Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 20, 2014

Vale Liam Davison (1957 – 2014)

It is with a sense of shock and horror that I note the passing of award-winning Australian author Liam Davison.  He and his wife Frankie were victims of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight which was shot down  over disputed territory in Ukraine.

Liam Davison was the author of five novels.  His first, The Velodrome, was shortlisted for the Vogel award in 1987, and was followed by Soundings in 1993, The White Woman a year later in 1994, The Betrayal in 1999, and Floriegium in 2001.  His short story collections include The Shipwreck Party (1988) and Collected Stories (2001) and he was also featured in The Best Australian Stories 2012 and 2013, and The Best Australian Stories – a Ten Year Collection.  He also wrote non-fiction, publishing The Spirit of Rural Australia in 1999.

From Davison’s author page at GoodReads, I have learned that

He was born in Melbourne, where until 2007, he taught creative writing at the Chisholm Institute of Technology in Frankston.

Educated at St Bede’s College, Melbourne and Melbourne Teacher’s College. Davison was awarded the National Book Council’s Banjo Award for Fiction in 1993 and has been shortlisted for several literary prizes such as The Age Book of the Year Award and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. His work is characterised by its sharp and perceptive insights into Australian history and landscape.

To his family and friends, and all who loved his books and writing,  I offer my heartfelt condolences.

I have just ordered four of Davison’s novels from AbeBooks, and my tribute to him will be to read and review them in due course.  Update 26/7/14 The first of these reviews is now available: see The Velodrome

My thanks to Perry Middlemiss for some of the information about Davison’s oeuvre.

PS Visit the Association for the Study of Australian Literature to read Nat O’Reilly’s obituary.

Update 30/8/14:

I have now read and reviewed all of Davison’s novels as a tribute.  Click this link to find them.



  1. It is very sad news. I read The White Woman, and found it to be an intriguing read.


    • Hi Meg, I’ve ordered that one. I think I’ll probably read it first (depending on when they all arrive, all from different second-hand bookshops). It does sound fascinating.


  2. Oh I didn’t know that Lisa and I haven’t read him. How very sad. It’s a shocking thing. You have to be so unlucky to go like that. It’s hard to comprehend.


    • Yes, we all get into planes and set off across the world without a thought that something like this might happen.


      • Just as well, really, otherwise we’d leave town and be run over by a bus instead. But still … that’s small comfort, isn’t it?


        • I remember setting off for Europe straight after 9/11 and leaving a lot of anxious friends and family behind, but (apart from when they rerouted us away from Afghanistan because the war started that night) we didn’t think about it much.


          • I flew to the US two months after 9/11 on 11/11- Armistice Day – for work. I was a little anxious, and considered not flying. You know, might they think Armistice Day appropriate for another strike? However, I decided to fly and survived – as clearly did you.


            • We felt that it was probably the safest time to fly when everyone was on full alert. It does seem odd that they were allowed to fly over that airspace, but I suppose we must wait to see what comes out of the inquiry.


              • Yes, that was one argument, I recollect.

                And yes, it will be interesting to see. Sounds like most planes were not flying that route but it wasn’t forbidden.


  3. So many people in the world have been touched by this horror. We may want to keep at a distance from these futile ‘arguments’ but they spread outwards and reach us. A neighbour here in NW London is connected to 3! of the victims. My husband and I went to the theatre on the day after the last bombings here. At the end of the performance: with Helen McCrory and Sienna Miller (who really can act), the cast applauded us for being out and there. It was very touching. On the tube more people spoke to each other and were friendly too.
    I too am upset at the death of Liam Davison (& his wife too – did they leave children?) and intend to follow your example.
    Excellent post and responses especially the witty/ironic.
    PS I believe many airlines used that route believing their great height was sufficient protection.


    • You’re right, Carol, I don’t think anyone would have imagined that the combatants had that kind of weapon.
      We were in London too, not long after those bombings, and our hotel was not far from where they took place. We found that people in nearby shops were glad to see us too, I think they took it as a kind of symbol that the London spirit could not be extinguished by any act of terror. And yes, people were friendly, but there was a kind of stillness in the parks and gardens where there were memorial flowers – it was still very raw at that time.
      My parents lived through the Blitz so in a way we were honouring their courage as well.


  4. Sad news look forward to your reviews his books not so easy to get in uk


  5. Thank you for drawing my attention to the fact Liam Davidson and his wife were on MH17. Prior to your blog post I was not familiar with his work but I have just found his books listed on GoodReads and will be adding them to my TBR list. My condolences go out to their family and everyone effected by this terrible tragedy. So much and so many have been lost.


    • Hello Diane, two of the books I ordered arrived today, so I shall be starting one of them as soon as I’ve finished the book I’m currently reading. It’s a small thing to do as a tribute, but I feel urged to do it.


  6. […] sad thing to discover an Aussie author’s work only because he was killed in an atrocity, (see Vale Liam Davison) but it has been a delight to read his first novel.  Actually it’s a novella, of only 137 […]


  7. […] motivated by sentiment and a determination that his work would not sink into obscurity because of his untimely death.  But Soundings, Davison’s second novel, has turned out to be a riveting book to read.  […]


  8. […] Prize for an essay titled “Map for a Vanished Landscape”. Lisa at ANZLitLovers wrote a tribute to him soon after his death, and is now reading and reviewing his […]


  9. […] Liam Davison and his wife Frankie were killed when their plane, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17, was shot down over disputed territory in Ukraine, and all lives were lost.  This review is the last in my personal tribute to Davison, an author who I came to know only because of the tragic circumstances of his death.  You can find the rest of my reviews of his fiction oeuvre here. […]


  10. Thank you Lisa for reading and reviewing Liam’s writing. The shock of losing him and Frankie is still reverberating for me and our whole family. Liam would be pleased to know that people are reading his books: reading and writing, especially reading Australian writers were so important to him. The tribute at Forty-five Downstairs at which his last published short story was read aloud and the words spoken by his friend in writing Arnold Zable all help. Thank you.


    • Oh Catherine, thank you so much for your kind comment here and please accept my condolences. I cannot imagine how hard it must be living with this tragedy and I can only hope that your family is finding some consolation from the support of family and friends.
      I am pleased to know that my small tribute has made its way to you and your family and that you know that his work continues to be valued by so many of us in the literary community. Liam was a very special Australian writer, and I wanted to do my little bit to make sure that his work is not forgotten. And although I never met him, I think of him often – whenever my eye rests on his books in a pile together on my shelves.


  11. […] Liam Davison and his wife Frankie were killed when their plane, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17, was shot down over disputed territory in Ukraine, and all lives were lost.  This review is the third in my personal tribute to an author, who, to my regret, I have discovered only because of the tragic circumstances of his death.   I find it very sad that The Betrayal, the next of his novels that I shall read, is his last.  He was a remarkable writer who deserved to be more widely known. […]


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