Schemetime is the novel about the Australian filmmaker, Frank Banner, who in 1968 takes off for Hollywood. Its title, a play on the Australian Dreamtime, attempts to capture all the competing and contradictory elements that go into any artistic production, in this case making a film. My hope was to create a novel that mirrored the fluid chiaroscuro of cinema, but with the richness and depth of fiction on the page.
All this came from my growing up in Los Angeles. The city holds an abiding, if conflicted, fascination for me still, over sixty years after I left. I love its history, the light and the dark, its Latino heritage and the European directors, actors, writers and composers who came to escape the Nazis and created what we’ve come to know as noir. It’s a place where people still go to realise their dreams, to get caught up in their tawdriest expression. Bluntly put, a film costs money, and will be necessarily corrupted by it. But somehow, despite this, the art prevails – so long as money wasn’t the object begin with.
Schemetime has many influences. The detective fiction of Raymond Chandler and James Cain are one. It’s also, in a sense, my poem to the Pacific, the ocean that both bounds and separates my two homes. Two early filmmakers – Robert Flaherty and Frederick Murnau – collaborated on a film about it. I use their differences to illustrate the inevitable tensions between reality and imagination involved in any work of narrative art. Above all, it’s a story about making a movie, the people Frank gets to help him and the obstacles he meets. The novel is set in 1968, a tumultuous year worldwide, especially in America.
Again, most of Schemetime‘s review extracts on my earlier website have been swallowed in cyberspace, but the following may give something of their essence.
“Sara Dowse . . . is an innovative writer. Her works signal a major shift in our reading habits and oblige us to consider subjects we’ve thought to be beyond the pale … a beautifully written, fascinating book.” Canberra Times
“Schemetime is a novel of grand conception. Even the title with its hints of schemes, screens and dreams suggests that . . . a fine read – and one that is as relevant today as it was when it was written, perhaps even more so.” Whispering Gums