No Worries, Mate… Barry Maitland, Peter Temple, Shane Maloney, Peter Corris, Robert G. Barrett

by |February 5, 2010

Australian crime writing is unique.

There is a casual quality to any violence it depicts.

It is not callous, nor is it without emotion but it seems to be taken lightly. A kind of fatalism seems to prevent the characters (and the reader) from over-analysing a violent act. It quickly becomes a fact, a piece of history and as such, useless.

Could this be a throwback to a time in Australian history when necessity forcibly moved us on? When the harsh climate and empty landscape of Australia made loitering dangerous?

In many ways Australia still is a brutal country – out beyond the picket fences and McMansions survival is everything. At any moment this Australia may require you to kill your best mate or abandon your family to starve or push a pregnant woman over a cliff. And you do these things because you have to. You don’t dwell on them; it’s just a fact of Australian life.

It is hard, it is dry, it is unforgiving.

Even if an aspiring Australian crime writer has modelled their style on their favourite US or UK writer’s work, even if they have set their novel overseas, somehow this disturbing pragmatism sneaks in and reveals the true origins of the work.

I believe this is why so many Australian crime novels can generate, without even seeming to try, an all-pervading sense of dread. Suburbia suddenly resembles an abattoir – the silence of pristine Tasmanian forest is broken by a sound you cannot account for – a Kings Cross brothel becomes the home you never had.

In Australian crime fiction the extraordinary becomes ordinary, and is  more chilling because it is ordinary.

Just like the time you discovered your neighbour had been chopping up bodies and boiling them in vats in his back shed, but you didn’t dob him in straight away because he was the captain of the local footy team and it was the weekend of the final…

Australian crime writing, out of all the crime writing I have read over the years, is the most disturbing for this  reason – it’s very, very ordinary.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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