Sunday, 24 August 2008

The moral of the story (MWF#1)

Today I went to a couple of sessions at the Melbourne Writers Festival, the first of which was entitled The Moral of the Story. It was advertised as a debate between Barry Maitland, crime writer, and Peter Mares on whether the best novels are moral, immoral or amoral, launched by the following Oscar Wilde quote: "The good ended happily, and the bad ended unhappily -- that's what fiction means."

I believe they did briefly mention this quote in the context of crime fiction and whether the 'bad guys' get caught or not, but it was swiftly passed in favour of a chat about Maitland's work in general.

Fortunately for me, the discussion was very well prepared and led by Mares (since it was being recorded for broadcast on Radio National tomorrow) and therefore very interesting, despite the fact I'd never even heard of Barry Maitland before today. It seems he is well known for a series of police procedural London-based crime novels (the Brock and Kolla series), but has recently published a stand-alone mystery called Bright Air. Much of the discussion centred around this latest novel, which is not a police procedural, but rather a mystery in which everyday people find clues and try to unravel the four-year old mystery of the death of their friend/former girlfriend.

I find that novels are always more interesting if you know a little of the 'behind the scenes' stuff, so I bought this novel today and -- having abandoned The Kite Runner while faced with quite some time to kill between sessions -- have been reading it ever since! Not sure if I'll venture into Maitland's Brock and Kolla books, but Bright Air reminds me a little of my old favourite Mary Stuart novels and a lot of Donna Tartt's The Secret History, which interestingly Maitland cited a number of times during the discussion in various contexts.

So there you go. Right now I venture into a life of crime!

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