Words at Wagstaffe

Saturday 16 March 2024, 9:45 – 16:45
Wagstaffe Hall, 55 Wagstaffe Avenue, Wagstaffe, Central Coast, NSW.

DAY PASS $89 + booking fee

Truly Criminal

Words at Wagstaffe, a one-day literary event held in partnership between Words on the Waves Writers Festival and The Bouddi Society, will return to Wagstaffe Hall for its fourth year on Saturday 16 March 2024

In 2024, the theme for Words at Wagstaffe is Truly Criminal. We drift to the darker side of the tracks for a day of thrills, true crime and mystery. We have homegrown king of crime, Michael Robotham, who continues to sharpen his Golden Dagger with his Joe O’Loughlin and Cyrus Haven series. Walkley Award-winning journalist Dan Box wades deep into a true story of lies, murder, and the Northern Territory. Central Coast writer Sarah Barrie brings her gritty and deeply complex hero, Lexi Winter. And Fiona Britton charms with a historical crime caper set in 1930s Sydney. It’s truly criminal how good this lineup is. Don’t miss it!

The doors will open at 9.00am, and the event will start at 9:45am with Acknowledgement of Country and welcome notes. Your promptness is appreciated.



9:45am – 10:00am


Introductions & ‘Acknowledgement of Country’

With thanks to Girri Girra for the provision of Acknowledgement of Country. Girri Girra is a 100% Aboriginal-owned business operating on the beautiful NSW Central Coast.

10:00am – 11:00am

Cop or Criminal, Victim or Vigilante?

Sarah Barrie & Anna Downes

In Sarah Barrie’s Lexi Winter series, readers are introduced to the gritty, high-octane world of a one-time hacker, now cop who will stop at nothing to see justice served. Following on from Unforgiven and Retribution, in Vendetta we track Lexi as a run-in with the local motorcycle club forces her to confront her vigilante past. With a child’s life in the firing line, where will her loyalties lie?

Join us to hear how this bestselling Central Coast writer explores moral ambiguity, crafts believeable and complex characters, all while keeping us feverishly turning the pages well past midnight.

11:00am – 11:30am


Book Signings with The Book Shop Umina

11:30am – 12:30pm

The Man Who Wasn’t There

Dan Box & Garry Linnell 

How can you accuse someone of murder when they weren’t even there? In The Man Who Wasn’t There, award-winning journalist Dan Box investigates the case of Zak Grieve, an Indigenous man from the outback NT town of Katherine who was sentenced to life for the hitjob killing of Ray Niceforo. From the beginning, he pleaded his innocence. Over the years a letter correspondence and friendship developed between the Sydney crime journo and incarcerated man and a deeply complex story of lies, family tragedy and injustice emerged.

12:30pm – 1:30pm


Book Signings & Lunch Break

1:30pm – 1:45pm

Winner of the Bouddi Foundation for the Arts Grant

Stephanie Jenkins & Sam Twyford-Moore

Stephanie Jenkins is the current recipient of the Bouddi Foundation for the Arts (BFA) grant. Stephanie will be interviewed on her writing career by Allen & Unwin Faber Writing Academy representative, Sam Twyford-Moore.

1:45pm – 2:45pm

Crime Caper Time

Fiona Britton & Benny Agius

Prepare to meet the beautiful, clever and determined Violet Kelly, star of Violet Kelly and the Jade Owl set in the grimy streets of 1930s inner-city Sydney. Dubbed as, “Phryne Fisher meets Underbelly,” this historical crime caper debut by author Fiona Britton takes us on a spirited journey through the worlds of brothels and razor gangs, kidnapped girls and ancient curses. It’s Agatha Christie with an Antipodean flavour and while it’s a lot of fun, as with most good pageturners, there’s more to it than meets the eye. Join us to hear more about this cracking cosy crime caper and a genre we have all come to know and love.

PLEASE NOTE: The session ‘Small-Town Mystery’ cannot proceed as planned, as Susan Duncan can no longer attend Words at Wagstaffe due to personal reasons. However we are very pleased that Fiona Britton is able to join in her stead.

2:45pm – 3:15pm


Book Signings with The Book Shop Umina

3:15pm – 4:15pm

The Secrets He Keeps

Michael Robotham & Margaret Pomeranz

“The guy can’t write a bad book,” says Stephen King and we have to agree. His debut The Suspect whipped up a publishing storm two decades ago, and Michael Robotham has been sharpening his Golden Dagger ever since. We’ve fallen for nine Joe O’Loughlin novels, four Cyrus Haven outings, and many more pulse-stirring thrillers besides. We’ve devoured the TV adaptations and watched as the coveted crime awards flood in. Sit in for this unmissable session with our very own king of crime.

4:15pm – 4:45pm


Book Signings with The Book Shop Umina



Anna Downes (Moderator)

Anna Downes is an actor, author and audiobook narrator born and raised in the UK and now based in Australia. She is the author of two internationally bestselling novels, The Safe Place and The Shadow House, both of which have been translated into over ten different languages, with a third book, Red River Road, a road trip thriller set on the Coral Coast of WA, coming out in May 2024. Anna lives on the NSW Central Coast with her husband and two children.

Benny Agius

Benny Agius (Moderator)

Benny Agius has been in the book business for over 40 years, most recently as MD of Welbeck Publishing. She has worked on many bestsellers including The Tattooist of Auschwitz and  The Happiness Trap, and has worked with many international publishers taking Australian authors to a wider audience. She is also one of the founding members of the Words on the Waves Writers Festival and proudly calls the Central Coast home.  


Dan Box

Dan Box is a Walkley Award-winning journalist and bestselling author. He has previously worked for The Australian, the BBC and London’s The Sunday Times. He has won awards in both the UK and Australia, including for investigative reporting, feature writing and true crime writing.


Garry Linnell (Moderator)

Garry Linnell is one of Australia’s most experienced journalists. Born and raised in Geelong, he has won several awards for his writing, including a Walkley for best feature writing. He has been editor-in-chief of The Bulletin, editor of The Daily Telegraph, director of news and current affairs for the Nine Network and editorial director of Fairfax. He spent four years as co-host of the Breakfast Show on 2UE and is also the author of a number of books – Football Ltd: The inside story of the AFL; Raelene: sometimes beaten, never conquered; Playing God: The rise and fall of Gary Ablett; and the bestselling Buckley’s Chance, Moonlite and The Devil’s Work.

Margaret Pomeranz

Margaret Pomeranz (Moderator)

Margaret Pomeranz AM co-hosted The Movie Show on SBS and At The Movies on ABC with David Stratton for nearly three decades. She has served as a member of the Advertising Standards Board, is a past president of the Film Critics Circle of Australia and has been both president and vice-president of Watch on Censorship. Margaret also presented a movies and a review program Screen on Foxtel. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Macquarie University and was selected for the Playwright’s Studio at NIDA, after which she began writing for television, radio and film. She joined the newly established Special Broadcasting Service in 1980 as writer/producer, which led to her being appointed producer for David Stratton’s movie hostings. Some years later, in 1986, they were able to get The Movie Show up and running. The duo moved to the ABC in 2004 to establish At The Movies.


Michael Robotham

Michael Robotham is a former feature writer and investigative reporter, who has worked in Britain, Australia and America.

His debut thriller, The Suspect, introduced clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin and sold more than a million copies around the world, launching a nine-book series. It has been adapted into an ITV series starring Aidan Turner. Michael’s standalone thriller The Secrets She Keeps has also been the basis of two BBC TV series.

He has twice won the prestigious UK Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award for best crime novel, as well as the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for When She Was Good, a Richard & Judy Book Club pick.

Michael lives in Sydney.

© Sydney Opera House / Antidote 2019

Sam Twyford-Moore (Moderator)

Sam Twyford-Moore’s first book, The Rapids, was published by NewSouth and the University of Toronto Press in North America. His new book Cast Mates: Australian Actors in Hollywood and at Home was released in July 2023.


Sarah Barrie

Sarah Barrie is the author of nine novels, including her bestselling print debut Secrets of Whitewater Creek, the Hunters Ridge trilogy and the Calico Mountain trilogy. In a past life, while gaining degrees in arts, science and education, Sarah worked as a teacher, a vet nurse, a horse trainer and a magazine editor, before deciding she wanted to write novels. About the only thing that has remained constant is her love of all things crime.


Stephanie Jenkins

Stephanie (she/her) is a current PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle. Her PhD work interrogates structural inequalities in the fantasy genre, while her creative work attempts to undo these inequalities one story at a time. Her favourite genre to write and research is fantasy. Her work has appeared in the University of Newcastle Student’s Association magazine, the 2021 UON Writer’s Club Anthology, and in 2023 she won the People’s Choice for the Campus Writing Competition run by the Student Experience Network, for her short story ‘The Party’.


Susan Duncan

Susan Duncan spent her childhood in country Victoria where her father was supply officer for the Bonegilla Migrant Camp. When she was nine years old, her family moved to Melton, near Melbourne, to run a country pub where a rousing sing-along around the piano on a Saturday night was a lot of fun. After completing her secondary education at Clyde, Woodend, a girls’ boarding school, she took up a cadetship on the Melbourne Sun which led to a 25 year career spanning radio, newspapers and magazines.

Event Partners

The Bouddi Society

The Bouddi Society is a community group which organises public events and publications aimed at displaying and fostering the artistic, historical and cultural life of the local community. It administers the Bouddi Foundation for the Arts which is dedicated to supporting and encouraging young artists on the Central Coast of NSW.

The Book Shop

The Bookshop is your local independent bookstore with a great range for Adults, Children and Babies including both Fiction and Non-Fiction. We specialise in getting those hard to find titles or with recommendations for all ages – we love our books and we would love to help you.

Support our Festival

As a not-for-profit organisation run with a small team of volunteers, contributions of any size go a long way in enriching the creative culture of our community. The Committee includes local Peninsula residents passionate about bringing the arts to the Coast. We are seeking support from the community to help us create a wonderful and inclusive festival.