Greg Fleet at the launch of the Bendigo Writers festival. Photo; Andrew Perryman.

What do you get when you cross a stand-up comedian with a desire to write a novel? Answer – a tender and funny book, The Good Son (2018) by Greg Fleet.

Mixing poignancy and humour, Fleet achieves a tone which is perfect for a story about how we treat the elderly people in our lives. The set up involves a young man who misses the death of his mother who is in a nursing home and responds by trying to make amends by becoming the surrogate family member for other lonely souls.

“The novel examines the issue of age-care which is basically appalling,” Fleet said.

“It’s just dumb-luck really. I didn’t know the Royal Commission was about to take off.”

When discussing his writing, Fleet said he enjoyed the process enormously.

“When my partner Roz Hammond would come home I would read the day’s work to her over a glass of wine… and she would give me feedback.

“It was exciting and rewarding. Now I want to develop the novel as a Netflix-type series.

“I’ve sent it off to America and shown it to a couple of actors and have their enthusiastic support,” Fleet said.

“They thought it was a lovely story and very filmic.

“I’m truly rapt. I had in the back of my mind that I would play the role of the son but you know what? If Ben Mendelsohn accepted the part, I’d let him play it,” Fleet said, laughing.

“If the series gets up, I’ll take myself off to New York and work from there for inspiration.”

For Fleet, writing the novel was satisfying but far more challenging than writing his memoirs, These Things Happen (2015).

“I’d basically lie in bed of a night and recall some appalling episode in my life,” he said. “Then get up and write about it the next morning.”

Which gets us onto the subject of Fleet’s well-known heroin addiction.

“I’m fine,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to write the book or develop the series otherwise. But you have to be ever vigilant and stay aware.

“And I’ve been lucky. I’ve been let off the hook so many times.”

Fleet said the way he finally broke through his addiction was to remove himself from his usual environment.

“I stayed away from the places where I could get the stuff.

“And you don’t make excuses. So get away. That’s the advice I would give people. Get away. What’s more important? Taking a couple of weeks off work against a lifetime of addiction?”

Fleet lives alone these days in small unit in St Kilda. He has a daughter who he adores.

“She’s lovely but I had a terrible impact on her. It breaks my heart when I think of her.

“When you live the way I did, the impact on other people is horrible.”

But that was then.

Apart from stand-up and writing books, Fleet is enjoying teaching comedy.

He’s been to Bendigo a few times in this capacity and is looking forward to participating in the Bendigo Writers Festival.

– Dianne Dempsey 

MORE than 150 international and national speakers and 100 events will be on offer at the 2019 Bendigo Writers Festival.

The three-day event runs from August 9 to 11, and the theme for this year is All That Glitters.

Speaking at Wednesday’s launch, festival director Rosemary Sorensen said she was delighted to be welcoming big stars such as John Marsden, Clementine Ford and philosopher AC Grayling.

“So many brilliant books have been published in the past year, including an extraordinary number of ‘growing up’ books which we’ll be featuring at the festival.”

Other keynote speakers include authors Don Watson and Louise Milligan, media personality Kerry O’Brien, author Alice Pung, professor Peter Doherty and finance journalist Alan Kohler.

Other highlights include Festival Friday Night at the Ulumbarra Theatre – World of Food, with SBS Food Safari presenter, Maeve O’Meara, while  on Saturday, August 10, world-renowned astrobiologist Paul Davies tackles the biggest question of them all: What Is Life?

Other highlights of the 2019 Bendigo Writers Festival include former Mafia prosecutor and crime novel author Gianrico Carofiglio, British psychologist and author Julia Shaw, and  Korean American best-selling novelist Min Jin Lee.

Ms Sorensen said gastronomy is big on this year’s program, reflected by the inclusion of food writer Jill Dupleix, sustainable farmer Charles Massy and food-and-mood expert Felice Jacka.

The Bendigo Bowls Club on Barnard Street had been added as one of the five main venues hosting events within the festival precinct, and was the site for Wednesday’s glittering launch.

A gleaming festival committee chair Cr Rod Fyffe said he was delighted to see the event’s footprint expand, and added ticket sales for this year are at an unprecedented level three times higher than last year. 

Bendigo Writers Festival is presented by the City of Greater Bendigo in partnership with La Trobe University and supported by Bendigo Tourism. The Bendigo Weekly is the founding media partner of the festival.

– Don’t miss next week’s Bendigo Weekly for your free 24-page full colour program guide to the 2019 Bendigo Writers Festival.