Monday, November 22, 2010

Peter Temple's An Iron Rose: Best second crime novel ever?

An Iron Rose is sometimes lush and sometimes elliptical, the latter not just because some of its characters speak laconically, but because the novel's viewpoint is so thoroughly that of its main character.

What does this mean? It means the story feels much more real than most. Protagonist Mac Farraday is also the first-person narrator, and no one person knows everything. Farraday misses parts of the story, and he makes wrong guesses, and the truth hits him hard when he learns it, just as it will likely hit the reader.

Farraday is a convincing blacksmith here, just as Temple's other protagonists have been convincing cabinetmakers and horse players; no crime writer writes about work better than Temple does, especially skilled manual work.

Gorgeous deadpan wit and memorable observations abound:

  • "After supper, Lew and I played Scrabble. He was good with small words, quick to see possibilities."
  • "`Leon's a charming person,' she said. `His problem is chronic envy. Non-specific envy. His greatest fear is that he's missing something ...'"
  • "Alex looked around at the pub: yellow smoke-stained walls, plastic furniture, scratched and cigarette-burnt formica-topped bar, three customers who looked like stroke victims."
Temple also reveals details of Farraday's back story gradually, which enhances the book's realism. A reader may feel not just that he or she knows the character, but has come to know him the way one comes to know a person in real life.
***
An Iron Rose, which appeared in 1998, is Temple's second novel, following Bad Debts and preceding such award-winners as The Broken Shore and Truth. It's easily as good as those books and must be one of the best second novels in all of crime fiction. What other good second novels can you think of?

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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19 Comments:

Anonymous Peter Temple said...

Thank you for your generous observations on An Iron Rose, Peter. It's very pleasing that it holds up. I haven't dared look at it since the last century.

November 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It more than holds up, and not just as a relic of its time. Furthermore, a friend has spoken of it highly as well.

November 22, 2010  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter, Peter,

Definitely holds up. In fact I think its something of a classic.

November 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yeah, well, I was just trying for witty understatement.

November 22, 2010  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

That must be the Canadian in you.

Everytime my daughter chants her school yard rhyme "copy cat from Ballarat" I think of Peter Temple which isn't really fair because he's very original.

November 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm in Canada among Canadians as I write this. This must explain why I'm more than usually polite, self-effacng and taciturn. (I'll get together with Fetch tomorrow if he just remembers to take his phone with him when he walks his damned dog.)

I agree that Peter Temple is original, which is why I thought the sniffing at "Truth" because it used a few crime-fiction conventions was so stupid. The idiot complainer paid no attention to what Temple does with those conventions.

November 22, 2010  
Anonymous adrian said...

Peter

I think its more the rhyme the kids like than any awareness of Ballarat's most famous literary son.

We used to sing "copy cat the barber your daddy fell in the harbour" which was much more complicated and interesting. The imaginations of kids today, eh?

November 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I was "Baby, baby / Stick your head in gravy / Bought a piece of bubble gum / And sent it to the Navy" -- an antimilitarist ditty of which Stieg Larsson surely would have approved.

November 22, 2010  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I think mine must have been the last generation to have heard the insult "Your mother wears army boots!"

November 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sadly, kids today still say, "I know you are, but what am I?" though occasionally shortened to "I know you are."

November 22, 2010  
Anonymous Peter said...

And thank you, Mr McKinty. The only things Ballarat copies successfully are the worst aspects of Melbourne.

November 23, 2010  
Blogger Vanda Symon said...

Ah, loved An Iron Rose - it was the first Peter Temple book I ever read, and well and truly hooked me into reading more of his work.

November 23, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Did you read the book when it was first published? I would imagine that living in your part of the world would have alerted you to Peter Temple before much of the rest of us knew about him.

(N.B. Vanda Symon's novel Containment is a finalist for the first Ngaio Marsh Award for best New Zealand crime novel: http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/2010/08/and-then-there-were-three.html)

November 23, 2010  
Anonymous adrian said...

What a coincidence. I read Containment on a plane last week. I really liked it.

November 23, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, that's a good title: "Containment on a Plane."

November 23, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I read "Containment," after reading a book which was terrifying in its realistic depiction of horrendous brutality in a country, which actually carries out what the book described.

So, I needed a diversion and "Containment," provided it and humor--and a great character.

November 24, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, I may have mentioned this earlier, but, based on the novel's opening scene, I bet Vanda Symon could write a darker novel if she wanted to. Maybe she has; Containment is the only book of hers that I know.

November 24, 2010  
Blogger Vanda Symon said...

'Containment on a Plane' - love it - as long as it isn't as cheesy as the dreaded Snakes on a ...

I just happen to be writing something a bit darker next...

November 24, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have always liked the title Snakes on a Plane. I'll look forward to seeing how dark you get.

November 24, 2010  

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