Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Peter Temple Wins Miles Franklin

Great news for we hacks toiling away in the tenebrous mines of genre fiction: Peter Temple has won the Miles Franklin Award, Australia's most important literary prize, for his outstanding novel Truth. Well done that man!
Unless you're in the literary fiction racket, no one writes a novel with awards in mind; science fiction novelists write science fiction because they love the genre and crime writers write crime and mystery novels because they love those. But Temple's win of the Miles Franklin is important and perhaps a sign that the literary establishment is beginning to take crime novels seriously. Clive James's dismissal of crime fiction as "mere travelogues" says more about James's lazy reading habits and less about a genre that is multifarious and diverse and pretty much the only thing keeping bookshops above water these days. Borges, Jacques Barzun, John T Irwin et. al. are among the critics who have always treated crime fiction with respect and maybe others will now see that crime fiction is a lens through which to view the world without all the middle class wanking about. For a couple of years I've held the belief that the two Peters - Temple and Carey are Australia's two most important novelists, but Temple has had the harder job convincing the elites to take what he does seriously.
Do I sound a little prickly? Perhaps. A few months ago I was at The Perth Writers Festival waiting for a bus and a fellow writer asked me what I did. "I write mystery novels," I told him. "Oh dear," he said "that must be frightfully boring." "Why do you say that?" I asked. "Well, those books are so dull." My literary bus stop friend was long listed for the Miles Franklin Award this year, but he didn't win. Crime writer Peter Temple did instead. A brokh tsu dayn lebn, asshole... as my dear old gran never used to say.