Thursday, March 04, 2010

Peter Temple speaks

A big hat tip to reader Pat Miller for pointing me to this televised interview with Peter Temple.

"Books choose you," Temple tells the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Kerry O’Brien. "The genre chooses you rather than the other way around."

Why crime? O'Brien asks.

"Because I like strong stories, I like narratives, I like characters who have some reason to get up in the morning and also because they're involved with the the world. ... It's the inwardness of the literary novel that escapes me."

Read a partial transcript here.

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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26 Comments:

Anonymous kathy d. said...

Cheers to a new Peter Temple book.

The Broken Shore was a very good read; the main character was worth reading about and the descriptions of place were quite good.

March 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Have you watched the interview? He has some interesting things to say about writing, editing, being edited and also about Australia and South Africa, the latter of which is his native country.

March 05, 2010  
Blogger adrian.mckinty said...

He talks a lot of sense does Mr Temple, doesn't he?

March 05, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

The basic plot of Bad Debts was very conventional and rather dull. What brought the book alive were the extraneous matters that are mentioned in the interview, the horse racing, the working with wood and even the (Aussie Rules)football.

It's interesting that the agent wanted to drop those things but the publisher loved them. Obviously, some publishers aren't too dumb.

March 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

He talks a lot of sense does Mr Temple, doesn't he?

You refer to his mention of Clive James, no doubt.

March 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

James or no James, I liked his lucid explanation of why he writes crime fiction. He also had much of interest to say about the position of white South Africans of his era and about his native country and his adopted one. Sure, maybe that's just a variant of the you-don't-know-how-good-you-have-it-here argument, but he makes the case well, and with a real appreciation for Australia.

March 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, it's a rare gift to be able to make those extraneous matters thoroughly a part of the story. He must have great insight into why those matters interest him to be able to write so well about them.

March 05, 2010  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I've just finished Clive James's new book of essays. The thing about CJ is that he is intelligent, funny and right about almost everything. But being right about almost everything can sometimes lead to hubris. I still dont buy his criticism of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen in The New Yorker and he still hasn't corrected his assertion that the "Nazis had no working helicopters in WW2" when in fact they had four different models.

Still, I wouldnt really want it any other way. CJ is a voice of sanity and humanity in an increasingly vulgar and shrill world.

March 05, 2010  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Oh and that pretty much up sums up my feelings about Temple.

BTW I dont know that many people, but I know at least four S African Australians.

March 05, 2010  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

by which I mean "a voice of sanity" not the hubris part...

March 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yeah, I know that sooner or later this twitting you about Clive James is going to get old, but not yet.

I have taken James to task for overly broadly statements in his New Yorker article on international crime fiction as well as his criticism of an Italian author as a bad writer, criticism illustrated by an example from an English translation.

March 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I ought to read some of Clive James' essays. His range is impressively broad.

I know of at least two Australian crime writers from South Africa, sort of: Temple and David Owen, born in Rhodesia, educated in Malawi, Swaziland and South Africa.

March 05, 2010  
Blogger Pat Miller said...

I have only read one Jack Irish novel many years ago and look forward to catching up on those. It will be interesting to compare them to the humorous crime series by Shane Maloney, a favourite of mine, whose characters operate in the same inner-city neighbourhoods though possibly on very different planes of consciousness.

March 07, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That could be the Australian slang semifinals, with the winner to face Chris Nyst.

Seems to me Melbourne has been the capital of Australian crime fiction since the days of Fergus Hume. Why is this?

March 07, 2010  
Blogger Pat Miller said...

I think the Gold Rush of the 1850s-60s may have a part to play in that, along with Australia's convict past. Melbourne went from rags to riches practically overnight and had a lot of trouble managing the accompanying greed factor. Marshall Browne, author of the Inspector Anders series, wrote a trilogy of historical novels about the era: The Burnt City; The Gilded Cage; The Trumpeting Angel. They didn't hold back on the skulduggery that went on. Kerry Greenwood has been plumbing the dark side of late 1920s Melbourne for a very long time and doesn't seem to be running out of material. Today, both books and TV are bringing to light the 'underbelly' of criminal Melbourne during the 1970s-80s. Yet Melbourne still keeps attracting high ratings for being one of the world's most liveable cities. It's a mystery!

March 08, 2010  
Blogger Pat Miller said...

Stephen Knight has been championing crime fiction for decades and wrote this excellent overview of the development of Australian crime fiction published in The Age newspaper last June: http://www.theage.com.au/news/entertainment/books/our-dark-materials/2009/06/18/1244918135592.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap2

March 08, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The Gold Rush – that makes a lot of sense. Melbourne’s roots as a crime and crime-fiction city may be similar to San Francisco’s. I know of at least one crime writer who lives in St. Kilda, which figures prominently in The Mystery of a Hansom Cab. Marshall Browne’s historical novels might make interesting reading in conjunction with crime novels set in Melbourne.

I haven’t read Kerry Greenwood. What we be a good place to start with her?

March 08, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for that article. I've printed it out, and I may link to it later.

March 08, 2010  
Blogger Pat Miller said...

Kerry Greenwood is a lawyer who works primarily in legal aid. She is also an excellent speaker and tells both harrowing and hilarious stories about her work. But on the whole, it not a very uplifting job. So her writing is a counter to that, filled with good fun and lots of heart. Throughout her books she builds a vibrant image of Melbourne as it was in the 1920s but her stories are as far from the gritty realism of 'these mean streets' as you can get. Best enjoyed by starting from the beginning with Cocaine Blues.

March 08, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Cocaine Blues," and you say her writing is far from gritty realism? That sounds like a gritty, realistic title to me, so I've been surprised already.

Australian lawyers may give their profession a good name. I enjoyed Chris Nyst's "Crook as Rookwood," whose title is one of my favorite expressions.

March 08, 2010  
Blogger Pat Miller said...

While I can't speak for Kerry Greenwood, I think she probably wanted a title that would raise eyebrows. She doesn't shy away from unpleasant issues, but she doesn't dwell on blood spatter, either. Phryne is a very clever girl - and she looks after her wardrobe! When you read it, you'll see what I mean. LOL!

March 08, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I hear good things about Kerry Greenwood, but I can't be known for reading crime fiction that concerns itself with wardrobes. I have a reputation to keep up.

If anyone gives me any grief, though, the title "Cocaine Blues" ought to shut them up.

March 08, 2010  
Blogger Pat Miller said...

Never fear, Phryne Fisher's no bit of fluff! An iron fist in a velvet glove - embellished perhaps with a diamond studded bracelet on appropriate occasions. She lends a lot of class to a society that was fairly desperate, grim and grimy, back in those dark days.

March 08, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I think the first thing I'd look for is Chandler and Hammett parallels, or maybe parallels to American Westerns.

March 08, 2010  
Blogger Pat Miller said...

I don't own a copy of Cocaine Blues, but the first few paragraphs of Greenwood's Ruddy Gore might fill the bill:
"The hatchet flicked past, end over end, and struck a wooden shutter with a hollow thud. Light gleamed along the polished blade.
Phryne Fisher closed a leather-gloved had on the handle and extracted it with one strong pull. She hefted it. An admirable weapon, well-balanced, not too heavy, wickedly sharp.
'Were you trying to attract my attention?' she asked politely.
An Asian face turned to her out of the mass of struggling bodies. He saw the black hair and pale face, the body shining silver like a Taoist goddess, and screamed at her, 'Jau!'
This meant nothing to Phryne, who had seen an old woman go down without a cry under three attackers clad in dark blue. Little Bourke Street was chill, empty and dark. Sodium glare from the widely spaced street lights turned every puddle on the slick cobbles into a mirror and left black velvet pools of night in between.
In one of these some sort of street fight was occurring. Phryne was on her way to a gala performance of Ruddigore at His Majesty's in celebration of Bert Hinkler's triumphant flight. She was beginning to wonder whether taking a short cut had been such a good idea as it had seemed ten minutes before... Phryne stepped lightly to a corner, yelled, "The cops!" and watched as two blue-clad toughs scrambled up and ran away. The other one stopped to kick the recumbent old woman again, and Phryne could not allow that. He had had his chance. She walked quickly up behind him, waited until his head was in the right position, and clipped him neatly with the hatchet, considerately using the back. She was clad in an outrageously expensive dress and did not want to get blood on it. He collapsed with a satisfactory moan."

That could almost have been staged in San Francisco with Sam Spade just about to come around the corner. But within the next few pages, Kerry Greenwood describes a very 20s, very Melbourne locale.

March 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A hatchet flicking past, end over end, is an arresting image, all right. And the rest of this excerpt is pretty good, too. Thanks.

"Ruddy Gore" -- a nice G&S allusion. I grew up on the "H.H.S. Pinafore."

March 09, 2010  

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