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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Reading: The Big Ask by Shane Maloney

After recently devouring Sucked In, the 6th Murray Whelan novel by Shane Maloney I found myself seeking out the backlist so that I could once again enjoy the easygoing narrative of the ALP stalwart.

The first in my backtracking effort is
The Big Ask which happens to be the 4th book in the series. In this one Murray mixes it with trucking union heavies who are trading blows over a possible leadership stoush. Along the way he gets caught up in a murder investigation, gets fired by the Honourable Angelo Agnelli, State Minister for Transport and learns that his son has gone missing. It's all go, go, go for Murray Whelan which has easily dragged me along for a very enjoyable ride.

And, yes, okay I admit it, the innuendo the sex-starved political minder spurts forth with as he's getting it on is also a bit of a drawcard. The close personal encounter in the cabin of a truck results in some priceless trucking (that's trucking) terminology.

And then it's followed up nicely with Murray lusting after a formerly available (but now sadly taken) colleague thusly:

How I longed to federate with her, to capture her preferences, to scrutinise her affiliations. To man her booth, to poll her quorum, to table her amendments, to join her in congress, to have her sit on my adminitrative committee.

From the sounds of this, if Murray doesn't find a woman soon there's going to be big trouble in the halls of power (or at least, a big mess).

He moves on to the Melbourne weather, a topic that is the source of great derision for Sydney-siders.
According to the calendar, spring was only a few weeks away. But spring in Melbourne is an elusive phenomenon, a largely theoretical construct. It finds expression less in the behaviour of the elements than in the expectations of the population. It arrives because, having endured winter, we deserve it.

I'm often bemused by the habit of Australians to complain about the "cold" weather we get during winter. This in a country where it only snows in a miniscule region and well away from the large cities. Complaining that the temperature only reached 8 degrees celsius would get absolutely no sympathy from those living in cities whose winter temperatures regularly sit below freezing for most of the winter months. (We're a weird mob).

And, finally, I get the feeling that Shane Maloney has read one or two Patrick White novels with this pithy little simile:
Behind the lenses of his sunglasses Farrell's face was as unreadable as a Patrick White novel.
Anyone who has ever opened the pages will be chuckling appreciably at that one, I'm sure.

Murray actually gets reasonably assertive in this book, actually goading someone with the classic provocation "have a go, you mug", to which he is mortified to have to back up with his fists. As Murray puts it:
If he thought I was going to box him, he'd mistaken me for a man who knew what he was doing. Get in close, I thought desperately. Compensate for my lack of skill by kneeing him in the knackers.

Go you good thing, I say.


Peter said...

You picked up on some of my favorite lines from The Big Ask. Here's another:

"(H)is behaviour was even more scandalous than alleged in the shit-letter. Fooling around might be forgivable. Kinky is a matter of taste. But doing it with a member of the Liberal Party was beyond the pale."

Here's a post I made about the novel's four funniest lines: First prize went to the Patrick White line you highlighted.

Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Damien said...

Heh! The Liberal party comment's a good'un isn't it. I remembered your post about that one when I got to it while reading the book.