Claws

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Stephen Romei

Let’s start with an apol­ogy, some­thing I so rarely have to do here! My Mel­bourne Cup tip, Jameka, tried hard but did not win. I did find a win­ner on the day, how­ever, as I read Saul Black’s new crime novel Love­mur­der, which Ha­chette will pub­lish on Novem­ber 17. You may re­mem­ber I liked Black’s 2015 de­but, The Killing Lessons, when he was iden­ti­fied only by that name. I did de­duce that he was in fact Glen Duncan, a lit­er­ary nov­el­ist who made a pop­u­lar splash with The Last Were­wolf tril­ogy. This time Ha­chette ac­knowl­edges Black is, well, white and English. I think I’d have guessed it again any­way, due to the joke about Philip Roth. Duncan is deft at let­ting a lit­tle light into dark places. The novel cen­tres on two women: San Fran­cisco de­tec­tive Valerie Hart and the beau­ti­ful, su­per-in­tel­li­gent, sadistic se­rial killer she put on death row six years ago, Kather­ine Glass. The su­per-in­tel­li­gent, hand­some, rich man who helped Glass tor­ture and kill six women is still free, and the ac­tion is in his re­newal of his crimes, in an at­tempt to free his girl­friend. This novel is bru­tal in parts. It’s a page-turn­ing thriller that ex­plores the psy­cholo­gies of se­rial killers and the po­lice who pur­sue them, the trauma of be­ing a vic­tim, the pub­lic re­ac­tion to such hor­rific crimes, and the ran­dom cru­elty of the uni­verse. If you like crime fic­tion, it’s one to put on your radar. If I ever write a mem­oir about my mod­est life in the lit­er­ary world it will be full of ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the au­thors who have made my job in­ter­est­ing, stim­u­lat­ing, sur­pris­ing — and fun. That thought re­minds me of one of the draw­backs of email. It doesn’t seem as gritty as let­ters, post­cards, faxes and other bits of pa­per graced with words, such as the bills for long lunches (those I have in a folder, pro­tected, for my good as much as any­one else’s, by a long em­bargo date). I do have an­other folder of let­ters and so on, and it’s a plea­sure to look through it now and then. Even so, some emails hold their own. One I still re­mem­ber came from Clive James some years ago when I ran a piece by him ex­plor­ing his love of Ni­cole Kid­man. It was a funny ar­ti­cle and I asked one of our tal­ented in-house artists to draw a lively car­i­ca­ture of Clive and Ni­cole. Clive emailed af­ter­wards to thank me, but added a gen­tle sug­ges­tion for any fu­ture writer-ed­i­tor projects we might un­der­take: leave all the jokes to him. I agreed. He’s the tal­ent.

I men­tion this be­cause this week I wrote an email to an au­thor that was per­haps the most un­ex­pected to date. It was Gideon Haigh, writer on cricket, crime, cor­po­ra­tions and more, about his new book on Vic­tor Trumper, re­viewed to­day by Cather­ine Mc­Gre­gor. The news I had to break was in­deed un­prece­dented: the re­view was the most pos­i­tive I had read, any­where, any time — ever (to use a word I’m not sup­posed to as a jour­nal­ist, be­cause I may read a more pos­i­tive re­view in the fu­ture. Well, I doubt it). As it hap­pens I agree with Mc­Gre­gor: Haigh is one of our finest writ­ers, and I’m pleased to run a re­view that says so. Quotes of the week: Al­most need­less to say, the day after I men­tioned Bob Dy­lan’s si­lence on the No­bel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture, he spoke up, to the Swedish Academy and The Tele­graph in Bri­tain. His com­ments to the Swedes, who had been a bit miffed, could not be faulted for ac­cu­racy: “The news about the No­bel Prize left me speech­less.” He told the news­pa­per the hon­our was “Amaz­ing, in­cred­i­ble. Who­ever dreams about some­thing like that?” Even so, it was not all Greek to him that the academy com­pared him with Homer. “I sup­pose so, in some way. Some songs — Blind Wil­lie, The Bal­lad of Hol­lis Brown, Joey, A Hard Rain, Hur­ri­cane and some oth­ers — def­i­nitely are Homeric in value.” He said he “ab­so­lutely” in­tended to go to Stock­holm to col­lect the prize, “if it’s at all pos­si­ble”.

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