Australia started its white life at a distinct advantage in the telling of criminal stories. Everyone was a criminal. But until Peter Corris invented Cliff Hardy and introduced him in The Dying Trade in 1980, we had, as with many of our natural resources, left great seams of these stories in the ground for others to find. Corris may have forged the international reputation of Australian crime fiction almost single-handedly, but I could be wrong, as he uses two hands to type.
The waters of the Mississippi and the Potomac might flow through his novels, but his work tastes definitely and defiantly of the Murray Darling, or rather the big beautiful bowl of salty blue water contained in Sydney Harbour. Hardy patrols the city shoreline as if it were his own private verandah. He knows that crime infects all levels of society, under every rock is a paedophile spider, money is always in the wrong hands, the rich abuse their privileges and the poor, physically, sexually and socially. Hardy must work in a conspiracy of one to carve the rot from the good fruit. He does not solve cases so much as create a chaos within the frenzy of plot until secrets fall out of the characters' pockets when he turns their worlds upside down.
The Atlantic recently published a song of praise to the brilliant strangeness of Australian crime fiction. Corris was identified as one who gives ''no special thought to the foreign reader''. This accounts for the celebration of his work in literary circles. He writes in Australia, about Australia and about Australians, and by being specific he communicates something that can be read internationally. Australian films have flopped, year after year, by following and imitating American trends. The Atlantic identified the mateship tradition in the fierce ''joshing camaraderie'' that exists in Australia generally but not in America, save occasionally in frat houses. In our country there is a subterranean reflexive prickliness between everyone. Stephen Knight talks of ''dryly aggressive wit''.
All this gives Corris another colour to add to the mix. He brings a quick-drying cement to his sentences, where his genius for metaphor lays the words down, brick by brick. We read with a constant suppressed smile, admiring every simile, aghast such serious detective work could be so funny and deadly at the same time.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/mateship-and-murder-20120412-1wst0.html#ixzz1ry7TeZvD