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Altitude BirdIssue 44
Features reviews by Kathleen Broderick, Linn Miller, Christine Choo, Bill Thorpe, David Ritter, Eve Vincent, Stephanie Bishop, Alison Miles, Richard Kay, Amanda Day, Bernard Whimpress, Mads Clausen, Marion May Campbell, Sylvia Alston, Catie Gilchrist, Eva Chapman, Lucy Dougan, Stephen Lawrence and Nathanael O'Reilly. Click here for more details.


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Altitude BirdPopular Music: Practices, Formations and Change - Australian Perspectives
The papers collected here in this special edition of Altitude offer a brief snapshot of popular music research broadly connected with Australia. The essays demonstrate the variety of theoretical and methodological approaches used by researchers in the fields of popular music studies and cultural studies to explore themes of popular music practice, formation and change in an Australian context. Click here for more details.



 
 
 
 

Black Tide: A Jack Irish Thriller

By Peter Temple, Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2004, 356 pages, paperback, $22.00. Reviewed by Rebecca Johinke in the July 2004 issue.

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Black Tide is Peter Temple's second Jack Irish novel -- originally released in 1999 by Random House -- it has been re-published by Text in 2004. I hope this means that more readers will have the opportunity to delve into Temple's dark crime novels. The winner of a record four Ned Kelly awards, Temple's writing deserves to be feted, and I make no apology for stating that I'm a big fan of his work. Black Tide is awash with dirty money and dirty laundry and Irish is swept up in a current that pulls him towards the seemingly spotless Steven Levesque. Readers are kept busy trying to track, let alone second guess, how the dirty deals are being done.

There are a number of factors that make Temple's Jack Irish texts wonderful reads, and my admiration has little to do with the 'whodunit' factor or the intricate plots which uncover the seedy dealings of lawyers, cops, and public figures. These extremely masculine books sit squarely in the crime genre, and Irish is a world-weary protagonist of the hard-bitten and hard-boiled mould. Irish is an occasional lawyer and cabinet-maker who also spends a lot of time at the pub, the (AFL) footy and the track. Temple appears to relish playing up the genre conventions associated with an anti-hero like Irish: the improbable romantic conquests and his indestructibility are highly unlikely, but I don't deny Temple and Irish their fun.

Temple writes with great sympathy and pathos and his vulnerable, often lonely, but resilient characters ensure that his novels satisfy more than our urge to know who the villains are and whether they will be punished. Irish's relationship with his sister Rosa, his employers Cyril and Charlie, and his varied friends and acquaintances are superbly rendered. Irish values his family and friends and he (wearily and often reluctantly) puts considerable effort into weaving himself into the fabric of his community.

One of the reasons that Temple's characters come to life so vividly, is because he is a skilled writer of dialogue. His ear for spoken language is unparalleled in recent Australian writing and his rendering of pared down utterly Australian vernacular never jars or condescends. Teachers of creative writing should reach for one of the Temple's books if they are looking for an example of how to render parochial speech. Any of Irish's exchanges with his male friends would serve to illustrate, but the following excerpt from a pilot on the dangers of country landing strips is a typical:

'Bit of rain here, said the pilot. 'Had a sorry on a strip like this up in Queensland. Looked good, nice grass. Potholes like bomb thingies under the stuff. Can't see the bastards. Arse over kettle bout seven times. Well, three. Shakes you a bit. Rang the boss, he goes, How's the kite? I go, Bad, comin home on a truck boss. He goes, Fine day for travelling, Donny. Didn't know that meant the arse. Liked that job.' (87)
It is no wonder that Jack is a somewhat nervous passenger!

Temple's Jack Irish has claimed the streets of the increasingly gentrified working-class inner Melbourne as his beat, just as Peter Corris' Cliff Hardy is synonymous with the backstreets of inner-city Sydney. Temple evokes Melbourne (and the bleak weather) skilfully and his sense of place is worthy of emulation and adulation. When writing about the difference between Melbourne and Sydney, Temple has Irish muse:
I understood that the only place she could have that success was in Sydney. Melbourne hated success. It didn't match the weather. Melbourne's weather suited introspective mediocrity and suicidal failure. The only acceptable success had to involve pain, sacrifice and humility. Sydney liked the idea of success, achieved at no cost and accompanied by arrogance. (30)
There are some wonderful passages about Melbourne and AFL football, and the exploits of the Fitzroy Youth Club who mourn the demise of the 'Roys' who have moved on to sunnier climes and better times and metamorphosed into the (treacherous) Brisbane Lions. The scenes set in the Prince of Prussia pub, with the shifty Stan behind the bar, and the old blokes discussing bowls, horses and footy over a few beers are fabulous. The passages about the debates on whether to barrack for the Brisbane Lions or a local club (they agonisingly decide to support Saint Kilda) are superb (59-60), and the first time the old blokes go to see a match as Saints supporters is priceless (99-101). The love that Jack Irish has for these old men, and for Charlie, Harry, Clem, Des and Cyril brings a sentimental tear to my eye, despite the laconic dry humour with which they are depicted (I understand that Irish and all the male characters would be appalled to read this).

With dialogue, setting, characterisation, and plot all exemplary, Temple is on top of his game. This is a man who makes reading about watching the weather report on television an insight into human nature:
I cleared an armchair and sat down to eat in front of the fire, just in time to watch a weather report. It was delivered by a person who wanted to be a witty weatherperson, not a wise ambition for someone without wit. Still, he clearly relished what he did: waved a pointer vaguely while reading off placenames and temperatures from an electronic prompter. An idiot could do it and an idiot was doing it, a rare example of intellectual capacity and occupation dovetailing (26).
Having used the above quote, I would be wise to consider that when writing a review about Peter Temple's Jack Irish novels, one would be an 'idiot' to do anything but let them do the talking for me. Read this book.

Citation

  • Rebecca Johinke. 'Review: Black Tide: A Jack Irish Thriller by Peter Temple' [online]. Network Review of Books (Perth, Australian Public Intellectual Network), July 2004. Availability: <please cite the web address here> ISSN 1833-0932. [accessed 23 April 2014].

Back Cover Blurb

  • Jack Irish has no shortage of friends. Jockeys and journos, lawyers and standover men, people in nameless occupations who aren't in the phone book. These days, though, the only family he sees are Irish men in faded football team photographs on the pub wall.

    So when Des Connors, the last link to his father, calls to ask for help in the matter of a missing son, Jack is happy to lend a hand.

    But sometimes prodigal sons go missing for a reason. As Jack begins to dig, he discovers that Gary Connors was a man with something to hide.

    And his friends are people with darker, more deadly secrets.

Visitors' Responses

  • Black Tide Review
    This is the most literate and perceptive review I've read in a long time. But I would say that, wouldn't I? Peter Temple
    Peter Temple (20/04/0717)

  • It was a interesting book to read about (20/04/1103)

Have You Also Read?

  • Loose Men Everywhere

    imageJohn Harms, Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2002, 240 Pages, Paperback, $23.00
    Reviewed by Jordan Williams in the December 2002 issue.

    John Harms is a polytheist whose gods reside in the pantheon of Australian Football and, in particular, the Geelong Football Club. Alongside the footy faith in his memoir, Loose Men Everywhere, runs the Lutheran faith of his minister father. Harms' skill as a writer and storyteller emerges in his subtle illustration of the spiritual nature of football fandom by means of an entertaining flow of beautiful prose. That religious devotion to your football club is a normal and non-negotiable state is a given for Aussie Rules fans. I say this as a diehard Hawthorn fan and therein lies my dilemma in reviewing this book -- on page one, Harms characterises Hawthorn supporters as John-Howard-loving, ... read more.
     



 
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