Friday, December 22, 2006

Peter Corris' settings

I've discussed setting from time to time, and I've also speculated with some readers of this blog about what sets Australian crime fiction apart. After reading Peter Temple, Garry Disher, David Owen and Shane Maloney, I found myself associating Australian crime writing with humor, of course, but also with a low-key approach and a lack of self-pity on the part of first-person narrators.

The humor part is less true of Peter Corris' The Dying Trade, the first of thirty (to date) Cliff Hardy novels by "the father of Australian crime fiction," though the novel does contain a witty observation or two. As for what makes it distinctively Australian, how about Hardy's observations on Australian cities? He clearly prefers Sydney to Melbourne or Adelaide, though he is a good enough sport to acknowledge that an Adelaide restaurant he visits on an investigation serves fine food for a third the price he'd pay in Sydney.

I have at least one more Cliff Hardy novel lined up to read. Perhaps I'll learn about the characteristics, stereotypes and rivalries of Australia's cities -- another joy of "international" crime fiction.


Almost all crime fiction gets compared to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Yasmina Khadra, about whom I posted most recently, for example, occasionally resembles Chandler in his wisecracking amid grim circumstances. The Dying Trade, on the other hand, resembles Chandler in some of its plot points: family secrets, rivalries, the horror of shady mental hospitals. One especially nice touch is the fondness with which Corris portrays an old couple of whom the male half once ran an orphanage. This may remind readers of the affinity between Chandler's Philip Marlowe and old General Sternwood in The Big Sleep.

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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