Buvette Masthead

The Shadow Game: Harry Dunkley’s next move

Emma Macdonald

The Shadow Game will be launched this Friday at the Canberra Writers Festival.

For Harriet Dunkley fans who can’t wait to see what their favourite imaginary Press Gallery journalist gets up to in the final book of the trilogy which sparked Secret City, there will be confusion this week. For Harriet is a Harry.

The producers of the hugely successful Foxtel drama, which showed the nation how cool, glamorous and powerful Canberra really is, decided the hero needed a sex change. But with the final book, authors Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann decided they should stick with Harry in the written word.

shadow game cover

The Shadow Game will be launched this Friday at the Canberra Writers Festival – and will make perfect sense for those who devoured the first two parts of the trilogy, The Marmalade Files and The Mandarin Code. It’s just the TV converts who may find it a tad confusing.

Lewis admits it was difficult for himself and Uhlmann to agree on letting Harry go when production company Matchbox decided a feisty woman would play the lead. “But what a sensation Harriet is!” he concedes.

Indeed she was, with many a girl crush being formed on Anna Torv’s Harriet (pictured above). She coolly negotiated the corridors of power, blokey news conferences and a kayak on LBG with a “don’t mess with me attitude”, not to mention warning off a potential assassin with the pointy end of a Walkley Award.

Steve Lewis and Chris Ulhmann

Authors Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann

In The Shadow Game, our focus is less on the misty East Basin and more on the South China Sea where dastardly deeds are going down as the United States faces off with China for a slice of strategically-placed ocean and global supremacy.

According to Lewis, Canberra continues its role as a central character. “We explore new landscape as we delve deeper into the capital’s secrets and intrigues and dramas. We swing from Old Parliament House to the summit of Mt Ainslie at dusk; from the embassy precinct with its heavily fortified walls to the Chairman’s Lounge at Canberra Airport. Oh, and of course we traverse the well-worn carpets of the parliament as Harry Dunkley and his unlikely band of adversaries try to finally seek redemption against the secretive cabal – The Alliance – who have played them thus far at every turn.”

In terms of new characters, it might be hard to top Secret City’s Kim, a transgender high-level security analyst ex-husband of Harriet who gets her kit off in a secretly filmed strip search before being murdered by an ASIO operative/Harriet’s new lover. However, Lewis says he enjoyed writing about a secretive, nervous tick of a public servant who will play a key role in revealing the frailties of the Commonwealth’s cyber defences.

Lewis is a little more circumspect on whether a follow-up series will further cement Canberra-noir upon the nation’s dramatic sensibilities, saying Matchbox again has the option but there is, as yet, no decision on a TV sequel.

Which means we all need to get reading in the meantime.

The book will be launched at Festival by Nick Warner, Director General of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. You’d think a man whose job title includes “Secret” would refrain from addressing a group of journalists and writers at a public event, but it’s clear Lewis and Uhlmann have impressive powers of persuasion.

Here’s hoping those same powers will work with the production company, leading to the triumphant return of Harriet to our screens and some more #canberrapride.

The Shadow Game will be launched at the National Press Club on Friday August 26 at 5.45pm as part of the Canberra Writers festival. Book at canberrawritersfestival.com.au.

2CC’s Tim Shaw is also hosting a session on the Saturday at 11.30am at Old Parliament House/Museum of Australian Democracy. Purchase tickets here: premier.ticketek.com.au


Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author