Homicide ate you, your family got the tooth-scarred bone.

For a newly-minted crime writer, reading Peter Temple is like taking a master class. There is not a wasted word, the writing is beautiful, and  the lengths I go to as a writer  to ‘show, don’t tell’ is a walk in the park for Temple. Take this paragraph from his most recent novel, Truth:

He sprinkled water, special attention for the carrots and potatoes in the drum. He liked underground vegetables. When he was seven, Bob Villani left him and Mark with their grandmother, Stella. Couple of weeks, son, he said. More than three years passed, he came back only twice that Villani could remember.

An entire back-story in five sentences. Bloody brilliant.

It’s an indication of how well Temple knows his characters that he can pull this off. Reading Truth I formed the impression that there were five or six other full-length novels about each main character underlying the one I was reading. Temple had just skimmed the top off them for the purposes of what needed to be revealed in Truth, leaving the reader with just the tip of the iceberg.

He’s also a a great wit, as anyone who has heard him speak can testify. Take this image:

The Herald Sun front page had pictures of Kidd and Larter, mug shots, the lagophthalmic psycho child-molester serial-killer look all men had when their driver’s licence photographs were enlarged six hundred per cent.

For the record, ‘lagophthalmic’ refers to the inability to close one’s eye-lids completely. I looked it up. Temple makes his readers work.

At least that’s what one of my friends said when I admitted to her that I’d lost the plot. Maybe I didn’t read Truth quickly enough to keep up — reading three books a week went the way of sleeping in once I became a parent — but by the time one of the plot lines was resolved, I had forgotten the significance of the characters who were responsible.

Not that this undermined my pleasure in the novel. Truth was a compelling read from start to finish, and I loved the ending in particular. The depiction of the relationship between Villani and his father was moving and devoid of mawkishness and made me want to challenge Peter Temple to write a novel without a crime in it.

Truth (2009) is published by Text.

About Angela Savage

Angela Savage is a Melbourne writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. She won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, and the Scarlet Stiletto Award short story award. Her latest novel is, Mother of Pearl, published by Transit Lounge. Angela holds a PhD in Creative Writing, is former CEO of Writers Victoria, and currently works as CEO of Public Libraries Victoria.
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3 Responses to Truth

  1. Helen Morgan says:

    Having just finished The Broken Shore (Villani had potential in that) I can’t wait to read Truth, but I might save it up for a treat when I need a good break. The Broken Shore was absolutely brilliant. Finished it this morning in my office at work! Perhaps we should do Truth for a one-off 2010 book group?


  2. Helen Morgan says:

    This morning being Friday 15 January – the recordkeeper in me can’t let that go. Have a look in the WordPress dashboard – there is the option there to change the timezone re. date for comments/posts. Cheers!


    • angelasavage says:

      Thanks for the heads-up Helen. Found the right buttons to push. It’s actually important to get times and dates right as the blog often serves as a work diary for tax purposes.


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