Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Broken Shore, Part II

Here are a few more things I liked:

1) The denouement is more full of incident than those of most novels. The main action has resolved itself, and then one has the delicious feeling that the wrapping up will almost become a new story in itself. Come to think of it, that's a graceful way of dealing with a problem that some readers have seen in Temple's other books: that his plots can be too complicated. Here, the twists and turns are more elaborate than ever, but also more clearly defined as sub-plots.

2) Temple has so much fun drawing his story to an end, that who can begrudge him a bit of a melodramatic groaner? Here's how one of the final chapters ends: "A stone retaining wall was leaning, blocks loose. Soon it would collapse, the worms would be revealed." Over the top? Sure. Did it make me smile? Yup. It's a small example of the author's flair for humor even in grim situations. As grim as events in his books may get, I suspect Temple does not take himself excessively seriously. And that's good.

3) And here's that foodie crack I alluded to in my first post about The Broken Shore:

"Don't care for the victuals in Noosa," Cashin said. As he said the word, he saw the strange spelling. "Listen, an ordinary old toasted cheese and tomato?"

Leon raised his right arm in a theatrical way, drew fingers across his forehead as if wiping away sweat. "I take it you don't require sheep-milk fetta with semi-dried organic tomatoes on sourdough artisan bread?"

"No."

"I suppose I can find a gassed tomato, some rat-trap cheese and a couple of slices of tissue-paper white."

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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16 Comments:

Anonymous Albrecht said...

Bad grammar? I cannot believe that the person in the earlier post does not understand that Temple is compressing till the pips squeak. He is a language stress-tester. Love it. Huge talent.

March 29, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

You'll know I'm with you in the matter of Peter Temple's laconic speech and narration. But some readers will be rubbed the wrong way by a given style or device no matter how brilliant it may be -- no accounting for taste, and all.

March 29, 2007  
Anonymous crimeficreader said...

I love these buoyant comments; such enthusiasm!

"I cannot believe that the person in the earlier post does not understand that Temple is compressing till the pips squeak..."

Well do try to believe albrecht, as I am as firm as you are! It creates a style, no doubt. But in the UK, we have seen a substantial fall in the quality of the written word, over the last decade or so. Education in this matter leaves a lot to be desired.

I have no gripe with an aim at style, but I have a major gripe with this style, which defies good grammar, which is no longer taught in UK schools, it seems. Some (many?) might think this is normal prose. It is not. Not unless we make it acceptable through laziness and lack of education.

March 29, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Yikes, but I hate discord!

CFR, I think Albrecht's sharp comments really do reflect enthusiasm. He is in awe of Peter Temple's talent (as am I) and is shocked and disbelieving that anyone could see Temple's work differently. I suspect you or I might feel the same way if someone voiced dislike for a writer or food or work of art or anything else that we revere.

And I meant what I wrote about there being no accounting for taste. There have been writers that other people praise to the skies but who have just rubbed me the wrong way when I've tried to read them, Elmore Leonard for one. I suspect his many partisans might be shocked by this, but again, there is no accounting for taste.

March 29, 2007  
Blogger Perry Middlemiss said...

There is a transcript of an interview with Temple from ABC Radio's "The Book Show" at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/bookshow/stories/2006/1662389.htm.

One of the interesting points he raises is that few Australian crime novels are set outside the major cities. It seems to be predominantly an urban genre in this country. Garry Disher is slowly changing this.

I gather the US edition of "Broken Shore" contains a glossary at the back. Temple discusses this in the interview with particular attention to the "swagman".

March 29, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks for that link, Perry. I really should read the transcript before I reply to your comment, but this way perhaps I can milk two comments out of your reply instead of just one -- building up one's traffic, you know.

American crime fiction, at least of the harder-boiled type, has had a similar urban bias probably since the early 1930s, from Chandler and Hammett through Chester Himes and Jonathan Latimer and on to more recent writers like Robert Parker, Lawrence Block, Loren Estleman and Sara Paretsky. "Chandler's Los Angeles." "Hammett's San Francisco," even "Lawrence Block's New York." The very phrases themselves are almost cliches.

In my early reading of Australian crime fiction, Melbourne seemed to be a frequent setting. But Temple himself gave The Broken Shore a rural setting, or rather a rural setting slowly turning suburban. And then there's Adrian Hyland's Diamond Dove, set far from a big city.

My copy of The Broken Shore is a U.K. edition. It had no glossary, and I never missed one. I probably could not give a dictionary definition of swaggie, but it's easy enough to make a guess at the meaning given Rebb's character and his dealings with Cashin. I always like trying to figure out the meanings of words and expressions new to me. A glossary would take some of the fun out of it. (I understand that U.S. edition of Diamond Dove may have a glossary as well.)

March 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The U.S. version does indeed have a glossary. But I agree with you, Peter, you don't need it--largely because of Temple's talent. The context makes the meaning of the colloquialisms clear.

My review of The Broken Shore is the Review of the Day today at Booklist Online. Thanks for letting me know about your blog!

March 30, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks for the comment, anonymous. Come visit often!

I just had a glance at your review of The Broken Shore. More than one reviewer has noted parallels between Temple's world and the American West (or maybe I've just come across your review more than once!), but it's a thoroughly contemporary world at the same time. There are no simple-minded allegories here.

My earliest readers on this blog were Australian, and some said language was an impediment to Australian crime fiction's success in the wider English-speaking world. One even told me some novels had been "translated" to remove distinctively and supposedly difficult Australianisms for overseas publication. Might as well edit out Maigret's pipe for editions if Simenon in countries where the rate of smoking is low.

March 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bear in mind that I don't equate "American West" with "Old West." I fully intended to make the connection to issues facing the American West today--which are anything but simple. (I should know, I grew up in Montana!) Forgot to sign my name....

Sincerely,
Keir Graff

March 30, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks, Keir. In re the American West, I saw someone invoke Chinatown in a discussion of The Broken Shore. That comparison would work on at least two levels, including that of Australia-American West parallel.

Someone who knows Montana would likely be familiar with phenomenon of outsiders buying up, developing and sub-dividing land, a phenomenon Temple captures better than any other writer, crime or otherwise, I can think of.

March 30, 2007  
Anonymous Albrecht said...

On the subject Temple, your bloggers will like to know that today KALTER AUGUST (the German title for THE BROKEN SHORE) is voted Number One crime novel by a panel of 18 German, Austrian and Swiss literary critics. The German reviewers have all delivered high praise for the work and express surprise that the author is not known before this in Germany.

March 31, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Der beste Krimi auf Deutsch, oder in Deutschland? (Sorry ... ich spreke beinah kein Deutsch!) Does this mean that Kalter August won the Friedrich Glauser prize?

March 31, 2007  
Anonymous Albrecht said...

It is a called the KrimiWelt best list and is decided every month. All crime novels, written in German and translated, are considered.

March 31, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

It's nice to hear that such a fine novel has received an award, and nice to hear the award is given each month. The frequency of the award seems like a nice effort to encourage interest in crime fiction. I hope Peter Temple enjoys as much success overseas as he does in Australia.

March 31, 2007  
Anonymous Shannon said...

Peter Temple in person is quite a funny guy, he doesn't take himself seriously at all and comes across as a real charmer. A fine craftsman, most definitely, but a very witty joker as well.

August 21, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks for checking in, Shannon. It's nice to hear that news about Peter Temple, though not entirely a surprise. I met a woman who had worked with him on a newspaper in Sydney before he began writing novels, and she said he was an excellent writer and a considerate, helpful colleague.

It's also good to know that a writer whose work I admire seems to be a good person. May his charm contribute to his worldwide success!

August 21, 2007  

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