Well, as we reported in a special bulletin to our Weekly Book Newsletter subscribers last night, Peter Temple’s Truth (Text) is the winner of this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award. (You can read our original review here.)
Not surprisingly, Text publisher Michael Heyward told us he was ‘over the moon’, following Temple’s win. He said Truth had ‘changed the possibility of the crime novel’. ‘Truth is a crime novel but also a novel about crime. It’s a contemporary tragedy,’ he said.
But, as Temple told Matthia Dempsey, in this interview from our September 2009 issue of the magazine, there was a time during the writing process for Truth when Heyward wasn’t quite so happy…
(Oh, and by the way, did you know the Miles Franklin was hitting the road? The ceremony comes to Melbourne in 2011 and other capital cities after that.)
INTERVIEW: Peter Temple on ‘Truth’ (Text Publishing)
You’ve referred to Truth as ‘the so-called sequel’ to The Broken Shore because, although that’s how it’s likely to be pitched, it’s not really a sequel. Why did you choose to focus on Villani, rather than write a second book on Cashin? Were you trying to avoid another series?
I love the Jack Irish series in a parental way. It’s part of me. And, to my great surprise and joy, many people want another Jack Irish book in the same way I once wanted another James Bond novel (well, perhaps not quite as much). But the idea of another series fills me with terror. When it came to think about what to write after The Broken Shore, I found myself thinking about Stephen Villani (a minor player in The Broken Shore). I’d enjoyed his character and I thought I’d try to capture him and his world in a way that treated cops as ordinary people who, as the poet said, have to save the sum of things for pay.
The Broken Shore won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger among many other awards. How did the success of that book affect the writing of this one?
It’s not the success or otherwise of the last book that matters. It’s that every book drains the well and it takes an ever-greater effort to begin each new one. I also have a horror of repeating myself, something that doesn’t help matters.
Truth follows two homicide investigations but also takes in the world of media and politics. Do you draw on your experience as a court reporter in creating your plots? Do you do a lot of research to get these worlds right?
Writing draws on everything that’s ever happened to you. My aim is always to get the feel of the book right. But it’s fiction. I make stuff up. That’s the fun of it.
As with The Broken Shore, one of the very appealing aspects of Truth is that the pared-back nature of the book makes the reader work a bit harder to keep everything in their head—to make connections, remember characters. Is this your intention?
I like reading books that make you work, make you join the bits, reach your own conclusions, and so I try to write books like this.
Truth is set in the city but visits the country and The Broken Shore included descriptions of the natural world; what appeals to you about writing about nature?
Part of being a writer is being an observer. I like looking closely at things. I like staring at things, waiting for them to reveal themselves. To capture these impressions in ways that speak to the reader is the great challenge of writing. It’s also its greatest pleasure.
You’ve said that when you’re writing a book you don’t know where it’s going. Can you tell us at what point in the writing process you worked it all out? Was your publisher at all worried?
I generally begin to understand the story about three-quarters of the way through the writing. I don’t know how the process works but I now know that there is a process at work. I think worried is too mild a word for my publisher’s state of mind while he waited for the book. I think he had secretly given up on it. But he understands what miserable, lying creatures writers are and he never lets them off the hook, never gives them the excuse they are looking for to chuck the whole thing in.
Can you tell us what you’re working on next?
I’m fiddling around with the fifth Jack Irish novel and thinking about returning to the territory of In the Evil Day.