For the staffers, journalists and policy wonks who populate Canberra, the time has come to ask yourselves a big question: are you and your sleepy town in danger of becoming cool?

Australian TV viewers are used to seeing their political class satirised (from the Gillies Report to Shaun Micallef's Mad as Hell, and lots in between), but it doesn't often get dramatised. Last night, however, the ABC aired the first part of a Canberra-based political thriller called The Code, set in Canberra and shot partly inside Parliament House. The Canberra Times, which ordinarily is reluctant to gush about the capital (ahem), said the series depicts Canberra 'as a coldly imposing city hiding dark secrets.'

And although we will have to wait at least a year to see it, another Canberra-centred mini-series based on two novels by journalists Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann is in production. The Marmalade Files and The Mandarin Code tell the story of a federal government barely held together with minority party support, riven with leadership tension and dogged by a relentlessly negative opposition leader (all resemblances to recent reality are strictly intentional).

But the two books, and a third yet to come, also deal with Australia's relationships with the US and China, and in the interview below, which I recorded with Steve and Chris last Friday, you can hear Chris talk (5:27) about how our leaders feel privately about China's rise. It's quite different to how politicians from both sides discuss China publicly.

If you're interested in the mini-series, you'll hear details from Chis and Steve at 3:53, and at 9:00, listen for Steve Lewis' take on the relationship between politicians and intelligence agencies, another theme of the books.

The Interpreter has four copies of The Mandarin Code to give away. For your chance to win, tell us your favourite novels about modern China using the comments section, Twitter, Facebook or We will post responses on The Interpreter and get in touch with you if you're in our top four.