Posted by: Lisa Hill | January 28, 2023

Meet an Aussie Author: Philip Salom

Photo credit: Meredith Kidby

Like many others, I discovered the novels of Philip Salom when Waiting was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 2017.  The Returns was also shortlisted in 2020, which prompted me to track down his early novels Playback (1991) and Toccata and Rain (2004), both published by Fremantle Arts Centre Press.

Since Waiting, (Puncher and Wattman), Salom’s novels — The Returns (2019), The Fifth Season (2020) and Sweeney and the Bicycles (2022) — have been published by Transit Lounge with great covers by Peter Lo and Josh Durham/Design by Committee.

All these novels have attracted wide-ranging acclaim as you can see from the award lists at Wikipedia. Toccata and Rain was shortlisted for the ALS Gold Medal and the WA Premier’s Prize for Fiction, and Playback won the WA Premier’s Prize for Fiction. In 2016, Waiting was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Prize and in the following year, for both the Miles Franklin and the Prime Minister’s Award. The Returns was shortlisted for the 2020 Miles Franklin Award and the Queensland Premier’s Prize, and The Fifth Season was longlisted for the MF too. You can see my reviews of his four most recent novels here, including his latest release Sweeney and the Bicycles (2022).


Salom’s oeuvre, however, also includes award-winning collections of poetry, both national and international.  He has won the Commonwealth Poetry Book Prize in London (twice), the Western Australian Premier’s Prize (twice) and the Newcastle Poetry Prize (in 1996 and again in 2000). Philip has also been recognised with the prestigious Christopher Brennan Award, a lifetime award for poetry ‘of sustained quality and distinction‘. His collection The Well Mouth was named a Sydney Morning Herald Book of the Year, and Adelaide Review Book of the Year.  Salom has also written collections through his heteronyms: The Keeper of Fish by Alan Fish, and Keeping Carter by MA Carter. In 2015 Philip published the poetry trilogy Alterworld which includes Sky Poems, The Well Mouth and the new section Alterworld.

After Sweeney and the Bicycles, I contacted Philip to see if I could persuade him to be featured in Meet an Aussie Author, and he has very generously provided answers to my questions here:

I was born … in Bunbury, WA. I became a farm boy and grew up around cattle and dogs and cats. On the land, with farm work whether I liked it or not. I liked it.

When I was a child … I imagined being a Test cricketer, or a racing driver, or an artist. Not a farmer. Not even a writer. But I was a huge reader.

The person who encouraged/inspired/mentored me: William Hart-Smith said of my early poems: you are a poet. Reading my first collection Tom Shapcott repeated it. It was profoundly important encouragement.

I write in a dark room, the blinds down, desk lamp on. Years ago: a Salom-made log cabin with a fireplace … and a desk lamp.

I write when (a time): During my years of employment, in late-afternoon and especially at night. Now, blissfully, at any time, day or night, I want to or need to.

Research is… beautiful procrastination. For Sweeney and the Bicycles I needed more research than for earlier books. But then it was during Covid lock-down in Melbourne.

I keep my published works in … one row of our wall-length jarrah book shelves, which cost more than any book of mine has ever made from sales!

On the day my first book was published, I … had finished a poetry book in my 20s! Just. By book launch time I was 30. Veronica Brady, ‘the Marxist nun’ (her words), launched it with wonderful exaggeration.

At the moment I’m writing … my seventh and shortest novel, with fewer characters. A novel about water and light and a search for meaning and value. Earth, inlet, sky. And puzzles.

When I’m stuck for an idea/word/phrase, I … procrastinate to provoke both energy and ideas. I trust my mind. Sometimes covering my face/eyes with my hands will deliver ‘visions’ of scenes. It’s true!

Salom’s muse, Dermie, is named after the Irish poet and author Dermot Healy.

Thanks for participating, Philip!




  1. I’m always embarrassed hearing of WA authors I don’t know. I won’t go back and check your reviews in case I see I left a comment and didn’t take anything in.


    • Oh, Bill, I think you would really like Salom’s novels. He’s one of the few authors writing today who is writing about disadvantaged people living in the gentrified inner city of Melbourne. He’s not sentimental, but he writes from the heart.


  2. I have The returns on my TBR, and would love to read him. How great is it that he seems to now be able to live on his writing, that he can write when he wants to, not at the end of the say when he’s tired!


    • Yes indeed… though I suspect that what makes him such a good author is in part mixing with all sorts of interesting people, which is what you get when you’re working.

      Liked by 1 person

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