Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fallout by Garry Disher - Book Review

Garry Disher's Fallout (Soho Crime, 2013, 256 pages, $25.00) is a reprint of the sixth volume of the Wyatt series of crime from the inside fiction which turns into more of a character study than a thriller. Uncle Wyatt and nephew Ray each follow criminal paths as the trail finds them crossing and teaming up for the big score each of them needs. The relationship between the aging and deeply experienced Wyatt and his novice, duplicitous nephew eager to enter the “big time” he assumes his uncle inhabits is the kicker in this crime drama which is relatively slow moving. Raymond has developed a minor media role as the “bush bandit,” having successfully pulled off a series of relatively successful bank heists in small Australian towns. He's looking for the big score when he meets a couple seeking backing for an expedition to illegally harvest shipwreck gold and coins off the Australian coast. They romance Ray with their story and a little sex on the side as he becomes enamored of the idea of pulling off the job.

Meanwhile, Uncle Wyatt has returned from a previous adventure with police detective Lisa Redding, and they have become lovers while sailing back to Australia together. Wyatt has hidden a stash of, perhaps, valuable jewelry aboard their shared yacht. Lisa becomes the object of suspicion from her colleagues, as Wyatt reunites with his nephew to undertake an art theft. Raymond needs the money to help finance the underwater exploration, while Wyatt seeks to return to more glorious days as a successful thief. The essential interest in this tale is the relationship between the two, as well as Lisa's divided loyalties between her role as a police officer and her attachment to Wyatt. Meanwhile, too many sub-plots and complications reduce the action and gum up the narrative flow of this criminal character study, which only begins to become apparent about half way through, gaining narrative drive at that belated point.

Perhaps the biggest lesson to be learned from this novel is one about the perils of picking up series books at the wrong end. Fallout, first published in 1997, is the sixth in a series now called the Wyatt series by Garry Disher. A seventh volume, released in 2010, after what appears to have been a 13 year interval, is also available. It took my reading more than half of this story to figure out the relationships as well as who was supposed to be the protagonist. It was only after all became relatively clear that Wyatt emerged as a crook with an intriguing past and a carefully protected psyche which drives him forward as his sense of attachment to Liz Redding grows. Series novels are tricky. The author must strive to keep each volume effective as a stand alone while allowing the central character to develop along the way. Three excellent examples of the sub-genre are John D. MacDonald's Travis Magee series, James Lee Burke's Dave Robichoux mysteries, and the Spencer novels of Robert B. Parker. Neither Disher's ambition nor his skills come close to living up to these three master's of the detective series.

Garry Disher

Garry Disher lives in Australia and is the author of over 40 books: novels, short story collections, writers' handbooks, history textbooks and children's fiction. His Challis and Destry police procedurals, and his Wyatt crime from the inside thrillers, are gaining international recognition, winning best crime novel of the year awards in Australia and Germany and appearing on best books of the year lists in the USA. Garry has toured Germany twice and the States once, and counts a scholarship year spent in the Stanford University creative writing school, early in his career, as one of his most important formative experiences.

Garry Disher's Fallout (Soho Crime, 2013, 256 pages, $25.00) makes Australia seem somehow smaller and more restricted that the vastness which I imagine on this sub-continent. His characters never quite capture my attention enough for me to become truly involved in their internal and external conflicts of desire, motive, background, or need. Perhaps, if I returned to the series and read it from the beginning, I might become more involved, but I doubt I'll do that. Fallout contained just sufficient dramatic tension to keep me reading to the end, where I was left hanging, but not enough to draw me into further encounters with the protagonist Wyatt or the author. The book was provided to me in electronic galley by the publisher through Edelweiss: Above the Treeline. I read it on my Kindle.

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