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.