in plot and character – brought a tear to my eye in the first few pages.
Inga Simpson, Notes From Olvar Wood

Patrick Holland’s beautiful, beautiful second novel, The Mary Smokes Boys, is a tale that transports you through its realisation of place and its genuinely affecting story of love (for brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers). And yes, for a language as pure and magical as I have read in a long time … Holland is out on his own when it comes to his descriptions of the flora and fauna of the region’s natural world – this surely stands as some of the best nature writing this country has produced … Finally, a larger theme Holland addresses is an existential one; namely what is the status of faith and hope in the vanishing world of country Australia, as our metropolises expand ever outwards, and small towns stay only barely viable?
A major work from a writer I had not known of before, but cannot help but think has a substantial career ahead of him!
Martin Shaw, Readings Monthly

One of those books, one of those straight-to-the-heart, life-changing books.
Holland draws a delicate picture, and then steps back, leaving space for the reader to think and to dream and to bring themselves to the work. It is a conversation between a reader and a very skilled writer. This is the best quality in a book, and it is ever-present in this one.
Krissy Kneen, author of Affection

It is sad and desperate but a touch mythical and lyrical and he writes with such confidence and (clearly) knowledge of small town-ness. New Australian Gothic. A real diamond of the year for me.
Pip Newling, author of Knockabout Girl

Holland brings to life the fear and uncertainty that threatens people living in a time of rapid change
Julianne Schultz AM, editor of the Griffith Review

The narrative is set in country, riven by Highway 54, a ribbon of asphalt that skirts the D’Aguilar Range and connects the furthest reaches of Brisbane city and its ‘‘patches of biscuit cutter houses’’ with the pastoral sweep of Queensland’s wheat and sorghum belt. This is where Holland grew up, and his mastery of the grammar of the landscape comes from a visceral intimacy with this, ‘‘dull, flat country.
Linda Morris, Sydney Morning Herald, (Interview/Feature)

In his writing about place, Holland’s observance skills, and his ability to put what he has observed into language, are exemplary. It is not only the description and naming of flora, but also such observations as the night sky being ‘winter bright’, or that the creek would soon be ‘winter-still’ after unseasonal rain to the west had made it rush with water. Upon coming across each of these phrases my attention was drawn to things I had known about the sky and rivers but had never seen put into words, or none so concise and eloquent, so the reading of this novel became an experience repeatedly punctured with wonder for me.
Yet to over-emphasise this attention to place ignores the fact of The Mary Smokes Boys’s plot. Because its plot is suspenseful and a driving force; it unravels slowly but packs powerful punches when unravel it does.
Truly, there is much about [The Mary Smokes Boys] that is great. This is a deeply beautiful book, a wonderful achievement.
Plume of Words

I can promise you that this will be the most significant new work of novel-length Australian fiction you will read in 2010 … among the many reasons is that he has crafted a story to chill the bones … A masterpiece of the Maranoa Plain
Kirk Marshall, Fun With Kites

The main character of this story is ultimately Holland’s prose ? His sentences, though often simple, possess an unusual and engaging syntax, and at the moments where he jumps into high rhetoric, the result is incredibly moving:… In moments like these (and, indeed, in the plot itself), The Mary Smokes Boys recalls aspects of William Faulkner’s writing and similarly is able to find a rare beauty in the cadences of common speech….
The Mary Smokes Boys is a beautifully written novel that appears to be much more simple than it is. It’s an incredibly engrossing book, and I can’t wait to read whatever Holland comes up with next.’
Emmett Stinson, RRR FM, The Breakfasters / Known Unknowns

The authentic descriptions of horses in The Mary Smokes Boys are a highlight
Fiona Purdon, The Courier Mail (Feature/Interview)

The Mary Smokes Boys is a dark, yet compelling, novel. … so raw and powerful. … a novel that will still have your interest after the last page.
Gemma England, M/C Reviews

Terrific… The Mary Smokes Boys works patiently and skilfully towards its dramatic and violent conclusion. It has deservedly just been long-listed for the 2011 Miles Franklin award.
David Whish-Wilson, author of Line of Sight and The Summons

Holland has written a novel that portrays life in a small, isolated town and the Australian landscape in a way this is beautiful, moving and very powerful. This is a novel that will haunt you for a long time after reading it.

Set in a small town called, unusually, Mary Smokes, the novel begins with the compelling premise that there exist some places on earth where you can be exempt from life … There is a sense of spaciousness in his carefully measured, rehearsed prose that invites you to survey each scene slowly, looking behind and beyond what is said for the unedited, the uncensored hidden story. The astute use of silence and spaciousness in this respect is surely one of Holland’s most enviable skills … I’ll be looking out for more
Janelle Moran, Etchings

The Mary Smokes Boys
Patrick Holland
$29.95 Trade paperback
240 pages
In store: August 2010
All rights: Transit Lounge

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Grey’s mother dies giving birth to his sister Irene and the tragedy haunts his life in the small town of Mary Smokes. Grey prays that his mother will be returned to him in some form, so he might protect her from the world as his father did not. This prayer, Grey believes is answered in his sister Irene. He becomes obsessed with protecting her purity and innocence.

Also with his mother gone and his father turned to drink, Grey begins running with the wild boys, horse-handlers and fox hunters and part-time timber workers – members of a small, vanishing tribe who find themselves caught between an old relationship with place and a new one that is exemplified by the highway that threatens their town. A rash gamble by Grey and Irene’s broken father means he and the Mary Smokes boys must steal horses to ensure Irene’s safety. The consequences seem set to fall on Greys’ closest friend, ‘Ook’ Eccleston. As Grey’s, Eccleston’s and Irene’s lives are put at stake his allegiances falter and the world of Mary Smokes slips into a heightened state of darkness and threat.

With the passion of Emily Bronte in Wuthering Heights and the distilled beauty of Ondaatje, Patrick Holland captures the fragility and grace of small town life and how one fateful moment can forever alter the course of our lives.

Martin Shaw on The Mary Smokes Boys (Readings / Aus Crime Fiction)

Inga Simpson on The Mary Smokes Boys (in Olvar Wood)

Angela Meyer on The Mary Smokes Boys (Byron Bay Echo)

in Byron Bay Echo

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Miles Franklin Trust

Ragged Claws / Ragged Claws 2

The Age

Tasmanian Writers Centre



Sydney Morning Herald