About Damian Sharp
Damian Sharp was born and raised on the Murray River in south-eastern Australia and has lived in Melbourne, Los Angeles, New York, a cabin on 80 acres in the Coastal Range of Northern California and San Francisco, where he currently resides.
He attended Law School at the University of Melbourne and is the recipient of two Literary Fellowship Grants from the Australian Council for the Arts. He has traveled widely and worked as a deep-sea fisherman, a deckhand on a tugboat, a ship’s cook, a newspaper reporter and editor, a freelance writer, and a copywriter for a major book publisher.
He has written for The Soho Weekly News, The Village Voice, California Magazine, California Farmer and Rice Magazine. His short stories have appeared in The Chicago Review and The Denver Quarterly. A collection of his short stories, When A Monkey Speaks and Other Stories from Australia was published by HarperCollins in 1994. Screen rights for the title story were optioned by producer Thom Mount (Bull Durham, Frantic, Tequila Sunrise, Death and the Maiden, Natural Born Killers, Night Falls on Manhattan, The Indian Runner) and Liberty Films (Australia), for which Mr. Sharp wrote the screenplay Mirage.
Mr. Sharp has written several other screenplays, some of which have been under option at various times, including a historical drama about Mona Lisa and Leonardo da Vinci and a script set along the Murray River in 1920 based on his short story The Defeat of Big Flo and inspired in part by Joseph Conrad’s Victory. He is currently at work on Book 2 of Plain of Reeds; A Kiss To Build a Dream On, a coming of age novel set on the Murray River in the 1960s; Diana In the Mountains, a mountain noir script about a woman living amidst the marijuana growers of Humboldt County in the Coastal Range of Northern California; and Sapiens & Fox, a supernatural detective TV series with cross-cultural themes set in San Francisco. Gateway To Fear, a novel inspired by his experiences working on a tugboat on San Francisco Bay, is also being adapted from his screenplay of the same name.
Praise for When A Monkey Speaks
From Publishers Weekly
“Dominated by the dramatic landscape of Australia and the emotional emptiness of outback machismo, the 11 stories in this collection are full of ominous surprises. Sharp, an Aussie living in San Francisco, favors an introspective, naturalistic approach, blending exposition, internal monologue and intricate description to tell tales that often focus on barely understood family and sexual tensions. The hot, brutal climate and bizarre features and creatures of the land add forbidding atmosphere while
placing unique emotional limits on the actions of the characters. Although many of the stories start slowly and the development sometimes gets a bit murky, the explosive action in the better efforts justifies the occasional plodding plot. “Boxing,” for example, tells the tale of two brothers who resort to fisticuffs to resolve a difficult relationship with an inarticulate father who’s been left by his wife. “Carter’s Creek” documents the beginning of a man’s attempt to swim the length of the Murray River in order to end a pattern of boredom and infidelity with his lover. And the title story captures the viewpoints of both members of a couple after the women’s act of sexual betrayal separates them during a long train journey. Sharp is a significant talent.”
From Library Journal
“In these 11 stories, Sharp transports us to Australia, a place replete with snakes, red ants, goannas, and stifling heat. This vast land is peopled with such characters as a vagabond high-jump champion; a woman hunting a Nazi war criminal; a man trying to swim a wild, rushing river; an English nun confronting a kangaroo that has leapt over the convent wall; and siblings trying to understand their parents’ constant rage. Violence is everywhere. After meeting these characters, one cannot help but wonder if the landscape makes the people behave so strangely or if a strange type of people are actually attracted to this harsh land. The stories gives us a special insight into the Australian experience of isolation and survival and would fit nicely into collections with that theme.”
-Patricia C. Heaney
“Highly charged situations are the order of the day in this collection of stories by an Australian now living in San Francisco. Sharp opts for the familiar terrain of his homeland to form the potent and brooding backdrop for 11 scenarios populated by characters who are dealing with an underlying sexual tension that often seems to distinguish their very existence. But the rugged bush country of Sharp’s creation also reverberates with mysterious forces and the impact of violence. This vast, exposed landscape is a luminous setting for stories that are memorable enough to be read and reread.”
From Kirkus Reviews
In this evocative collection of stories, the wildness of the Australian bush country mirrors the harsh terrain of the human psyche. The works in Sharp’s book show the trauma and ecstasy possible in human relationships. In “A Native Son,” an aborigine describes employers’ branding of employees for his master’s wife and son. The wife flees, horrified by the cruelty inherent in her husband’s authority; the aborigine hangs himself, ashamed to have shown his vulnerability to a woman. After red ants derail a passenger train at the start of the title story, a woman deserts her lover for a stranger while the couple is stranded between connections. In “The Quiet Murmur of the River,” a rebellious young woman struggles against her alcoholic father to gain independence. Sharp’s attention to characters’ thoughts and inner monologues softens the effect of the stories’ explosive events; the tales build and descend gently, without losing any of their natural drama. The untamed outback–where frogs fall from the sky, a woman shakes a kangaroo’s hand, and men box on an anthill–provides a surreal backdrop. Sharp writes with energy and vitality, as when he describes the bush country through the eyes of a young boy: “Beyond the swamp the land rose and fell in low embankments, the grass long and dry and bright between the trees, quivering in the heat waves, the light rushing into his eyes from the gleaming blue sky and the radiant land.” A haunting gathering of tales that show men and women at war with each other and with the land surrounding them.
From Tony Huston
“I’ve never read any stories like these–they are as distinctive as Frank O’Connor’s Ireland or Flannery O’Connor’s Georgia. It is a unique and powerful dramatic experience to be guided by Sharp into such alien territory.”
-Tony Huston, Oscar-nominated screenwriter of James Joyce’s The Dead