Sunday, February 27, 2011

Garry Disher

I guess, when you look at it, it's fairly obvious why practitioners in the realm of crime fiction tend to base their series around the notional good guys rather than their counterparts from the underworld.
For a start, there's the expectation the forces of justice are going to prevail, at least in the long run, and that means your average criminal is going to be spending his or her share of time safely behind bars, which is hardly the sort of thing you can base a lengthy series around.
Then, when you’re talking about a police procedural the cop shop setting provides the author with a set of characters to develop as the series goes on, with developing relationships, conflicting ambitions and simmering animosity in an environment that more or less equates to just add water, though when you're talking crime fiction the water's going to be something like a psychopath on the loose.
And there's the additional factor that, once you've sorted out one little mystery you can come up with another sociopath, throw him or her into the same setting and you're off again. I suspect it's a bit easier coming up with mysteries that need to be solved than it is to invent crimes that can be successfully committed with the protagonist getting away in the end.

Having run across Garry Disher's The Wyatt Butterfly and The Dragon Man in the local library, I hit The Dragon Man, coincidentally the first title in the Challis and Destry novels first, and it definitely seems like a series that's worth following. 
I spotted Blood Moon on the shelves at the library the other day, and a glance at the blurb on the back suggests that Inspector Challis and officer in charge at the local station Sergeant Ellen Destry end up getting it on together, and you can see that as a logical development of one of the subplots from The Dragon Man as Destry's marriage is subjected to the strains of personal differences, professional ambition and (I'm guessing here) teenage daughters going through a difficult phase.
Those considerations suggest it might be best to read the rest of the series (Kittyhawk DownSnapshot, Chain of Evidence, Blood Moon and the forthcoming Whispering Death) in sequence.
The two-story The Wyatt Butterfly double-decker omnibus (a natural fit since The Fallout follows straight on from Port Vila Blues), on the other hand, comes late in an already well-established series, and one in which our protagonist is one of the bad guys.
Which explains the earlier musings on today's morning walk. 
As a professional criminal, central character Wyatt needs to get through each story without being caught, not necessarily unscathed but definitely not in the position where he's going to end up cooling his heels in the clink, and based on what was on offer here it looks like a series that's well worth tracking down, though the lack of a cop shop type framework means that reading things in the right order might not be quite so important). 
Given the concept of a professional burglar and hold-up man who operates on his own you're probably going to find each story is more or less self-contained. The standard operating procedure seems to involve having Wyatt embark on a bank robbery, jewel heist or whatever, unaware that there are other influences lurking in the woodwork surrounding his operation.
In Port Vila Blues he starts off with what seems like a straightforward burglary which yields a valuable piece of jewellery that was part of the haul from another robbery and when the corrupt police responsible for that one learn it's back in circulation it comes as no surprise to learn they want to find out what's going on.
The Fallout is exactly that. After escaping from Port Vila with a different bundle of jewellery Wyatt is inveigled into helping his nephew with an art heist while the nephew is being conned into joining a search for bullion in a sunken wreck.
Much of the attraction in both stories lies in the characters that surround Wyatt.
While his nephew is in some ways a chip off the old block, he's an interesting contrast to the cautious, business-like unemotional Wyatt, blowing the proceeds of a series of bank robberies across rural Victoria at the Crown Casino, and keeping a collection of annotated press clippings in his semi-swisho apartment.
The central baddie in Port Vila Blues, the crooked judge De Lisle, is a suitably loathsome piece of work, and the corrupt cops seem professional enough on the surface, but they have their fatal flaws while good cop Liz Redding ends up on the other side, suspended for failure to follow S.O.P.
I'll be off to the library to see about the rest of Disher's work in the two series, but while the Challis/ Destry side of the equation will involve a request for Kittyhawk Down, along with the other Wyatt stories, Kickback, Paydirt, Deathdeal, Crosskill and the eponymous Wyatt I'll probably be asking for the lot and tackling them as they turn up on Interlibrary Loan if they're not actually on the shelves in Bowen.

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