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ISBN: 9781923023185 Format: Hardback (210 X 135mm), 208pp Rights: World Release / Publication Date: 01 /09 /2024
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Mural is a haunting ‘confession’ by a psychopath known only as D. Held in a secure facility, he has been asked by his psychiatrist to write down his thoughts, admissions, anxieties and uncertainties. They are at first revealed through the stories of other people’s lives and obsessions.
Specifically, D is preoccupied with a British man who spent his early years as a schoolteacher in Australia before becoming a renowned sexologist. D is also consumed by Australia’s most prolific public artist, a man whose highly erotic watercolours are at odds with his stained-glass church windows. D writes of his meeting with a boyhood friend. He recounts the true tale of a Frenchman who went mad because he believed prehistoric stones in Brittany were shifting.
Downes navigates the real and the imagined, traversing fact and fiction. Mural is daring, acknowledging the influences of European writers such as Thomas Bernhard and W.G. Sebald while moving into new and original territory. It is both provocative and tender, a highly explosive fable about sexuality, religion, art and obsession.

Mural is an engrossing read! A fascinating, lively voiced protagonist with a strange tale to tell; I was really engaged from the start.
Dr Gwen Adshead, consultant forensic psychiatrist and psychotherapist who has worked for many years with prisoners, including in Britain’s renowned high-security psychiatric hospital Broadmoor. Co-author of The Devil You Know: Encounters in Forensic Psychiatry

Stephen Downes takes us inside the mind of a deranged and violent criminal. We don’t know – or need to know or perhaps even want to know – what ‘D’ has done. But the insight into his thinking and psychopathy, thanks to Downes’s elegant, taut and compelling storytelling – ensures that this short, powerful novel will shadow its readers long after the final page.
Paul Daley, author of Jesustown and writer for The Guardian

A gripping interior account of an unhinged and violent mind. The narrator, D, institutionalised and guilty of unnamed atrocities, directs an extended monologue to his psychiatrist that is in turn reflective, cultured and misanthropic. D is a memorable character, vividly painted: a sharp-edged combination of erudition and paranoia. Downes skilfully creates a growing sense of menace as D’s thoughts twist and turn around his varied tics and fixations. This is a viscerally compelling portrait of derangement that will appeal to readers of quality fiction.
Nick Haslam, Professor of Psychology, University of Melbourne and co-author of Troubled Minds: Understanding and treating mental illness

Stephen Downes has written a captivating novel, if not to say a one-person drama. Mural traverses mental and psychological landscapes, interspersed with haunting illustrations that recall the melancholic doom of W. G. Sebald.
Uwe Schütte, academic, author, and leading Sebald scholar

Stephen Downes’s debut novel The Hands of Pianists was shortlisted for the 2022 Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. Judges described it as ‘extraordinary’. His recent short stories have been longlisted and shortlisted in prestigious UK prizes. Last Meal won the 2020 Fiction Factory prize. His non-fiction books include A Lasting Record (Harper Collins 2013), Blackie (Knopf 2003) and Paris on a Plate (Murdoch Books 2006). In other lives he covered a Middle East war for Agence-France Presse, reported on Iraq and covered a New Caledonian insurrection, wrote leading articles for The Age and the Herald Sun, was for several years a feature writer on The Age, and, as a freelancer, was renowned for decades as Australia’s toughest restaurant critic.