'If it's a good ride, there's nothing like it ... you and the machine become one ... It gets to the point on the edge of a hard ride where there is a balance between taking your machine further and a fear of dying. Managing that space is real freedom.'
Riding like there's no tomorrow on the open road, the wind in your face, handling a powerful and responsive machine - you can't get that sort of freedom in a car. Bikies consider themselves 'the last free people in society', unconstrained by the regulations that rule ordinary citizens. And they guard their privacy jealously.
This book is sub-titled "Inside the Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs" and it reads as written by somebody who has sort of got inside the Outlaw Motorcycle clubs but isn't really. The author is an academic who has made a reputation studying Outlaw Motorcyle Clubs and as an "official" observer of their activities. He has performed this role as "official" observer on a number of major motorcyle runs - reporting on both the bikies and police activities.
Interesting as an observational report both from the point of view of the policing strategies used in various locations, and from the clubs who started out as on the fringes of "society" and now finding themselves increasing less influential as Outlaws.
UNDERBELLY 6 - Andrew Rule and John Silvester
I'm overdosing on the Underbelly series a bit at the moment, using them as fillers between some hefty Crime Fiction tomes, and why not. In Underbelly 6 the authors take you thought the disappearance of a wife, mother and ex-TV game show model, a bit about the stitch up of the Mickelberg brothers, the slow poisoning death of a husband in Bendigo, the inexplicable death of a policeman and a range of other snippets. The tongue in cheek style of the authors just appeals.
DEATH IN DREAM TIME - S H Courtier
Death in Dreamtime was published by Wakefield Crime Classics in 1993. Originally published in 1959, S H Courtier is one of the classic crime fiction authors in Australia who is little known / commented on. Which is a pity.
In Death in Dreamtime Jock Corless ends up at Ungimillia, home of The Alchera or Dream Time Land - a sort of "theme park" of Aboriginal mythology. He's travelled through to New South Wales in response to a very cryptic letter from his cousin who, as Jock arrives, is found dead on the road.
Death in Dreamtime certainly reads like a novel from 1959 with a turn of phrase that comes directly from that era. Some of the characterisations are to be expected, Inspector 'Digger' Haig reminds you a bit of your returned soldier grandfather in his mannerisms and his language. There are two main female characters who are not as cliched as is often the case from books of this era, and best of all, there is a stagey but relatively sympathetic discussion of Aboriginal mythology and history which actually doesn't make you squirm from embarrassment.
Interestingly enough for me, living in the Dandenong Ranges, there is a central character in the park who seemed to me to remind me very strongly of William Ricketts and the famous William Ricketts sanctuary - not so far from where I live. The editors who bought these writers to Wakefield made the same observation in a short essay at the back of the book describing the circumstances around the book.
All in all I enjoyed this a whole lot more than I thought I would.
THE SOCIETY MURDERS - Hilary Bonney
Why was Melbourne so fascinated by the Wales-King murders. For the longest time, reporters went absolutely berserk, almost stalking the family for pictures and quotations. From the time the Margaret Wales-King and her husband Paul King went missing, the rumour mill went into overdrive and every utterance of anyone even remotely connected with the case was plastered all over the pages of every newspaper in town.
The reason I wanted to read this book is to see if Hilary Bonney answered this question, and ultimately, she asked the same question. As the author states in the conclusion to the book, there are 340 murders in Australia (on average). Twelve of these victims are parents killed by their children, of these, five are mothers.
At the same time that the Wales-King case was being plastered all over the newspapers, a nearly identical set of circumstances were being played out in Altona, when a 39-year old fitter and turner killed his Italian born mother and father, again for money. No major headlines, no intense media interest and no "walking tours of their Altona" as there were of Wales-King Armadale.
Makes you wonder about us doesn't it.
MURDER AT THE FORTNIGHT - Steve J Spears
Murder at The Fortnight is a darkly hilarious tale of murder, greed, fame and lust set squarely under the bright lights of the world of showbusiness. When celebs start dropping like flies at The Playwright's Fortnight, Stella and Ng must battle media hysteria and political backstabbing in their desperate search for a killer who keeps on killing. Who will be next?
MURDER AT THE FORTNIGHT is set in the testing arena of the "theatre" and the arts. Showbiz commentator, Stella Pentangelli is returning from a bit of a "rest" as it's known in the trade, after a stella career as a showbusiness commentator and heavyweight. Inspector Ng is an investigator in the police, renowned for his different methods and for not paying the slightest bit of attention to all the whispering about his slightly bizarre methods.
Steve J Spears is a renowned Australian playright, and in MURDER AT THE FORTNIGHT he's created a wonderfully eccentric, slightly stagey set of characters resolving the murder of a major TV executive and then an internationally renowned and universally loved, indigenous actor at "The Fortnight". The Fortnight is a yearly "event" for the theatre community, reading and workshopping plays, in a university theatre town, a long way from civilisation.
There's nothing even slightly realistic in the police system described in MURDER AT THE FORTNIGHT, even allowing for Ng's slightly eccentric methodology and this lack of accuracy creates a very stagey, very elaborately set murder mystery in which the lives of the investigator's are as much part of the story as the investigation itself.
Lovely, unusual and enjoyable as long as you're not looking for gritty reality.
UNDERBELLY 9 - Andrew Rule and John Silvester
The UNDERBELLY series is a set of shortish books written by journalists Silvester and Rule covering various events in the criminal underworld of Victoria in particular.
Underbelly 9 covers the shooting of Andrew Veniamin by Mick Gatto, and Gatto's subsequent trial and aquittal, the case of a serial stalker, abalone poachers, the death of a woman and her daughter at the hands of her husband and a number of other stories.
All of these stories are told with Silvester and Rule's classic irreverant, tell it as we see it style.
THE PERFECT SUSPECT- Vincent Varjavandi
The author of THE PERFECT SUSPECT is a surgeon who, it would appear, has a strong interest in the welfare of children. Readers of this novel could probably be excused if they assume that the character of Tom is based on the author himself, although obviously, you'd hope without the tragic family background! Early in the novel, the medical background of our central character - Tom - and the death of his wife is rapidly established. Only a matter of weeks later, Tom returns to Australia and is shocked to find a delivery of black roses at his home - seemingly from the killer of his wife. Tom moves to practice medicine in Sanctuary - trying to start again. In Sanctuary, while Senior Sergeant Jack Maguire is dealing with day to day policing matters, something considerably more sinister and terrifying starts - firstly with the brutal death of a woman - witnessed by a brain damaged young girl who has been used as bait to get the victim to open her door. And the killing continues from there.
This is a first novel so unsurprisingly there are a few things that don't work as well as they could. What does work really well is the lifting of suspense and the generally creepy and decidedly sinister characterisations. There's plot twists, that, okay, they weren't that hard to second guess - but in some way that worked. You sort of know what is coming and still there was that creepy feeling at the back of the neck. What didn't work so well is that the plot was overly complicated at times; there was too much made early in the book about the good and caring nature of the central character Tom - it got a bit cloying and potentially distracted from the suspense; and there was the use of a few too many unlikely scenarios and the "gut instinct" school of problem resolution.
But there is an interesting sense of place at play as well. Despite the prologue set in New Orleans - this is very much an Australian book. The resort of Sanctuary (should we be drawing conclusions about Sanctuary Cove) has an Australian feeling to it and there's just a smattering of slang and location - not enough to confuse / enough to place. Interestingly there's a strong relationship being developed between the central police character - Jack Maguire - and his new assistant Detective Constable which could, perhaps, be hinting at another direction for a future novel. Either way, there's potential being shown here and fans of general thrillers - even Medically based thrillers should give this new Australian author a try.
HODDLE STREET: THE AMBUSH AND THE TRAGEDY - Peter Haddow
This was published some considerable time ago, but for some reason in the last few weeks I've been drawn towards some True Crime books. This was a particularly harrowing read, all about the events of Hoddle Street in 1987 - told as short snippets from the viewpoint of many of the people involved - the dead, the injured and the police desperate to get the manic situation under control. I think it was that method of telling the story that made it all the more stark. Excellent book to give you a true feeling for how the unimaginable and unexpected affects everyone.
PACKING DEATH - Lachlan McCulloch
This is the true crime story of (then) Detective Senior Constable Lachlan McCulloch and the undercover operation he ran to crack the notorious Pettingill family drug trafficking network in the immediate aftermath of the not-guilty verdicts handed down to members of that family for the execution style murder of two young police constables. McCulloch worked with two female informers over a long period of time, generating a lot of taped surveillance and drug deals to build up a case which resulted in over 15 major convictions. Underneath the flippant and light style of the writing is the story of a very very scary experience.
True Crime written by the real thing - an undercover cop with many many years of experience.
PIG'S HEAD - David Owen
There are good cops, there are bad cops...and there is Pufferfish, aka Detective Inspector Franz Heineken.
Pufferfish (Contusus brevicaudus): Body moderately short, pectorals rounded. Slow swimmer. Scavenger in the mud, at home in the murky shallows, where it roots out and feeds on detritusbody able to bloat and even explode under extreme provocation.
A severed head rolls out of the runnish in a crowded Tasmanian caravan park, and the hunt is on for the killers ... and for their victim, a man no-one seems to miss, a man no-one wants to know.
An old release - originally published in 1994, Pig's Head is the first in the 4 Pufferfish novels by David Owen and so far it's been the only one I've never been able to get my hands on. Imagine my sheer delight when Kill City in Swanston Street revealed 2 copies!
Detective Inspector Franz Heineken (or Pufferfish as he calls himself) is called into investigate the discovery of a severed head in the rubbish at a crowded Tasmanian caravan park. Initial concerns are that the caravan park, which is fenced and shutdown every night to keep out undesirables, may still contain a deranged killer, but quickly it becomes obvious that the killer is not your typical head removing lunatic and what's more to the point, Pufferfish himself has allowed them out of the park.
The investigation moves between Tasmania and the mainland as the killer is tracked and the incredibly difficult task of identifying the victim continues at Pufferfish pace.
*** From the back of the book:
Pufferfish (Contusus brevicandus): Body moderately short, pectorals rounded. Slow swimmer. Scavenger in the mud, at home in the murky shallows, where it roots out and feeds on detritus. Inflatable body able to bloat and even explode under extreme provocation.
Great series - huge pity there were only 4 of them!