What happens when two serial killers with completely different motives are plying their murdering ways in the same city at the same time?
You'll have to read Newcastle writer Damien Linnane's first novel, Scarred, to find out. There is never a dull moment in the 400-plus pages, written with street-smart thought patterns that make the characters come to life in Sydney as they blend in to the people-scape.
The crimes are violent and premediated. Horrible by any description.
Linnane's uncanny ability to create the figures who commit these crimes comes from his own story - a childhood with an alcoholic step-mother, physical abuse, fear, autism and anger, lots of anger.
"Mine is very loosely linked to a true story," Linnane says of his book. "I thought about it for while. I didn't feel ethical saying based on a true story because there's too much of a gap from what actually happened. It's definitely inspired by a true story."
That is, the true story of the life of character Jason Ennis, a hard-wired university student (studying psychology) who lives in Newtown and who works as a volunteer at a soup kitchen as well as tending bar in downtown Sydney. Ennis has an angry hatred for drug dealers, abusive men and those of similar standing.
"The vigilante serial killer is main character," Linnane says. "I haven't killed anyone."
"My father assaulted me with his fists," he explains in the way of telling how he created the story thread of the novel. "Let's play on this. What if take we it to the next extreme. What if his father torches him. What if he doesn't just carry a knife around like I did. What if he carries a gun. And how that manifests.
"I kept exaggerating my story until I had a caricature of myself."
The story of Scarred poured out of Linnane when he was imprisoned for 10 months for two counts of maliciously damaging property, being armed with intent to commit an offence and maliciously damaging property by fire.
The charges stemmed from Linanne burning down a man's home in Armidale five years ago, in what has been called an act of vigilantism, because a person in Linnane's family told him she had been abused by the man who lived in the house.
Linnane, who works as a massage therapist and also has a budding art career, does not hide from that criminal act.
"We're all products of the society we're raised in, but I don't want to push the blame on to anyone else," he says. "I did it. I know why I did it. I'm not really proud or ashamed of it. It just happened. I've made peace with it, really."
While he had anger issues throughout his life, Linnane was not a criminal before the Armidale crimes. He says his parents separated early, and he was shuffled between his father's home in Sydney and his mum's place in Armidale, before running away from his dad's custody at age 13 and moving in with his mum here in Newcastle.
"It's been a pretty interesting life," he says."I didn't enjoy my childhood."
Eventually, he joined the Army Reserve, becoming a combat medic, and completed a uni degree in psychology.
Throughout his life he has kept journals. Now, he is working on his autobiography.
"I'm going through my old journals," he says. "I'm 62,000 words into an autobiography and that takes me up to age 19. I'm reading the journal I kept at 19 to refresh my memory."
In November 2015 Linnane was sentenced to prison in NSW. For the first two months he was shuffled around between jails until he was given a permanent bed in a minimum security facility.
And the novel in his head just started to pour out of him.
"What am I going to do for 10 months? There's nothing to do here," he thought. "You can't study. There's no therapy. I wasn't eligible for rehabilitation because I was considered too low risk for reoffending."
This was a new experience and he was a keen observer. Since getting out, he's become an advocate for better prison facilities and programs. He's also contributed comment to the 10Daily website.
Meanwhile, trying to find a worthwhile existence in prison brought the book inside his head to life.
"The only book in the prison library they had there to help was Stephen King's On Writing. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is the only book you need. It had a lot of advice," Linnane says. "He said what you know makes you unique. Write about what you know. And I know what it's like to have a lot of pent-up anger, from childhood. I know what it's like to have undiagnosed autism. My autism was diagnosed when I was 25. It wasn't a common thing when I was a kid."
And so, Scarred was born.
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