Sunday, February 11, 2007

Temple’s mounts

A few months ago I asked readers which crime novels or stories had taught them something about a particular place or field of endeavor. I called Jonathan Gash and his antiques dealer/thief, Lovejoy, "walking librarians who, in the engaging manner of librarians everywhere, love to share their knowledge."

Peter Temple’s Jack Irish books, more than any other novels I can think of at the moment, offer absorbing and convincing glimpses into two such worlds: Irish's twin passions/avocations of furniture making and horse racing. Here’s an especially nice example of the latter, from Black Tide, the second Jack Irish novel:

“We walked about a hundred metres and found an intact piece of fence to lean on. `Largely a waste of time this,’ Harry said. `Not like a race. Nothin’s like a race except a race. But you find out a bit about the animal. Mostly whether he wants to be the boss horse. Horse race’s just a stampede, y’know, Jack. Some horses always want to be the leader. If they’ve got the power, jockey’s job’s the timin. … Then there’s animals that just don’t want to. Give up. Happens with the best bred. Bugger all the jock can do. And some want to be boss when they’re young and then they say, stuff it. Great horses, they never stop tryin, but the opposition keep getting younger. This one gives it away early.”

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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8 Comments:

Blogger Daniel Hatadi said...

Peter Temple signed my copy of BLACK TIDE at the Sydney Writers' Festival, but I still haven't read it yet! I shall have to rectify this with haste.

February 11, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

A nice thought, that, though you might find yourself doing your rectifying with something other than haste, at least at first. Temple is so good that I found myself wanting to read Black Tide slowly just to savor the book. There can't be too many other authors who can write a thriller with a slow fuse as well as he can.

Then the thriller elements kick in, and the fuse gets faster. You write; you may well appreciate the gorgeous prose that draws the reader in, and then the picking up of the narrative pace. The man's got technique out the wazoo.

February 11, 2007  
Blogger Daniel Hatadi said...

I'll make sure to use that haste to get through my current book and slow right down as soon as the tide hits.

Peter Temple talked a fair bit about his writing techniques at the festival, and I took notes.

One of the most interesting things he said was when asked which actor he thought would suit Jack Irish.

Temple didn't know: he never describes a face.

It's a great technique as it forces the reader to use their imagination, filling in the details with what they glean from dialogue and action.

February 11, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

That was an interesting comment on Temple's part, because he does describe a face or two in Black Tide. In one scene, he has Jack Irish give a faily thorough physical descroption of a woman that includes this: "curved nose, hollow cheeks, a judgmental face." Irish makes a judgment based on the woman's appearance, then almost immediately begins to question it and continues doing so throughout the scene.

February 11, 2007  
Anonymous Hamish said...

Peter and Daniel: I suspect Temple meant that he had never described Jack Irish. I've just skimmed my collection and I can't find any physical description of Jack. Temple certainly describes other characters in a slashing shorthand.

February 11, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

You're probably right, Hamish. Still, there is reason to believe Temple is having some fun with the notion of faces. In addition to the passage I cited, with Jack Irish backtracking on the judgment he makes based on Lyall's appearance (and "slashing shorthand" is a nice phrase -- accurate, too, I'd say), there is this:

"What does he look like?" How had I got to this point without knowing what Gary looked like? Because appearance doesn't matter when you're looking for someone's plastic trail."

I'd hate to sound too much like an English or cultural studies professor seeking deeper meaning in popular fiction, but that idea of the unreliability or elusiveness of the human face has now cropped up twice in this fine novel. Once more, and it may become a recurring motif. I don't remember it cropping up in Bad Debts. It will be interesting to see if it occurs in the later Jack Irish books.

February 11, 2007  
Blogger Daniel Hatadi said...

Hamish, I think you're right. I've only read BAD DEBTS and THE BROKEN SHORE, and although I don't recall any detailed facial descriptions, it's entirely possible I just want my theory to be true. Probably because that's how I write myself.

February 12, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Give yourself a bit more credit than that, Daniel. See my comment immediately above. You may have overstated the case a bit, but I think you were on to something about Peter Temple and faces.

February 12, 2007  

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