Why Neville Shot Gus, David Owen
WHY NEVILLE SHOT GUS is a novella with author foreword and afterword, from Tasmanian based author, David Owen, best known for his series of crime fiction novels featuring DI 'Pufferfish' Franz Heineken.
The foreword explains how this project came to be:
Tell it like it is (was).
In the year 1999 I accepted an invitation to edit Tasmania's prestigious quarterly literary magazine Island. I supplemented its part-time salary through various means, one being teaching creative fiction writing as an Adult Education Tasmania tutor. The classes, which I'd begun in the mid-1990's, were one morning a week, over a term of a year. Participants, averaging in number 25 per class, ranged in age from early adulthood to 70-plus and, in their understanding of fiction technique, from absolute beginner to highly knowledgeable. Where / how to pitch teaching the esoteric subject fiction writing to such disparate groups? I had made two early decisions: encourage the participants to be keen to engage with the technicalities of writing fiction; test their abilities to write fiction.
Owen goes onto explain how he used what he had taught the students to write WHY NEVILLE SHOT GUS. He outlines the steps involved, then as you read the novella, each of those steps is flagged. The process is fascinating, but the outcome is the point. The reader is presented with a novella that covers the main requirements of fictional crime writing, it flags when it is doing that, and the reader could be excused for completely missing the scaffolding and going along with the fictional ride.
This isn't a Pufferfish novella, but it is set in many familiar locations within Tasmania. It's imbued with the same sort of dry, sardonic wit, and the plot is based around the sort of human failings that are explored in the series novels.
It's cleverly done, and it works on all sorts of levels - as an entertaining, engaging crime fiction novella. As an exercise in understanding the craft of crime writing, and as a tutorial on how to go about it yourself if you're of that mind. Whatever the reason, WHY NEVILLE SHOT GUS was time well spent.