Writers at Stanton - Chloe Hooper
23-Oct-2018 • 1pm
The Arsonist - Chloe Hooper
What kind of person would deliberately set a firestorm? What kind of mind? On the scorching February day in 2009 that became known as Black Saturday, a man lit two fires in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, then sat on the roof of his house to watch the inferno.
In the Valley, where the rates of crime were the highest in the state, more than thirty people were known to police as firebugs. But the detectives soon found themselves on the trail of a man they didn’t know. The Arsonist is the story of that man, Brendan Sokaluk, of the firestorm he set, and the investigation and court case that followed.
The day after Sokaluk’s arrest, Chloe Hooper drove to the fireravaged Valley to ask who becomes an arsonist and why?
Written with the cooperation of the Victoria Police Arson Squad, who believed they had arrested a cunning serial firelighter, and Sokaluk’s Legal Aid lawyers, who viewed their client as a bewildered child, Hooper navigates the strange puzzle of Sokaluk’s mind.
She also tells a story of fire in this country, and of a community that owed its existence to that very element. The command of fire has defined and sustained us as a species – understanding its abuse will define our future.
Masterfully written, with Hooper’s trademark lyric detail and nuance, The Arsonist takes the reader to the heart of small town Australia, the psychology of fire-setting and a new age of environmental terror. It also makes addictive reading: as more Australians choose to live amidst bushland on the urban fringe, this is a thriller we are living right now.