The second session we attended on Saturday was Crime and Verse - Dorothy Porter talking to Jason Steger. Some of you may remember my stunned amazement at the joy of El Dorado - Dorothy's second crime based verse novel - at MWF last year. I'm still quietly raving about that book to anybody who will stand still for more than 10 minutes - and, as an aside, I've got to say I'm rather chuffed that after this session himself has started reading the book. SEE - I TOLD YOU IT WAS BLOODY GOOD!
Anyway - back to the session. Fascinating. Dorothy is not only a great poet, she is a marvellous communicator and by talking about the process behind writing The Monkey's Mask and El Dorado we got a real insight into the way that poetry is constructed, and then into the way a verse novel can be built. And the places that inspiration for writing crime and verse novels come from - suffice to say there's a very disconcerting man in the New South Wales prison system who may or may not know what he started with a throwaway line in a poetry class in (I think it was) Long Bay Prison one year!
For anyone who hasn't read El Dorado (and you'd better have a bloody good excuse - I'm going to start getting bolshie about this soon), the book tells the story of a child serial killer. It's told from the viewpoint of the Police Investigator and his friend Cath. It's made up of a series of short poems, pieced together to tell the story - looking at what seems, oddly enough, a series of gentle, almost kind child killings. These little poems play with your mind and switch your senses on and off with a deftness that is absolutely breathtaking.
Interestingly enough - as a side comment, later in the weekend Peter Temple was talking about his admiration for poetry - the sparesness that is required, the discipline in writing, and he was kind enough to mention that Dorothy Porter is one of his hero's later when he was signing my book for me.
She is definitely one of mine.
There is a serial child killer stalking the streets of Melbourne.
The victims are killed gently, lovingly, a gold mark traced on their forehead.
This killer doesn't hate children. This killer believes in childhood innocence at any cost.
Unflinching and morally uncompromising, El Dorado is the story of a friendship under siege, and the very long shadows that jealousy and betrayal can cast. It is both a complex thriller and a compelling reading experience from Australia's maverick and most versatile poet.