Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The father of Australian crime fiction ...

Peter Corris, according to the Australian Crime Fiction Database, "is credited with reviving the fully-fledged Australian crime novel with local settings and reference points and with a series character firmly rooted in Australian culture -- Cliff Hardy." He has also been called the father of Australian crime fiction.

If Corris is the father of Australian crime fiction because of his emphasis on local settings, then Fergus Hume deserves to be called the grandfather for the same reason. Here's Hume from a preface to The Mystery of a Hansom Cab: "Having completed the book, I tried to get it published, but every one to whom I offered it refused even to look at the manuscript on the ground that no Colonial could write anything worth reading."

And here is just one of several similar references from the body of this 1886 novel: "But it is impossible that the body can remain long without being identified by someone, as though Melbourne is a large city, yet it is neither Paris nor London, where a man can disappear in a crowd and never be heard of again."

Seldom can there have been a crime novel more conscious of its setting.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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Blogger flexnib said...

Hmmm.. I have not read any Peter Corris (or Fergus Hume) to date. Might have to remedy this sad state of affairs!

February 25, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for your note.

It's a state of affairs worth remedying, I'd say. The Hume has its moments of high Victorian melodrama, but other aspects of the story have aged better.

As for Corris, I don't have the perspective to judge where he fits into the history of Australian crime writing. I have read that he began his Cliff Hardy series at a time when Australian writers were imitating British and American models. I do know that the two Hardy novels I've read, The Dying Trade and O'Fear, were fine private-eye stories, with a nice noir twist in the second of the two.

I see on one of your blogs that you've read A Surfeit of Lampreys. I once read an intriguing description of the novel, to the effect that the Lampreys are fond of one another and equally fond of jokes.

February 25, 2007  

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