Literary critic David Free releases first book and Clive James loves it

Literary critic David Free of Springwood has released his first book, and humorist and veteran broadcaster and author Clive James loves it.

James (one of the most famous Australians in the world) has given a glowing endorsement of Get Poor Slow, published by Pan Macmillan Australia.

He calls the book “gripping” and says Free “writes the prose of a neurotic angel”.

And then he adds: "My favourite Australian literary critic, David Free, instantly becomes my favourite Australian author of psychological thrillers, with this gripping tale of a literary man thoroughly screwed up by sexually intriguing women and crazy editors. Free is far too civilized for this kind of thing, which is probably why he's so disturbingly good at doing it." 

Free, who relocated back to Springwood in the past year after a decade long stint in Northern NSW, writes book reviews for The Australian and The Atlantic for a living, but always wanted to be an author and said it was kind of James to give him that boost for the book’s front cover.

“He’s quite sick … I was very grateful when it came through.”

Free is also the son of former federal Labor politician Ross Free who represented the region from 1980 to 1996 and was a minister in the Hawke and Keating governments. He has dedicated his fast paced literary thriller to his late mum, Margaret.

Free’s novel is a satire on the book industry and tells the story about a drunk and troubled critic called Ray Saint –  the most hated book reviewer in Australia. Saint is “a hatchet man with a belly full of bourbon and curdled dreams of literary greatness”. But he is also in trouble. A beautiful young publishing assistant is dead and Saint was the last person to see her alive. 

Clive James wasn’t the only one to heap praise on the novel. Free’s book was loved by the critics. The West Australian said it was "the first novel to make me laugh out loud since Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim ... I can't recommend this book highly enough." 

“By forty you're meant to have the face you deserve. I got the face early. It took me a while to earn it. I believe I am finally there.”

Get Poor Slow

But it hasn’t been the big break Free (and Saint) were hoping for.  

“There are little bits of good luck and then you get bad luck. I fell into the crevasse between literary and crime novel.”

The author said there is interest in Europe in the book, with an agent pitching it to publishers there so he remains hopeful.

“I just need another piece of good luck.”

He is now working on a book about conspiracy theory for Yale University Press due out next year. For more go to