Shooting Star, Peter Temple

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

In May 2019 Text Publishing announced their Text Classics version of Peter Temple's SHOOTING STAR, two decades on from the original release date. 

It's well worth getting hold of a copy of this edition for Adrian McKinty's introduction alone, as it gives real insight into the person that Peter Temple was, and the impact that he had on the Australian Crime Writing community. He is a man who is much missed, and whilst we're all really thankful for the work that he left us, it's impossible not to think of all the work we've missed out on. Which thinking made a re-read of the excellent SHOOTING STAR a bit more emotional than expected.

Even without that background, SHOOTING STAR has always been a masterclass in thriller execution. Sparse, cleverly paced, littered with clues that make for many "of course" proclamations, there isn't a wasted moment in all 232 pages. It's about the cleverness of the observations of the characters, but it's also about the tightness of the plot and the way that the hints are there for the identifying. Temple was never a writer to treat his readers with disdain, so there's respect for those reading, as well as those telling the story. And then there are the little touches, the turns of phrase that show you how his characters, think, behave, interact, never in an overbearing manner, often with dry wit and wry humour - as in this response from offsider and old friend Orlovsky to a comment by central character Frank Calder:

He took a long time to answer, lit another stolen Camel, one of the last. 'The difference between us,' he said, 'is that I'm just doing this for the money. You're another matter entirely.'

It would be really easy to write a review of SHOOTING STAR that's just quote after quote after quote, there are so many ripe for the choosing. Having picked up this book at the start of the long weekend I'd sort of thought it would be one of those "quick" re-reads. A stroll down memory lane, and quick run through of a book that I'd originally reviewed back in 2008 (link to that review) but it turned out to be anything but. There were so many glorious moments that I found myself going back over parts of the text, savouring the images being sketched into life, the way that the character emerge from the light touches, the wonderful quotes, the bits that make you stop, and think these people are real:

I went over to the printer, watched the paper being spat into the collating trays, felt the ache growing in my back, the pointment of pain advancing down my legs.

Frank Calder's a man that you would trust in a tight spot, and the Carson family are dealing with a very big problem - the abduction of the second girl of the family, despite their security precautions, despite the family living compound, because of their money. Old Pat Carson is a self-made man, his children that classic type that happens when a rough and tumble man makes a lot of money, and his kids grow up privileged and spoilt. There's plenty of tension in the family and yet, despite the terror of the abduction of his young granddaughter, Pat Carson is resolved, quiet, deadly. A perfect match for Frank Calder.

I poured a finger of the peaty liquid, dusted it with water, sat down opposite the old man. There was something about the room, the panelling, the armchairs, the soft lights. At the end of a long and fruitless day, my lunch engagement excepted, it brought a little peace to the soul.

In another time, another place and different circumstances you can still see Pat Carson and Frank Calder having a meeting of minds. You can see how they understand each other, and you know darn well that no matter what happens to young Anne Carson, there will be consequences for both these men, and ripples out from there. 

It should come as no surprise that this thriller, winner of the 2000 Ned Kelly Award for Crime Fiction, is included in the Classics series, and it should not come as any surprise that two decades on from its original release date SHOOTING STAR is still a very good thriller. Actually it's a brilliant book of any type / class or classification.

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Introduction by Adrian McKinty

Pat Carson’s old eyes were on me, looking for something.

‘Man is born unto trouble,’ he said.

I said, ‘As the sparks fly upwards.’

Deep lines at the corners of his mouth. ‘Know your Job. Soldier. Policeman. Haven’t been a bloody priest too, have you?’

Anne Carson: fifteen, beautiful, wayward. Abducted.

The rich Carsons have closed ranks and summoned Frank Calder, subject to strict instructions. This is not the first kidnapping in the Carson family and hard lessons have been learned.

But are the two events connected? And is greed the motivation? Revenge? Or could it be something else? To find out, Frank Calder must go beyond his brief.

And his every step into the darkness may end a girl’s life.


First published two decades ago, this standalone crime novel is Peter Temple at his brilliant best. 

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