Sunday, October 6, 2013

Guest Author, Luke Preston: Escape from Melbourne

Luke Preston spent most of his twenties as a freelance writer and listening to rock ‘n roll. He drinks heavily on occasion, is a half decent musician and his idea of a good time involves a jukebox designed to bleed ears.

Luke’s work has been recognised by The Inside Film Awards, MTV and The ATOM Awards. He writes in cafes, bars and in parking lots on the back of old fuel receipts and cigarette packets. He doesn’t believe in writers block or in the magic bullet theory and his favourite album is Exile on Main Street.

Luke’s writing is as much influenced by AC/DC and Johnny Cash as it is by Richard Stark and Raymond Chandler. He is undertaking a Master of Screenwriting at the Victorian College of the Arts and has absolutely no intention of moving to a shack in the middle of nowhere. He likes bad traffic, noisy neighbours, cheap beer, loud bars and has been occasionally known to howl at the moon.

“Dark City Blue,” Luke's debut novel, was longlisted for the Ned Kelly Award and garnered critical acclaim from around the world. His follow up, “Out of Exile,” is available now.

As I am writing this, it is 2:43 AM and I am sitting in the downstairs bar of Tony Starr’s Kitten Club. The upstairs band are murdering a Stevie Wonder song, the crowd is starting to leave and I’m starting to think about doing the same. Although getting out of the city of Melbourne at 2:43 on a Saturday night can be as dangerous as Alcatraz in the 30s, Iran in the 70s or Ikea around Christmas time. Melbourne in the heart of a Saturday night is one filled with danger and darkness, fear and ugliness; women with too much make-up and men with too much to testosterone.

Getting home anytime after midnight is always a gamble.

I sit at the bar, order another drink and way up my options. I could catch a taxi and in theory, that sounds like a plan but I know from experience the trails and tribulations of implementing this logical train of thought. Empty cabs are scarce and if I were lucky enough to stumble across one, the bastard wouldn’t let me in until he knew my destination, and upon hearing my address, they speed off in search of a bigger fare. Nope, cabs are out.

Melbourne does not have a 24 hour public transport system. To supplement this embarrassment, they run the ‘Night Rider’ service, which is nowhere near as cool as it sounds. The ‘Night Rider’ is a series of busses that specializes in ferrying drunks out of the city and back to the suburbs. They’re flooded with blue light to stop poor junkies from finding a vein and shooting up, but as a result they make the drunks nauseous so there’s a faint air of vomit in the air. These booze busses may get you out of the city but any chance of them getting me anywhere near where I live is slim, so as tempting as that mode of transport sounds, I am still in for a walk.

And speaking of a walk, that seems to be the only option I have left. I generally have a violent reaction to anything even remotely exercise-esk but hell, when all other options are exhausted I may just have to endure. Like many Melbournians before me, I have made that drunken trek home in the middle of the night. It is a journey fraught with Hobbit like perils of in the middle of the night. It is a journey fraught with Hobbit like perils of danger and mayhem. Violent packs of drunken men prowl the concrete streets, many of whom have been kicked out of a club and continue their frustrated search for a good time on the streets but in the meantime will settle with starting a fight with anyone who they think has looked at them wrong.

It’s almost 3 AM and these are my options. I ask the bartender what time the bar is licensed to and he tells me it’s 7 AM. I order another drink, peel open the pages of the book in my pocket and am happy to wait out the night until the sun is in the sky and the streets are laid bare from the night before. For no matter how dangerous the streets of Melbourne are on a Saturday night, there is always a warm bar to seek refuge in and with a book in one hand and a drink in the other, what more could you want.

Luke—guest posting on Sunday


  1. Soon after reading your much appreciated piece, I walked into a Mykonos bar and met a fellow from Ireland and the subject (naturally) drifted on to "bars we've known." I told him about your experience with Melbourne bars and this little ditty sums up the encounter from there:

    I can't believe Melbourne has nightlife so sick,
    That talent as Luke's would fear streets sans a dick.
    Then and Irishman said,
    With a most cocky head,
    True bar life to fear is his own Limerick.

    Sorry, Luke (and the rest of you), but as soon as he said Limerick I just couldn't help myself. :)

  2. Welcome here Luke, your piece was so great.
    And Jeff's comment shows why he's my mate.
    Dashing limericks off
    At the bar or the trough
    Is a sickness. But such is our fate.

    1. Okay, I couldn't stand it, it just didn't scan. Herewith, release 2.0...

      Welcome here Luke, your piece was so great,
      And the comment from Jeff shows why he's my mate:
      Dashing limericks off
      At the bar or the trough
      Is a sickness, I fear, but such is our fate.

      Ah, well, such is the life of a nit-picker. It's a good thing I have so many nits. Or I'm a nitwit. But that would require that I have a wit. Or give a wit.

    2. Couldn't agree with you more, Everett :)

    3. Thanks guys, I love a good limerick. That's awesome.

  3. This blog and its quite gentle strife,
    Which seldom employes a sharp knife
    May seem tame to you Luke
    Or provoke you to puke,
    Given the style of your life.

    But your presence with us is just great
    Since this blog needs an edgier mate.
    I hope you'll come back
    With thoughts deep and black,
    If you haven't too much on your plate.

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