A few years ago I was going through a rough patch in my professional and personal life. I wanted to close the door and read, read, read myself back to normality.
Search and ye shall read
The trouble was I hadn’t seriously knuckled down and read a well-written book for a long time. I felt distanced from northern hemisphere writers (what’s snow?) and never really got the whole Scandi-noir buzz. Several genres, including the ambiguous literary fiction, didn’t hold my interest. I felt I needed comedy, something I could relate to and laugh at. Also I wanted characters and places I understood, and possibly had visited.
Readers of my blog will know I like quirky writing so, rather than reach for self-help books, I began to search for way-out humour on the library shelves. Unfortunately back then humorous Australian writers were thin on the ground so I hung around the bookshops until the next Thursday Next dilemma or Ankh-Morpork debacle was published. Yes, Messrs Fforde and Pratchett saved my sanity with their insane books.
From comedy to crime
After trial and error, and iffy recommendations from friends, I discovered Australian crime writers. The good old Aussie turn-of-phrase drags me in every time. I know the cities, the vast distances between those cities, the weather, the beaches, the Great Dividing Range, the smell of gum trees and especially the food. Our food is a mish-mash of many cultures but in there somewhere is real Aussie tucker and nobody does a Chiko Roll or TimTam like we do. And our criminals are a bit special too.
I read in no particular order (and by no means all our contemporary crime writers) Garry Disher, Kerry Greenwood, Peter Temple, Leigh Redhead, Geoffrey McGeachin, Jane Harper, Robert G. Barrett, Honey Brown, Matthew Condon, Emma Viskic, Adrian McKinty (adopted Irishman) Candice Fox, Shane Maloney, Barry Maitland, Michael Robotham and my absolute all-time favourite, the iconic Peter Corris.
And Peter Corris came with Sydney private investigator Cliff Hardy
Peter Robert Corris (8 May 1942 – 30 August 2018) was an Australian academic, historian, journalist, biographer and novelist of historical and crime fiction. As a crime fiction writer, he was described as “the Godfather of contemporary Australian crime-writing”. After writing 42 books in his PI Cliff Hardy series, from 1980 to 2017, Corris announced in January 2017 that he would no longer be writing novels owing to “creeping blindness” because of type-1 diabetes and passed away the next year.
Naturally I was saddened to learn of his death but it hit me in another way. I never wrote and told him how his Cliff Hardy books lead me into the badlands and showed me that my life was all right. Well, in comparison to the criminal underworld Hardy inhabited. Despite the sleaze, the drugs, the murder, Hardy had his own set of morals, he was a good judge of character and played fair. However, he knew how to defend himself and fought hard when necessary. Forget that it’s fiction. Compared to his daily grind, I had nothing to worry about.
As Bowie said Ch-ch-ch-Changes
These Corris crime novels also documented a changing way of life through Hardy, especially the Sydney cityscape and his beloved Newtown. For nearly 40 years, semi-permanent characters came and went, and mobile phones and laptops took hold. High tech digital devices and spyware increased; electronic locks, security cameras and internet surveillance replaced skeleton keys and good old shoulder-to-the-door. I feel the loss of a metal filing cabinet, its papers viewed by torchlight in the middle of the night.
But through it all, Corris always managed to side-step technology, keeping Hardy real, doing the leg work, nailing the bad guy. His astute observations of human nature, and how he wrote plausible characters, made me feel I’d just met a crooked barrister or a smarmy crime baron.
The book on the right is one of my favourites. Recognise the bridge? These days I do read more widely but I’m missing my yearly dose of hard-boiled Hardy—to use Corris’ own description.
Below I have listed all the Cliff Hardy books even though it doesn’t have the visual appeal of the bookcovers. If you wish to check out more about each story, please visit Allen & Unwin Publishers website:
But—do authors and their books really die?
There could be reprints, anniversary issue, possible screenplay, theatre adaptation, prequel, or Grandson of Hardy for younger readers. I won’t give away the ending of the last book because I expect you to BINGE READ the complete oeuvre, then see for yourself whether or not you like Cliff Hardy’s final installment.
My sincere condolences to Jean Bedford, wife of Peter Corris, and his family.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
PI Cliff Hardy book series
The Dying Trade (1980)
White Meat (1981)
The Marvelous Boy (1982)
The Empty Beach (1983)
Heroin Annie and Other Cliff Hardy Stories (1984)
The Big Drop and Other Cliff Hardy Stories (1985)
Make Me Rich (1985)
The Greenwich Apartments (1986)
Deal Me Out (1986)
The January Zone (1987)
The Man in the Shadows: Cliff Hardy Omnibus (1988)
Wet Graves (1991)
Beware of the Dog (1992)
Burn and Other Stories (1993)
Matrimonial Causes (1993)
The Reward (1997)
The Washington Club (1997)
Forget Me If You Can (1997)
The Black Prince (1998)
The Other Side of Sorrow (1999)
Salt and Blood (2002)
Master’s Mates (2003)
Taking Care of Business (2004)
The Coast Road (2004)
Saving Billie (2005)
The Undertow (2007)
Appeal Denied (2008)
The Big Score: Cliff Hardy Cases (2008)
Open File (2009)
Deep Water (2009)
Torn Apart (2010)
Follow the Money (2011)
The Dunbar Case (2013)
Silent Kill (2014)
Gun Control (2015)
That Empty Feeling (2016)
Win, Lose or Draw (2017)
NOTE: “See You at the Toxteth” Published by Allen & Unwin August 2019
A selection of stories compiled by Jean Bedford featuring Australia’s favourite PI, plus unpublished writing by Peter Corris on crime.