Brisbane. Early 1943.
A town under US occupation…friendly though it’s supposed to be.
Macarthur has set up his HQ in Queen St and the Japs are being held at Kokoda, but it’s not over yet.
The Aussie troops back on leave from the jungle don’t like to see their women consorting with the rich and flash GI’s that infest the pubs and clubs. There have been outbreaks of violence between the allied troops.
And that’s just the whites.
An official apartheid restricts Black GI’s to the south side of the Brisbane River on pain of death. It’s a tough Aboriginal and immigrant working class area to start with. They take it over with their jive talk and music. It’s their territory by night. As it is for Jack Munro, an ex-cop with burnt bridges, who keeps himself afloat by working as a small-time private investigator. He doesn’t make waves, and tracks down errant spouses on the cheap.
It isn’t glamorous.
He has few friends left on the force, and no family. A returned man from the First War, he is getting old and slowing down, but still knows his way around the backstreets and alleys of a town wide open to the conquerors and all the vice provided for them.
A woman engages him to find her missing husband.
She’s from down south, posh, and very attractive.
The missing man is a suspiciously sharp operator from Melbourne, and Jack can smell many rats, but takes the case anyway. He has an eye for the ladies and can’t avoid the honey trap.
The trail takes him from the wharves of the wartime port to tin-roof brothels in the outer suburbs as the trail reveals violence and corruption eating away at the foundations of the war effort. Unscrupulous ratbags are waxing fat while honest diggers die in the mud. The smell of murder is in the air, and Yank MP’s are covering up something that is an affront to the morals of an old soldier who did his bit when called upon.
He won’t go back in his kennel when the big boys call him off.
Coorparoo Blues and the Irish Fandango is a tough exercise in Aussie Noir. It’s not just about a girl, a gun, and a guy with a hat, but that’s a good place to start.
More pulp than psychodrama, the book features a believable character in believable situations, peppered with the authentic vernacular of the time. It also brings to light some of the darker aspects of wartime Australia, and the author’s research disturbed him. “The report that a Black American GI was shot dead in front of the Anzac Memorial in Brisbane for no other reason than being on the wrong side of a river is an affront to the ideals that memorial commemorates” he states, “and an indication that our relationship with America has always been more complicated than it appears.”
Having grown up in Coorparoo, and remembering an older, more quaint, Brisbane than the modernistic metropolis that gleams beside the river today, the author ensures that the locales and people are brought to life in an authentic recreation of a small subtropical port thrust into the centre of world affairs as the Pacific War hung in the balance. The hero, an ex-cop and old digger working as a Private Eye, is based on characters the author met when working in abattoirs and factories as a teenager. “A lot of those old blokes were still around then: the end of WW2 was closer when I started work than the Vietnam War is to us today, so I heard quite a lot of yarns in pubs and barber shops and the like, and the way they spoke has stuck with me, although it’s nearly forgotten now.”
Profane, tough, and full of surprises, this book is just like its hero.
and is available in bookstores near you,
Read the first chapter here! (99KB, pdf)