OK, OK, he’s a capable writer. And maybe this book would be just the antidote if you’d been suffering a bit too much sentimentality, implausible heroics or happy rainbows in your recent reading. Having had a bit of a crime binge lately, I hadn’t – which might be why I was in less of a place to enjoy this. What he does, he does well, even brilliantly. These hard-bitten characters, the whole macho biting dialogue, this dark twisted story in gritty recognisable Australian environments. He’s really caught that Australian masculine comradeship through insulting thing, something I enjoy at the good-natured level, but have never managed to step up to the (recognisable) brutality and offensiveness that pervades this story.
But (there was always going to be a but) I’d like a bit more scope: all the major characters seemed to be highly dysfunctional, and to spend all their time in one-upmanship, just trying to show they are the bigger man, often by coming up with these acerbic attacks. The characters are distinct, but their voices are very similar, even in the echoes of past figures. That may have been part of Temple’s point – how this sub-culture shapes and reproduces itself – but it still got a bit wearing. Maybe it’s a cocktail thing: Temple has the writing skills to capably evoke a range of characters, settings and moods in whichever measures he likes. In this case he chose to go really heavy on the cynicism, dysfunction, bitterness, corruption, only offering odd moments of nobility, affection and humour. Deliberate, but, again, I think this’d only work for me as a counter to too much recent saccharine or stupidity (there’s plenty out there).
Temple doesn’t insult your intelligence: things aren’t all spelt out for you. Although maybe sometimes I needed a bit of insulting: I’ll plead that I mostly read this pretty late when I was tired, but I had some trouble identifying all the characters, and was pretty vague on some of the links with the preceding (impressive) The Broken Shore. Maybe they’re better read close together and when you’re wide awake – although my gripe about the voices being too similar in ‘Truth’ might be magnified if you jump straight into it after the similarly dark prequel.