How I Discovered Peter Temple
by Jon Page - February 2nd, 2014
I first discovered Peter Temple with THE BROKEN SHORE and was blown away. I have to admit to a bit of cultural cringe when it comes to Australian writing in the crime genre but Peter Temple has completely and utterly broken this down. I discovered THE BROKEN SHORE via my favourite UK crime writer, John Harvey. I was lucky enough to have lunch with Harvey a few year ago and we got to talking about our favourite crime reads of that year. We both agreed that Don Winslow’s THE POWER OF THE DOG was far and away one of the best crime novels we had read but John Harvey said that THE BROKEN SHORE was equally as brilliant. The fact an Australian novel was receiving this kind of praise and I hadn’t read it (or even had it on my radar) greatly shamed me and I was determined to rectify the situation.
I do consider myself a crime reader although I am not exclusive to that genre. I also have quite specific tastes when it comes to the genre. I loathe formula and try to avoid the traditional murder mystery. This is probably why I rarely read British crime (John Harvey being the exception) and lean toward American noir usually with a social bent (although I do have an affinity for some gritty Irish crime too). George Pelecanos is my benchmark and I love anything and everything by Laura Lippman, Dennis Lehane, Richard Price and Don Winslow. Before discovering THE BROKEN SHORE I didn’t think Australian crime fiction had anything to offer me, but I was wrong. Very wrong.
After reading THE BROKEN SHORE I knew I then had to read everything else by Peter Temple. My next book was IN THE EVIL DAY, an international political thriller equal of any bestseller on the market. I followed this with SHOOTING STAR, a brilliant kidnap thriller that digs into the never talked about class system in Australia. AN IRON ROSE is another great thriller that showed Peter Temple’s wasn’t just limited to urban Australia but could take the knife to the underbelly of rural Australia too.
Temple’s understanding of the relationship between urban Australia and rural Australia was taken to a new level with THE BROKEN SHORE and TRUTH. The two novels are not a sequence put more of a pair. Together they show the dichotomy of Australia. Both novels are as powerful and profound as each other. TRUTH highly deserved to win Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, The Miles Franklin. It defied its genre and its conventions and the way Temple played with language, particularly the voices of each character was truly amazing. But THE BROKEN SHORE also did this and would have also been a worth Mile Franklin winner. Maybe we weren’t ready for a crime novel to win but THE BROKEN SHORE deserves all the same accolades as TRUTH.
The Jack Irish series is also impressive. THE BROKEN SHORE and TRUTH stand apart because they defied their genre and broke downs its conventions. The Jack Irish series is brilliant because it is the top of its field within its genre and its conventions. It is classic noir in the US sense but it is also completely and utterly uniquely Australian. It is the complete package capturing the damp, cold Melbourne atmosphere with the sly and witty Australian vernacular. And if that isn’t enough the description of food and wine (even Vegemite on toast) will leave you salivating. Temple creates such richly detailed atmosphere combined with incredibly nuanced language while keeping an essence of Australia that is unique as well as instantly recognizable.
It is little wonder Peter Temple has stood down from the Ned Kelly Awards (Australia’s Crime writing awards) as it is completely unfair to all other Australian crime writers when he is eligible for one. Peter Temple is a genius and a national treasure and he should be on stamps!
Rumour also has it a third book is on the way in The Broken Shore/Truth series.