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Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Blurring of Fiction and Real Life

I almost exclusively read crime fiction but recently I got the chance to read Derek Pedley's new biography about Australia's most notorious 20th century bank robber, Brenden Abbott. The book, titled Australian Outlaw: The True Story of Postcard Bandit Brenden Abbott takes us through Abbott's life from his early days right up until his incarceration in a Queensland prison where he sits today.

As a fan of Australian fiction I couldn't help but compare it to some of novels I have read in the past - mind you the comparison was favourable - and I was struck time and again by similarities between the way Brenden Abbott operated and the fictional criminal invented by Garry Disher named Wyatt.

Like Abbott, Wyatt is the supreme professional who painstakingly prepared for a job, he studied his targets with infinitisemal care, planning for every conceivable eventuality.

Like Abbott, Wyatt didn't tolerate fools or people who were unprofessional in their attitude to the job.

Like Abbott, Wyatt had a knack for evading the law in the most creative of ways.

Where they differ of course is that Wyatt had the benefit of a carefully created plot thought up by his creator that always kept him ahead of trouble while Abbott was at the mercy of fate, bad luck and the like.

Abbott was on the run, robbing banks and escaping from prisons from 1989 - 1998, Disher's Wyatt books spanned 1991 - 1997...hmmm...

A case of life and art mirroring each other or did one base themself on the other? Either way, I heartily recommend reading about the amazing exploits of Brenden Abbott in Australian Outlaw and offer up this review for a more detailed look at the book.

You can then compare Abbott to Wyatt by trying Kickback (1991), Paydirt (1992), Deathdeal (1993), Crosskill (1994), Port Vila Blues (1995) and The Fallout (1997). I think you'll be in for a cracking good Aussie read no matter whether you go with the fact or the fiction.


Quick said...

Those parallels are really interesting. Wonder if there's anything in it?

Perry Middlemiss said...

Disher has a new Inspector Challis novel coming out in the next month or so. I suspect he'll be touring - at least in Melbourne - in support of that release. Maybe someone can ask the question. I saw him last year and asked him about the Wyatt novels, and he said a new one was nearly finished.

Damien said...

Hi Perry

In fact I'm reading Chain of Evidence right now and it's a terrific addition to the Challis & Destry series. I particularly like the increased profile of Ellen Destry.

I would love to hear whether Brenden Abbott was the inspiration behind Wyatt. If anyone is going to be attending Writers At Como held at Como House in South Yarra from 16 - 18 February, Garry Disher will be there. Alternatively, he'll be at 'Words & Ideas' at the Perth International Arts Festival from 22 - 28.

Peter said...

Yikes, I'd always assumed that if Wyatt had a parallel or source, it was Richard Stark's Parker. The character may be of mixed real/fictional ancestry.

P.S. My copy of Paydirt is on the way.

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