Paydirt: A Wyatt Novel (1992)
Despite all the intellectual disdain for American culture, there are a number of great literary genres that are distinctly American, among them the hard-boiled detective and crime noir story. In fact, it seems not too much of a stretch to say that the prose and story-telling styles of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler were as influential, or more so, than those of any of the more high-toned literary icons of the 20th Century, with the added distinction that folks who tried to like them actually produced readable books, while those who tried to write like Joyce, Woolf, and Faulkner generally produced drek.
Strangely enough though, two of the best current practitioners in these genres are Australian. The Cliff Hardy series by Peter Corris is among the select company of great homages to Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, while the Wyatt novels by Garry Disher are probably the best crime series since Donald Westlake's Parker books (written under the pseudonym of Richard Stark) of thirty and forty years ago. From the one word name of the antihero to the problems with the "Outfit" (organized crime), the Wyatt stories actually quite resemble Westlake's.
Here's Disher's description of his protagonist :
Wyatt was forty years old. Respectable men
his age were marking time until their retirement. The hard men his
age were dead or in gaol.
He needs to be cold and hard in this, his second, caper, as he's being hunted by the Outfit after crossing them up in the first book; he's trying to pull a payroll job in the unfamiliar surroundings of Belcowie, three hours north of Adelaide; and he's got untested partners, including a woman, violating one of his own rules.
The language is terse, the action brisk and brutal, and the book terrific. Cover blurbs for such novels always refer to them as realistic. I suspect the opposite is actually true. Thankfully there aren't many criminals as smart and emotionless as Wyatt, otherwise we'd all be in trouble.
Copyright 1998-2015 Orrin Judd