Tag Archives: Peter Temple

Truth – Peter Temple

I actually first heard about Peter Temple’s novel ‘Truth’ via Lisa of ANZ Lit Lovers after she had announced it had won The Miles Franklin Award this year – one of Australia’s most prestigious book awards. Below in the comments was what sparked my interest because Meg said ‘of all the good books on the list they had to pick this one’ and Lisa followed up with I notice that Morag Fraser (one of the judges) said there hadn’t been any criticism of their decision. Morag, that might be because we’re all thunderstruck…’ I also noticed that ‘Truth’ was a rarity as it is a crime novel, I do love a good crime, and crime novels don’t tend to win or even get long listed inn literary prizes… Now myself being the judge on a new prize I wanted to know and read more and so hunted it down at my local library.

‘Truth’ opens with an almost impossible and unsolvable murder. On one of the highest floors of a new skyscraper complex, which can only be reached with various security cards, a woman is found in the bath with her neck broken. What makes this all the more difficult to solve is that it happened on the opening night of the Casino down below and the security system went down. In steps Stephen Villani, currently acting as Melbourne’s Head of Homicide, who’s mission it is to solve the riddle. It is also Villani who later thinks what initially looks like another random murder of three men in the suburbs of Oakleigh might actually be connected. From here Temple weaves in a mystery which is just as much political as it is about catching killers.

Temple also captures an interesting picture of Australia with ‘Truth’ as the bush fires rage in the background it looks at the state of the politics and it’s business climate which I admit if I had known it dealt with beforehand would have put me off slightly, however I read on and didn’t get bored once despite it not being quite my cup of tea subject wise. What I will admit I struggled with initially was the fact that the prose of the book is so taut every single word counts to the point where it’s almost so shortened and saying so much per sentence or sparse conversation you sometimes need to re-read. Once you have gotten around that and are in the full flow of the book you see the purpose of it, it speeds everything up and heightens it.

The other thing that made this book good and also slightly clichéd all at once (if that makes sense?) is Villani himself. He’s so flawed (adulterous), blunt, complex (always concerned about his daughter, has a weird relationship with his father) that he ends up rather a typical crime novel anti-hero. Why is it so many authors tend to do this with lead male detective type characters in modern crime novels? All in all though, this is a crime novel with a difference, and one I would say fans of the genre should give a whirl.

A book that will: possibly take a little while to get into because the prose is so to the point, but it makes it’s something different in its genre and worth it overall. I have a feeling if you liked ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ then you would enjoy this. I didn’t like the Larsson, but interestingly I ended up liking this one rather a lot, you may feel the same too. 7/10

Is ‘Truth’ worthy of a big literary award? Well, I wasn’t on the panel and I haven’t read the other books submitted so I couldn’t comment. I also wouldn’t want to take anything away from Temple by saying that his winning gave the prize a huge amount of slightly controversial publicity which I think some people feel it did. I can only judge it as a crime/thriller and on that front I found it a taught, unusually written, hardboiled novel that delivered and made me want to try more of his work if maybe not something with such a political pulse at its heart.  

So why is crime fiction being listed for an award not aimed solely at its genre specifically such a big deal? If they do it tends to spark some heated debate as ‘Child 44’, which is what I am thinking of more than ‘Truth’, did with the Man Booker! I always find it an interesting point any ideas? Who else has read ‘Truth’? Has anyone read anything else by Peter Temple they could recommend?

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Filed under Peter Temple, Quercus Publishing, Review

What Do You Want & Expect From An Award Winning Book?

This is a question which I have been asked rather a lot recently. Actually the exact question has been ‘what do you look for in an award winning book?’ So I thought I would open it up to all of you for all your thoughts on that very subject. We all do it, we judge the panel that judge the award and we always have opinions of why a winning book should/shouldn’t or did/didn’t win don’t we? (If anyone is saying no then you are fibbing!) I am also interested, as ever, in what you all think because I would like to see just how different or similar our expectations are with these books. 

I could easily think of some recent titles that show just how much discussion/controversy book winners can cause. The first that came to mind were these two both winners of awards in 2010.

First up is ‘Truth’ by Peter Temple, which I have now decided I need to get my hands on imminently, this book seemed to shock everyone by being a ‘crime/thriller’ that won the literary prize The Miles Franklin Award 2010. Why should that be so shocking, does the genre really matter? There seems some great surprise, like when Tom Rob Smith’s brilliant ‘Child 44’ was put forward for the Man Booker, that a crime book could be well written and yet they are well written (need I send you in the direction of Kate Atkinson or have I raved about her enough?) in fact I think some of the plots in some of the best thrillers published could put some of the more prose heavy contenders to shame yet you wouldn’t.

Also a shock winner this year was ‘The Lacuna’ by Barbara Kingsolver (which I gave up on and am giving to Gran at the weekend as she’s doing it for one of her book groups and a ‘guest review’ on here) which caused a lot of controversy for winning the Orange over what many believed was the better novel ‘Wolf Hall’. It appeared the judges couldn’t let the latter book win as it won the Booker the year before, which strikes me as slightly odd because surely if its won one award already it’s because its bloody good and deserves to win more? Or is it just me that belongs to that rare school of logic?

Turning to another subject on award winners I was interested that reviews of one of this years Man Booker long-listed titles ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue have suggested that despite the fact people think its absolutely brilliant they doubt it will be Man Booker winning material because its too accessible. I am not berating that because that’s what I thought too, why though? Shouldn’t the books that go on to win awards, not only by being very well written, be able to reach out to a mass of people and just be a cracking good read as well as everything else?

Really with most awards it’s down to a group of people rather than us and what they think makes a cracking read. They aren’t able to please everyone and yet we expect them to, which brings me nicely to my next point.  

Another question which I have been asked a lot is ‘what qualifies you to be a judge of what is a good book or not?’ My answer so far to that one has been ‘I read enough of them to know what I like, what makes a book special or amazing rather than just another good read, it’s a very personal thing too.’ Which left me wondering what my criteria is for an award winning book and I don’t think it would match some other peoples, and maybe people will be asking the question at the start of this paragraph even more after seeing what it is.

Though because we have sworn to secrecy I can’t tell you how many books have been submitted for The Green Carnation Prize 2010, which ones they are/might be or which publishers sent them… I do feel I can tell you what I personally will be looking for regardless of genre, length etc;

  • The writing has to be captivating. I don’t mean that it has to be the most beautiful prose that has ever graced a page – though that helps – I do need to be spell bound by it, every word should count without being calculated and together as a whole work have an effect on me.
  • It needs to be readable and accessible. I don’t want to be able to put it down (this doesn’t mean it has to be trashy books like the marvellous ‘The Hand That First Held Mine’ by Maggie O’Farrell can be stunningly written and also page turning) yet I don’t want to enjoy it and forget about it as soon as its on the shelf.
  • I want narrators who I believe the whole way through no matter how lovely or vile or how reliable or not they may be.
  • It needs to be a book I would rush out and buy for anyone and everyone (hence why no thoughts on any of the long listed or short listed books of a certain prize will appear on my blog or be discussed by me in specifics in the real world until the winners announced) because because its a great story and one I want others to read asap.
  • Most importantly I want a book that stands out and etches itself in my brain in some way, it doesn’t have to change my life or world completely, but it does need make me think and linger with me for days, weeks and months after.  

So what makes the perfect award winning book for you? By all means mention a few titles but what I would love to get to the crux of, and am much more interested in, is just what those perfect award winning books had about them for you? What made them work for you personally? Which criteria would you be looking for if you were judging a book award? What would instantly stop you from wanting a book to go further through the process? Which book award winners have mystified you and more importantly why?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Man Booker, Orange Prize, The Green Carnation Prize

Savidge Reads Grills… Evie Wyld

Now if I hadn’t urged you to get your mitts on this debut novel before today then I would urge you once more to read ‘After The Fire, A Still Small Voice’ by Evie Wyld, that is of course unless you have already read it! I enthused about it last year and it made my top books of 2009. Well I had the pleasure of meeting Evie a while back (a big thanks to Kim of Reading Matters for being brave) and going all fan like and a little star struck. However despite my ‘rabbit in the headlights’ first impression Evie kindly agreed to be my latest victim author to have a Savidge Reads Grilling. Here she discusses her wonderful debut (on the day it comes out in paperback in the UK hint, hint), kissing books and books that make her clap with joy…

For those people who haven’t read After The Fire, A Still Small Voice yet, can you try and explain it in a single sentence…
It’s a story about traumatised men, not talking and scary things that people try to ignore. 

How did the book come about, where was the idea born?
I really just sat down and wrote for three years. I didn’t have any strong ideas of where it would go, I just followed the characters around until they made their own way in the story. Australia was the only bit that was a solid ‘idea’.

Now the book is written from points of view of some very strong (and if I may say so emotionally withdrawn) males, how easy did you find that, what were the hurdles?
I didn’t find it difficult using a male voice – in fact I think I find it easier to write at a bit of a distance, because you have to imagine so much more to make it authentic. When I was writing at home there was a fair bit of acting that went into developing the characters, I spoke a lot of their dialogue out loud; I stomped round the flat and tried to imagine I was Frank and Leon. That seemed like the easiest way to understand them.

Has working in a book shop been a push to write more? How did you combine work and writing?
I work twice a week in the book shop, so ordinarily I’ll have three days of writing, which seems to be working out pretty well. Working there has made me aware of how difficult it is to get anywhere with writing – and rightly so – there are so many wonderful books, and they keep coming, there’s no reason for anyone to read a bad book. I think it’s made me understand the importance of getting it right.

How relevant do you think book blogging is to the publishing industry? Do you ever pop and see what people have thought of your book or is it something you avoid at all costs?
I find it impossible not to read reviews. And they can be really helpful – it’s lovely to know that someone you’ve never met is taking your work seriously. I’ve found that book blogs give a whole other life to the book, and it’s that sort of word of mouth which has been the most useful in getting the book out there. Reviews on your blog or on Dove Grey Reader seem to be as helpful to sales as something from say the Guardian.

When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? Was it an easy thing for you to do? How long have you been writing for?
I started writing when I was about 15, and the first thing I wrote came out really easily, partly because it was pretty awful but partly because it released some tension I didn’t realise I had until then. It just flowed out and it was a really wonderful feeling. I don’t get it often but that’s the feeling I’m chasing when I’m writing. It’s as much about figuring yourself out as telling a good story.

Which books and authors inspired you to write?
Cloudstreet by Tim Winton was the first novel that made me envy a writer’s relationship with their work. I had the misguided idea that for the author the characters have an afterlife, that it doesn’t all end when the writing stops, like you could ask what a certain character goes on to do after the book is over and the writer would know. I love Lorrie Moore too and anything in the Love and Rockets series by the Hernandez brothers

Which contemporary authors do you rate who are writing right now?
David Vann’s ‘Legend of a Suicide’ is wonderful. I would read anything that Tim Winton writes, and I’ve just got into Peter Temple. Jon McGregor is a hero and I’ve just read ‘The Cuckoo Boy’ by Grant Gillespie, his first novel. I loved that. I’m looking forward to whatever Karen McLeod writes next.

Describe your typical writing routine, do you have any writers quirks or any writing rituals?
I write best it the morning, and I drink black coffee. I like to get out of the flat, so that I don’t have the temptations of housework and looking in the fridge. My only really creepy ‘quirk’ is that if I’m reading a book, I have to kiss page 100 when I get to it. That’s the only thing that really makes me worry about myself. 

Which book, apart from your own, would you demand Savidge Reads and readers run out and buy right this instant, a book you would call your favourite?
So hard – I really don’t have a favorite, but The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville makes me clap my hands.

What is next for Evie Wyld; please say we don’t have to wait too long for the second book? No pressure though, hee, hee!
I’ve made a start on the next book, its set between Australia and sea side towns in the UK. I’m also working with an illustrator on a short graphic novel, which is really good fun. It’s about my early childhood and swapping between Australia and England and it’s about sharks.

Well I don’t know about you but I cannot wait for novel number two and the graphic novel (maybe this project will help me finally get into that genre). A huge thanks to Evie for taking part, I won’t go all fan-esque again, I shall just say if you haven’t read her book then you really, really must and you can visit her website here and read her blog as Booktrust ‘writer in residence’ here. Oh and I nearly forgot, should you have any burning questions for Evie you might want to pop them in the comments as she just might pop by, you never know…

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Filed under Evie Wyld, Savidge Reads Grills...