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The Jack Irish Quinella: Bad Debts and Black…

The Jack Irish Quinella: Bad Debts and Black Tide

by Peter Temple

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Meet Jack Irish: jack-of–all trades, master-of-none, an eminently likeable all-round Australian bloke - almost! A licensed criminal attorney, a highly-intelligent and resourceful man who readily investigates his own cases, an Aussie football fanatic, quite keen for a flutter on a horse-race (especially if it’s a sure bet) and a Vietnam vet who uses words of more than one syllable; these stories are the first two instalments in this vibrant character’s world. And, in keeping with the local vernacular permeating artfully throughout the books, this omnibus is titled most aptly a Quinella – a double dose of a truly winning tale.

Bad Debts immediately establishes Jack Irish’s bona fides with little preamble and introduces a cast of exceedingly charismatic characters, defined perfectly through Jack’s complicated persona, and perceptions. In his own words, since his beloved second-wife’s murder at the hands of a client, which dropped him into alcohol-fuelled oblivion, his slow climb out nearly two years later meant he no longer practised much law, most of his income obtained through finding missing witnesses and collecting serious debts; and working with ex-jockey Harry Strang and his sidekick Cameron Delaney in their somewhat dubious horse-racing business, all the while soothing his tortured soul through plying his hand at cabinet-making under Charlie Straub’s eagle eye. When an ex-client leaves him a phone message, a plea to meet, but is shot dead by police while waiting for Jack to show, he knows he should just let it go. Unsurprisingly he doesn’t and his investigations result in a roller-coaster ride across the Australian country and culture, replete with dead bodies, political shenanigans and droll commentary. And Jack’s unique work ethic and turn of phrase – solving the crime isn’t as important as the thoroughly entertaining journey.

Black Tide continues the saga of Jack Irish’s convoluted life. When an old friend of his father asks Jack for some legal help concerning his now-missing son, and a large sum of money, Jack becomes involved in a situation much more problematic than first envisioned as an exchange for information about his little-known football-playing father. His quest to find Gary O’Connor results in a far more elaborate story-line than the first book that ultimately connects corrupt corporations with misused and abused governing powers; at times, to its own detriment, so twisted even Jack is known to utter overwhelming disbelief! But again, threaded masterfully throughout is a subtle, glorious snapshot of Australiana, along with a burgeoning respect for this most agreeable protagonist.

Indeed, Jack Irish is an extremely capable, exceptionally talented, interesting player; his every word and action evoking the essence of my country. And how good is Peter Temple in effortlessly capturing that? There is a plethora of local colour and characters that epitomise, simply and superbly, well-known and well-loved slices of Australian life. The delight in much of these books is the genuine rendering of everyday Melburnian existence, and the wit and humour used in this cleverly-nuanced depiction, which may tend to confuse non-locals due to the many and varied colloquial idioms. For me, as an Australian, it was all utterly enchanting! I am only distressed at how long it took me to find these books, and how little I knew about this brilliant author from my own country – whose writing captures the quintessential nature of Australia unerringly.

Happily that is now rectified and I have many more Peter Temple books waiting eagerly, on my shelves, to be read. I’m leaving them purposely for a future treat! There’s just one other thing…whereas Jack Irish lives in Melbourne and followed his (now defunct) favourite football team, Fitzroy: Go the Roys, Make Some Noise!; I’m an Australian football fanatic too, but I’m from Sydney, so I really must add: Go the Swans!
Nothing more need be said.

(Jul 6, 2009) ( )
2 vote Lman | Dec 26, 2009 |
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