June, 2011: I posted Rob a copy of my novel, even though he claims (though also admits it's an exaggeration) that he has only read one book* in his thirty-eight years, and that was when he gave his right leg two knees by falling off a motorbike. He sent me a book in return written by someone who lives near (i.e. less than 500 kms away) him in western Queensland: Pinched Or Planted by Susan McDonald, 2010. It is a five-hundred-page book about a mob of cattle, belonging to a neighbour, that appeared in one of Susan and Graeme McDonald's paddocks, the result being that Graeme McDonald was charged with stealing them. As I pulled the book out of the post-pack, I thought, "This could well be the most boring book I've ever tried to read!"
However, it is not boring. It is meticulous, comprehensive and pedantic, but for a reason: the investigation run by the 'Stock Squad' or SARCIS was such a suspiciously inept botch-job, that the McDonalds soon figured out that it was necessary to document everything. Meanwhile, SARCIS officers are all in the habit of cutting-and-pasting from each other's diaries, forgetting to tape-record conversations, taking photos of the wrong things, getting the dates wrong, having huge blank spots in their memories etc. Although McDonald doesn't find out how the cattle got onto Albeni, she certainly shows up the hopeless and probably corrupt practices of the Stock Squad. It really is shameful and shocking! Errol (Blue Murder, Police State, Police Crop and Joh's Jury) should come out of retirement to make a telemovie about the SARCIS corruption. One thing I liked about it was that SARCIS treat McDonald as though she doesn't exist - at the committal hearing, they often forget to mention her when listing the people present during conversations or in gatherings, and only her husband is charged with the theft - and yet, it is her viewpoint that ends up being the most significant. A woman, armed only with notebook and pen, a tape-recorder and - a crucial difference - a brain, gets the better of a whole bunch of dubious men!
This is intelligent and carefully-written raw material. It has not been shaped or structured, and much of it is repetitive (and not repeated once or twice, but multiple times, as they go over and over the same events in the committal hearing). It's fun reading raw material that you can trust, because you can add your own shape to it. But every now and then, while the book sat on my breakfast table from February to June as I inched my way through it, someone would pick it up, then quickly put it down again. It's not for the faint-hearted!
There were very few grammatical mistakes or typos, but there was one very elegant one:
The sedimentary lifestyle was wearing a bit thin for Graeme.
So much more evocative than 'sedentary'! Sitting all day long in a chair does make you feel as though your blood is slowing and setting in clayey layers! I liked reading McDonald's observations about the differences between the town-life she leads during the committal hearing, and her usual back-country-life; she is no knee-jerk city-hater, and appreciates the best part of town life, namely, catching up with friends and family.
*Snouts In The Trough, if I remember rightly.