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HomeLifestyleNovel Poker Protocol puts Manly under the microscope

Novel Poker Protocol puts Manly under the microscope

Experiences from life as a journalist and community activist were behind the inspiration of a new novel set in Manly and Pittwater by local author Anne Maria Nicholson.

The book, Poker Protocol, was officially launched at Hotel Steyne on a wet and chilly Manly evening last week.

Well-known journalist and presenter Peter FitzSimons headed the event, with Deputy Mayor Candy Bingham hosting a Q and A with the author.

‘Poker Protocol’ book launch at the Hotel Steyne. Photo: Kelly Black

“One of the fun things about reading the book is that you recognise places,” Cr Bingham said. They talk about coming to the Hotel Steyne, so it’s quite fun having places that you know in the book.”

Author Anne Maria Nicholson explained: “I wanted to write a book that put a microscope over middle Australia, and I think Manly is like that, it’s a mixed community of people. Many people have lived here for a long time, but many people come and go, it’s quite transitory.”

Candy Bingham, Anne Maria Nicholson, & Peter FitzSimons. Photo: Kelly Black

In what is Anne Maria’s third novel, five affluent yet mismatched friends play poker every month in their homes around Manly.

Anne Maria says the inspiration for the book came while playing a game of poker in Italy.

“I’d had this idea of setting up a group of average Australians, if you like. So I set up characters who play poker once a month, and I wanted them to sort of confront the collision course with people who have been brought into the community who were asylum seekers from countries that have been torn apart.”

“This is a story of the haves and the have-nots. It’s a clash of people with first world problems and those with almost nothing, and the poker table provides the tension as the players gamble against each other and themselves.”

Anne Maria certainly walks the walk, having climbed volcanoes as part of the research for her first two novels, both revolving around volatile volcanoes and a Vulcanologist.

The research for her latest book, whilst less physically taxing, was no less mentally demanding. As a journalist though, she says that the research side of writing a book comes naturally to her, and is one of the easier parts of the process.

“I do an enormous amount of research, but this one was a little different than the first two.”

“I had to research the game to really get to know it; you don’t want to get any of it wrong, so I played poker quite a bit with people, and worked out different moves.”

With parts of the book addressing the conflict in Afghanistan, Anne Maria even began using an encrypted messaging app to gain an understanding of the difficulties some of her characters may face.

“Last year, I did a lot of research with a friend of mine who was helping get people out of Afghanistan.”

“So I went onto an app called Signal, which is encrypted, and practised sending messages out as if this character was a real person.”

“But my friend was dealing with real people who are fearing for their lives and trying to get out of Afghanistan.”

Anne Maria Nicholson with her latest novel. Photo: Kelly Black

Her characters, including a Manly advocate for refugees, a TV news producer and a local real estate agent and developer, reflect some of the authors life experiences, having worked as a senior news and current affairs reporter and presenter for 20 years at the ABC, as well as internationally as a journalist for more than 40 years.

She made her home in Manly in the 1980s and, with a young family, became very involved in the community, becoming an elected councillor on the former Manly Council.

“We were young independents seeking to change the paradigm of Manly. It wasn’t just beachfront high-rise, but shocking ocean pollution, no proper childcare and degraded community facilities.”

“I got involved with a group of people, I was barely 30 and had a child. There was a blimp flying over the Manly Corso showing a 14 storey building that was proposed to be built on the council carpark that was going to overshadow the entire beach.”

“Sometimes it gets to a point where if you want something to happen, say if not me, then who? It started off with beachfront over-development, but it grew to cleaning up the ocean, building playgrounds, and a library.”

“We changed the paradigm.”

Attendees of the ‘Poker Protocol’ book launch listen on as the author talks about her experiences as a journalist. Photo: Kelly Black

A lot of the book is set in the ocean around Manly, a place where Anne Maria swims most days, and a place that she deeply respects and appreciates.

“There is a lot of ocean swimming in the Poker Protocol. We are so blessed to have the beautiful oceans and beaches around us, so I wanted to pay tribute to it, to Manly, and to nature.”

“Manly is a great community, and we’ve fought very hard to keep it that way.”

“And I just think I would say to locals don’t be complacent about where you live. It’s been hard won, getting it like this. Become involved, become involved with the community, because you can’t take it for granted.”

Poker Protocol is available now at HumphreysHumphreys on Manly Corso, Berkelouw Books in Balgowlah, and online at retailers such as Booktopia and Amazon.

Anne Maria Nicholson signing copies of her latest novel. Photo: Kelly Black