He’s embraced the seedy side of life, immersing himself in the violent activities of some of Australia’s most notorious criminals.
And this week, screenwriter Peter Gawler will learn if his work on the latest Underbelly programs will be recognised by the Australian Writers’ Guild at the annual AWGIE awards.
Mr Gawler, from Wentworth Falls, has been writing for television for more than 25 years. His name has adorned the credits of such Australian staples as Water Rats, Blue Heelers, All Saints and A Country Practice.
Then he turned to true crime, learning along the way the significant differences between writing fiction and dramatising fact.
“One of the initial tasks [in true crime writing] is to figure out the chronology and put together a time line. You get the critical events and then start to ponder the gaps,” he said.
“In fiction, you just make something happen because you want it to happen. In true crime ... you have debates about why things happened or didn’t happen.”
Research for the Underbelly shows has exposed him to the world of police and police reporters to source his facts. And he has spent some time with some colourful characters — “mostly the associates of crooks, given most of the crooks are either dead or in jail”.
Mr Gawler already has nine AWGIES to his name, including the major award in 2008 for the original Underbelly, which he wrote in collaboration with Greg Haddrick and Felicity Packard. He said he found working with a team “rewarding and enjoyable”, particularly as writers so often spend time alone with their craft.
This year he has two nominations in the television mini-series (original) category. They are for Underbelly: Badness (with three co-writers) and for Underbelly: Squizzy (with four co-writers). The winners will be announced in Melbourne on Friday.