Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - Peter Corris
1. Cliff Hardy has been an incredibly popular and durable character for you for such a long time (28 years and 32 books). Did you have any inkling that the private detective who visited Bryn Gutteridge in The Dying Trade would still be doing his stuff 28 years later?
No, I had no idea. I wrote The Dying Trade just to see if I could write the kind of recreational fiction I most enjoyed reading at that time. I enjoyed the actual writing so much that I wrote the second book that became White Meat and made a start on the third, The Marvellous Boy, before the first book was published. It took almost five years for The Dying Trade to find a publisher. The McGraw Hill hardback was favourably reviewed; Pan wanted the paperback rights and by then I had two more ready to go. With three published, selling well and attracting attention, I knew that I was on to a good thing – a series. But I never imagined it would run to 30 plus books.
2. What is it that has kept Cliff Hardy so strongly motivated for so long? Do you think he still does it as purely a means of paying the bills or is he the kind of guy who would self destruct if he weren’t kept busy?
In a way Hardy’s career is like mine. I am a compulsive writer, never happier than when I’m doing it, out of sorts when not. Similarly, Hardy found his niche at which he was successful and found satisfaction. I put it this way just to answer the question. I do not think of Hardy as a real person.
3. In the forthcoming Cliff Hardy novel, Open File due out in April, Cliff is without his PEA license. Are we coming to the end of the Cliff Hardy career after 28 years? Could there be life for him in another guise…or a location other than Sydney? And will he ever get over Cyn?
The question is a bit off-beam. Open File is due out in March and it is a retrospective – set back in the 1980s. When I came to write another Hardy book I hadn’t solved the problem of his being without a licence and this was a way around the issue. Retrospective books for serial characters have a respectable history. We are definitely not coming to the end. I am currently halfway through a book, set in the here and now, and I’ve solved the licence problem (I hope). No radical change. People will just have to wait and see.
4. Do you read much Australian crime fiction? Can you give us a few standouts that you've read recently? What do you think of the current state of the Australian crime fiction scene?
Not much Australian crime fiction and not much crime generally. I prefer historical novels when I can find good ones. The only Australian crime novel I’ve read recently that appealed to me was Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore, which I think deserved every plaudit and award it got.
5. What do you think could be done to better promote Australian authors either at home or abroad (or both)?
We are well promoted at home, no complaints there. Some (not me) do OK in Britain and the US and in translation e.g. Shane Maloney. I think publishers should be more active in trying to get into foreign markets. A run of books translated into Japanese could make a splash for example, but it would take energy, guile etc and most corporation publishers haven’t the interest. They’re doing fine with their US and British best-sellers. The independents haven’t the resources or are not quite up to it.
6. If your fictional character could meet any fictional character who would you like it to be and why?
Sorry, with respect, for me this is a non question. My fictional character is an imaginative construct and has nothing to do with other people’s imaginative constructs. Fun for some to play this sort of game, but not for me.
Peter Corris is the author of four series spanning over 20 years. The most celebrated of these is the Cliff Hardy detective series which is now over 30 books strong, the latest book Open File having just been released this month. The other series feature Luke Dunlop, Ray "Creepy" Crawley, and Richard Browning. Peter has also written Australian history books as well as various non-fiction books on the subject of golf, boxing and a biography of Fred Hollows. Visit Peter Corris' web site for all the details about his books.
I'd agree that retrospective stories about series characters have a respectable pedigree, as long as one considers Colin Dexter and Dalziel and Pascoe respectable, as I do.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
While visiting my daughter in Sydney (late 80's)I saw the movie The Empty Beach and really enjoyed the movie. Later that day I was in a book store and saw that it was a book. Over four weeks I purchased all of the Cliff Hardy books available. The characters and story lines were realistic and believable. I especially liked the grittiness of Cliff Hardy. After returning to SF, CA I had Barnes and Noble order more. I did not realize that Mr. Corris was still writing the series. I think American mystery readers would truly enjoy the series. I wish they were more readily available in the US.
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