Saturday, December 22, 2007

The deep, somber, serious side of Shane Maloney, plus the ever-popular question for readers

Longtime readers of this blog know that Australia’s Shane Maloney is a funny guy, whether venting his spleen about translation, offending audiences at exclusive private schools, or writing crime novels about a beleaguered political functionary, single father and would-be nonsmoker named Murray Whelan.

I’ve read books one, four and five in the Whelan series, which took him from “minder, fixer and general dogsbody for the Minister for Industry” to respectability as a member of parliament. Now I’m reading number three, Nice Try, in which Whelan is detached from his job as senior adviser to the minister of water supply and put to work on Melbourne’s bid to host the 1996 Olympic Games.

I mention this because Whelan’s musings about encroaching middle age, moments of professional truth and the like seem more heartfelt this time, not just on his own behalf, but for his boss, Angelo Agnelli. The latter, especially, is a surprise, since Whelan in past books has regarded Agnelli with clear-eyed and amused condescension. Why the change? I wondered. Could it be – and I invite Australian readers especially to comment on this – because Maloney was part of Melbourne’s bid in real life and thus might have been disillusioned or disappointed when the bid failed?

On an unrelated note, Maloney does a nice bit of character development in the opening chapter. The character in question is a beautiful blonde female aerobics instructor, and you can imagine what fun an author of a novel whose protagonist is a single father might have with such a character. Maloney has that fun, and entertainingly so. But he also writes that “she had an open, frankly inquisitive face and wore her mandatory smile with a slightly ironic twist that didn’t quite match the earnest, professional cheerfulness of her workmates.”

The contrast piques the reader’s interest. That’s nice work on Maloney’s part.

How else do authors make you interested in their characters? What do they say about their characters that makes you want to know more?

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Karen C said...

Given he was part of (?head of) the cultural programme, and responsible at some stage for showing the wives and partners of the IOC the delights of Melbourne, I have heard him say he feels some direct responsibility for the failure of the bid, but I think you'll find some general reflection coming into the later books in the Whelan series. Sucked In had some reflective, almost poignant moments. Age of the author maybe / the genre that is generally getting a little more edgy?

December 23, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks for the comment. Yes, I believe I've read he was head of cultural programming for the bid.

I'd be better able to comment if I'd read the books in order, but you could be right about a greater sense of reflection in the later books. I just looked back on my comment about Something Fishy, and i wrote that that book got off to a more somber start than The Big Ask had. (Those were the first two Murray Whelan novels I'd read.) Of course, I went on to note that a scene shortly thereafter, where Whelan falls on a Swedish woman at a beach, had me laughing out loud. Sombreness is relative when it comes to Shane Maloney.

I wonder if Maloney's involvement with the Olympic bid had something to do with the taughtness of its structure. Nothing was wasted in either the main plot or the subplots. Even moments of slapstick and silliness were directly related to the action.

Was there any jealousy and gnashing of teeth in Melbourne when Sydney won the 2000 Games? (Come to think of it, those games must already have been awarded when Maloney was writing Nice Try.)

December 23, 2007  
Anonymous Karen C said...

Everything is relative when you're talking Shane Maloney..... :)

Certainly there was no jealousy and gnashing of teeth in this quarter - more an overwhelming sense of relief and a sneaking suspicion that all that glitz and carry-on was significantly more suited to Sydney ... we're much more measured down here. Of course now the Victorian Major Events Corporation are tracking me down to have me shot for heresy.

December 24, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Winning an Olympics doesn't seem to be the universally coveted prize it once was. This is due in part to reasons Shane Maloney hinted at in Nice Try and also to fiscal reasons. The mayor of my home town, Montreal, famously boasted that the Olympics could no more lose money than a man could have a baby. It took the city something like thirty years to pay off its debt from the 1976 Summer Games (where I saw the handball gold- and bronze-medal games).

The games may have been more suited to a measured pace back in 1956. Sydney certainly won praise in this part of the world for the 2000 Games. As for Atlanta, which beat out Melbourne, its games were probably the most widely reviled ever outside of the ones marred by massacres and boycotts.

December 24, 2007  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

The controversy here over London winning[I am not sure if that is the correct term] the 2012 Olympics goes on. Some people seem to be making a great deal of money from the taxpayer for arranging this "jolly". The motto for London 2012 will be "get your snout in the trough before someone else does".
The total cost will be astronomical, and this in a country where people are denied cancer drugs because of the cost.

Atlanta is about the 35th most populous city in the USA and the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta metro area only the 9th most populous. It was incredible that they could run any sort of games.

London 2012 will be a security nightmare, and recent building projects such as the new Wembley,and the Dome [O2] make one wonder if all will be ready in time.

December 24, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Bryan Appleyard predicted a price tag of at least £12 billion as against an original estimate of £2.4 billion. I suppose the price may have rise beyond £12 billion by now.

He also suggested that the Olympics, in addition to being bad for the environment, were well suited for undemocratic regimes. I suspect that Shane Maloney would agree, given his remarks about the Seoul and Mexico City Olympics in Nice Try.

Atlanta is also home to Coca-Cola and CNN.

December 24, 2007  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

"Undemocratic regimes" ???
Well the minister in charge of the Olympics is one Tessa Jowell whose husband [estranged] was Silvio Berlusconi's lawyer so at least we can be sure of very high standards of probity.

December 26, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

"Undemocratic regimes" ???

And I read today that environmentalists in Russia are upset about sites for the 2014 Winter Games -- and they claimed the organizing committee pushed them out of discussions after promising that they would be allowed to participate. Vladimir Putin, whatever he has done to boost his popularity at home, has not been a beacon of democracy.

December 26, 2007  

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