Hoax author braces for more controversy

Helen Dale, the author behind one of Australia's biggest literary hoaxes, is bracing for another round of controversy with her second novel.

Controversial author Helen Dale

Helen Dale is bracing for another round of controversy with her second novel. (AAP)

The woman behind one of Australia's greatest literary hoaxes hopes her return to the publishing world serves as a reminder of potential threats posed by a swathe of anti-terrorism laws.

Helen Dale created a storm of controversy back in the mid 1990s when she was exposed as having used a fake name - Helen Demidenko - and created a fake Ukrainian family background to base her award-winning best-selling debut novel, The Hand that Signed the Paper.

This week she's launching the first volume of her second novel, The Kingdom of the Wicked, and is bracing for another blast of controversy.

The novel is billed as an "alternative history" as it's based on the biblical story of Jesus being putting on trial by the Roman Empire after a riot erupted as he drove out merchants trading in the Jerusalem Temple - but with modern technology thrown into the mix.

"Let's just say the conservative Christians have gone off like a frog in a sock," Dale told AAP.

But Dale hopes readers take seriously her suggestion that in today's world Jesus, along with Islam's prophet Mohammed, would be viewed as terrorists under contemporary anti-terror laws, which she believes undermine civil liberties.

"I just want them to take that seriously and consider the implications of that and perhaps think about why we have so many difficulties with these monotheistic religions that have got very strong views about them being right and everybody else being wrong," she said.

"The war on terror is turning into a war without end because so many people in the Middle East take those ideas seriously.

"We've forgotten what it's like to have that intensity of belief in something."

The Queensland author was just 22 when she became the youngest winner of the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award with her first novel back in 1995.

The best-seller was about Ukrainian peasants who blamed Jews for the deaths of their family under Stalinism and joined Nazi death squads to seek revenge.

But the book sparked accusations of anti-Semitism and exposed its author as a hoaxer after it emerged her family was in fact British.

Amid the controversy, Dale moved to the UK where she has spent most of the past decade working as a lawyer in between a two-year stint in Australia as an adviser for Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm.

With hindsight, Dale wishes she had never written her first book but credits the controversy for helping her pen the Kingdom of the Wicked, which has its second volume released next March.

"One of the reasons why I did write again was because the abuse just kept happening and so I just thought it's not going to go away so I may as well write something," she said.

3 min read
Published 10 October 2017 at 6:04am
Source: AAP