Peter Corris

With an extensive and impressive list more than sixty titles covering a range of genres dating back to 1980, Peter Corris might be regarded as the Godfather of contemporary Australian crime-writing, but there's more than one string to his bow. Best known for the Cliff Hardy series, credited with reviving the fully-fledged Australian crime novel with local settings and reference points and with a series character firmly rooted in Australian culture (source), he has a masters degree from Monash and a doctorate from the ANU (both in Pacific History) and has worked as an academic and  journalist before becoming a full-time writer in 1982.

Having been on board from (almost) the beginning, the Hardy series would, under other circumstances, be a prime candidate for a re-read in order project and an entirely separate entry for each title under Fiction, the size of the series (thirty-eight titles to date) and the difficulty in tracking down earlier titles that are out of print having slipped under my guard will probably militate against it. 

Cliff Hardy series:


  • Torn Apart (2010), where Hardy meets his second cousin Patrick Malloy, who happens to be his double. 

The pair head across to Ireland to  attend a gathering of Travellers, the Irish equivalent of gypsies from whom the family is descended. Back at home, Malloy is staying with Hardy when he's killed by a shotgun blast, which of course, is going to have Hardy ignoring minor matters like lack of P.I. accreditation (he was permanently disbarred a few titles back) and investigate the killing. It's quite possible, after all, that he was the intended target.

That brings him into contact with Malloy’s ex-wife Sheila, and there are large question marks over Malloy’s suspect business dealings. With a Customs prosecution hanging over his head Hardy continues digging, and the results of his probing leads him and Shiela to a paramilitary training camp and a meeting of Traveller descendants in Kangaroo Valley where the truth is revealed, but it's not a result that brings much satisfaction. Another highly readable Hardy adventure, with all the regulation ingredients.

  • Comeback (2012), where Hardy has his PI licence back, along with a new office (in a converted warehouse in Pyrmont) and, heaven forbid, a web site. He’s barely settled in when actor Bobby Forrest, who happens to be the son of a former client and is being stalked by a woman he met through an online dating service. He’s in a new relationship, and the stalker ha been threatening the new girlfriend, so he wants the stalker issue sorted out, as you would.

A few days into the case Bobby is murdered and although he’s been warned off the case the regulation mixture of inquisitiveness and reluctance to leave things to the police are always going to mean he’ll keep going. Bobby’s father, the former client turned successful businessman, is there to bankroll the continuing investigation in a case involving exotic sex workers, a high profile business man and media personality and a former actor with an obvious grudge where every one of the suspects seems to drive a white Commodore.

  • The Dunbar Case (2013) , where Hardy, Having regained his PI licence on a technicality, is hired by revisionist historian Professor Henry Wakefield, who’s out to chase down the descendants of a suspected survivor of a 154-year-old maritime disaster. The Dunbar sank off Sydney’s South Head in August 1857. According to the historical record there was a single survivor, but Wakefield believes there was a second, who disembarked shortly before the wreck and would have been presumed lost with the rest of those on board.

While he’s done a fair bit of the research, Wakefield has run into a major problem. The last of the second survivor’s descendants, John Dalgarno Twizell, has ended up in Bathurst jail for a brutal assault on his partner, who happens to be the daughter of Newcastle underworld boss Jobe Tanner. Twizell, who has a parole hearing coming up, may be able to lead the professor to documents that would prove the professor’s second survivor theory, which he eventually does, but along the way the interactions with the various members of Newcastle’s prime crime family, the Tanners, an undercover cop playing both sides against the middle, an ambitious female journalist who was a colleague of Hardy’s murdered partner Lily Truscott and the usual array of police officers who aren’t impressed by Hardy’s predilection for sticking his nose into affairs that are notionally none of his business or his refusal to cease and desist when warned to do so.

Other titles...

© Ian Hughes 2012