Tag Archives: Matthew Condon

Mid-summer reading report back: Perfidia, Japanese tattoos, eighties sleaze

Perfidia

Summer in Melbourne is usually the one time of the year I can be guaranteed to get a fair amount of personal reading done. As has become my annual practice, a short report back on the books I have got through is in order.

Perfidia, James Ellroy

I need to preface my comments on Perfidia by stressing I am a massive Ellroy fan. I have read all of his books – ALL of them – many more than once. I even liked The Cold Six Thousand and Blood’s A Rover, the two books that most divided readers. So, it is with a heavy heart that I say Perfidia is very disappointing. The long awaited prelude to Ellroy’s LA Quintet, Perfidia takes place in Los Angeles over 23 days in December 1941, a period in which American went from being at piece to the attack on Pearl Harbour and the country being at war.

The focal point of the book is the brutal murder on the eve of Pearl Harbour of a Japanese family. The killings have all the hallmarks of traditional Japanese ritual deaths. Drawn into the murder investigation are future LAPD chief William H Parker, the meanest crime fiction cop ever created, Dudley Smith, a brilliant young Japanese police forensic scientist, and Kay Lake, a woman with a major thing for bad men.… Read more

My top fiction and non-fiction reads of 2014

Time for me to present Pulp Curry readers with the list of my best reads for 2014. As is customary, I will start off by admitting, yet again, I feel I have not read nearly as much as I should have. My reading this year has been dominated by books for work, including material for freelance articles and the various literary festival panels I’ve been involved in. A considerable amount of my attention has also been directed to reading related to the non-fiction book I have been co-editing, Beat Girls, Love Tribes and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950-1980, which is scheduled to be published in October 2015.

With all that said, here’s the top ten books I read in 2014. I’ve split my list in two this year – fiction and non-fiction.

My top fiction reads are as follows:

escape-dominique-manotti

Escape Dominique Manotti

I have long been interested in the political history in Italy in the seventies and eighties, the so-called ‘years of lead’, when left wing paramilitary groups and right wing extremists in the military and police were locked in a shadowy, violent conflict. Dominique Manotti’s Escape is set in the late eighties and deals with the aftermath of that conflict. Filippo is a common street hood that shares a prison cell with Carlos, a charismatic former Red Brigade member.… Read more

Book Review: Jacks and Jokers by Matthew Condon

tpm3ftt5-1395618559Meticulously researched, broad in its historical scope, Jacks and Jokers (QUP, 2014), the second books in Matthew Condon’s examination of police corruption in Queensland from the late 1950s to the late 1980s, is among a wave of recent books that have redefined the craft of Australian true crime writing (John Safran’s Murder in Mississippiand Anna Krien’s Night Games, are two others).

Indeed, the label ‘true crime’ almost doesn’t seem a fitting way to describe what Condon has done in Jacks and Jokers or the first instalment, Three Crooked Kings (2013). The books almost form an alternative history of a period of Queensland’s development that has been much talked about and often parodied, but little known or understood, both in and outside of the Sunshine State.

As was the case with Three Crooked Kings, the narrative spine of Jacks and Jokers is the career of Terry Lewis. Lewis joined the Queensland police force at twenty and rose to be commissioner before the Fitzgerald Inquiry in the late 80s or, as it was formally known, The Commission of Inquiry into Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct, which led to his trial and conviction on various charges, including accepting vast amounts in bribes to protect vice and illegal gambling.… Read more

Hit-and-run books & ‘literary’ works: true crime, from Garner to Chopper Read

1920s-gangster-hit

In her latest book, This House of Grief, Helen Garner examines the case of Robert Farquharson, who on Father’s Day 2005 drove his car into a dam off the Princes Highway near Geelong, drowning his three young sons. It is among a number of recent works that demonstrate how true crime writing has changed over the last few years.

Others are Anne Krien’s Night Games: Sex Power and Sport, which won the 2014 Sisters in Crime Davitt award for best true crime book, and Robin De Crespigny’s The People Smuggler, ostensibly a non fiction story about the experience of an Iraqi asylum seeker, which took the 2013 Ned Kelly crime writing award for best non-fiction. Matthew Condon’s Jacks and Jokers is another example. The second instalment of a trilogy about police corruption in Queensland from the sixties to the Fitzgerald Inquiry in 1987, it has the feel of an ambitious alternative social history rather than a piece of true crime writing.

“In terms of definition,” says veteran true crime writer Lindsay Simpson, “true crime is a literary rendition of a particular crime which pays homage to veracity by researching the crime across multiple sources including interviews and primary source documents while at the same time engaging the reader through its narrative.”

Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (1966), his investigation into the 1959 murder of a Kansas farmer Herbert Clutter, his wife and two of their four children, is often credited with pioneering the more literary end of the true crime genre.… Read more