On 30 August 2018, Peter Corris passed away. Corris is widely regarded as the godfather of Australian crime writing. His first Cliff Hardy novel came out in 1980, The Dying Trade. Corris went on to write over forty Hardy novels, along with an extensive collection of other fiction and non-fiction titles. A historian by trade, he was an academic and journalist before writing became his full-time profession.
I discovered Cliff Hardy in the last six years, enjoying his investigations which traversed Sydney and with various parts of the state and country along with occasional overseas jaunts. Hardy was an old-style private investigator with connections to police as well as darker elements in society. He had his own style of justice and it wasn’t always conventional. Hardy had a best mate in the police force as well as a number of love interests over the years. There was an ex-wife and a daughter, who Hardy was unaware of until they met when she was an adult. Their relationship, although initially awkward, was developed with realistic resonances over time. I enjoyed these books as a reader and a listener: many of the audiobooks were read by Peter Hosking, who will remain as the gruff voice of Hardy in my mind. There is a good overview of the Hardy series here, and a spotlight review of The Dying Trade here by the marvellous Margot Kinberg.
In the last few years, Corris had been a regular contributor to the Newtown Review of Books blog. Most Fridays there would be a brief but thoughtful article from Corris on all manner of things. Some that come to mind are his posts on musical influences in his life, audiobooks (his eyesight diminished significantly which impacted his ability to both read and write), places that he had lived, and gardens that his wife, Jean, had created in their various homes over the years. Sport also featured, along with people that he had met at various stages across his career.
I will not be alone in missing the writing and thoughtfulness of Peter Corris, and my Fridays won’t be quite the same without his regular presence.
[Photo: Sydney Harbour – Sydney was Hardy’s city and he knew it well]
Every now and then a challenge comes up to write a piece within a very tight word count. These tend to be part of a writing prompt or contest, and they can provide a good opportunity to flex a different kind of writing muscle. Having a theme to work towards is also a creative challenge, setting parameters that provide a sense of direction for shorter work.
Recently I came across a piece that I wrote last year. The requirements were to write no more than 25 words, and the work had to include ‘winter’, ‘writer’ and ‘silhouette’. This is what I came up with:
A hunched silhouette
Pen gripped tightly
The writer crafts
Her work nightly
Hours are lost
As she creates
Stories of winter
I also had a go at a writing challenge put out last year by wonderful mystery writer and blogger Margot Kinberg. This one was limited to 50 words and I used the word count to set a crime scene where something went wrong.
No-one told him about the dog. He’d had a clear run. The so-called secure complex was barely a challenge, the target easily despatched. The dog had been in the lounge room, cowering. He knew he had to get out, timing was everything. But he couldn’t leave the dog.
There is something about writing in a condensed format that is really satisfying. Another 25 word challenge has been issued by the Australian Writers’ Centre, this one with the words ‘victory’ and ‘violin’ to be included. I’m off to have a scribble – it is hard to resist a writing challenge!
Do you enjoy writing very short stories?
[Photo: Avenue of Honour, Ballarat]
There are many things to love about living in the Blue Mountains. The air, for starters. It is usually crisp, often scented with eucalyptus along with whatever is currently in bloom. The blue skies too, although to be fair there are often dramatic cloud formations. One of my favourite things is the mist which seems to appear out of nowhere, cloaking the landscape by stealth at any time of the year. It can be disorientating at times, but there is a moment of clarity when the fog clears.
People from all walks of life are drawn to live here. It is known as a popular place for creative souls, with a wide collection of artists, musicians, writers and innovators. Someone said to me recently that you can be who you want to be here, and that in itself makes it a special place to live.
For me, it was the creative community that appealed, along with the chance to have more time to contemplate what really matters.
It can be like travelling along a foggy highway, tricky and confusing at times, but if you persevere you arrive at your destination.
*The topic line is taken from ‘Foggy Highway’ by Paul Kelly. The use of a line from a song as a topic line is borrowed from Margot Kinberg’s truly excellent crime fiction blog, which you can find here.