Slums were always removed when they were in the path of the powerful, but slum clearance for its own sake, in pursuit of social improvement, also accelerated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
This ambitious re-situating of the noir in the ethnically diverse Australian city, with its complicated stratifications of class and ethnicity, raises the question of what the genre can do for these new contexts. Noir has long offered a space for airing working-class grievances, and for smuggling in queer and feminist subtexts. What, then, does noir do for contemporary Western Sydney, and what can it do for the children of migrants and working-class queers in Australia? Can the genre be re-inhabited in ways that self-consciously expose the grim machinations and effects of new types of economic, psychic and social exclusion while delivering, concurrently, the reading pleasures of mystery and melodrama? It is certainly a lot to pull off.
Revisiting A Woman of the Future is not like discovering a prophetic message or a time capsule. It is not like a centrefold pinned up in the garage. It is like being given a good hard shake by the furry hand of Alethea Hunt.
The Book of Dirt is both a loving, honest portrayal of lives that would have been erased, and an incorporation of the broader lessons of their experience into contemporary mythology. It keeps the discussion about trauma, memory, and intergenerational acts of transfer alive for those generations that follow, that risk forgetting. It is a potent achievement for a debut novel.