Jack Irish
Created by Peter Temple

Got a cryptic note in my in-box. It said: "JACK IRISH -- Aussie ex-soldier, ex-lawyer, ex-alcoholic, punter, footy fan, cabinet-maker and finder of people and conspiracies."

Well it certainly piqued my interest, so I did a little digging. Turns out Jack's a character created by some guy called Peter Temple. And to Jack's already impressive resumé, you could add cook, part-time debt collector and sometime private eye.

Jack was a Melbourne shyster, working criminal cases, but pretty much dropped out of everything when his wife was killed by a deranged client. When he finally crawled out of his prolonged binge of grief, self-pity and booze to rebuild his life, he sought solace in manual work, attaching himself to Charlie Taub, an crochety old furniture-maker who lives in Fitzroy, a Melbourne suburb.

But now he's more-or-less human again, and has set up a non-criminal practice in Fitzroy. He often finds himself employed to find people who don't necessarily want to be found -- something for which he seems to have a knack. But he'll take on almost anything, even debt collecting. As a detective, he's got a keen eye and a dry wit, and he tends to play the odds, cutting a corner now and then if he thinks he can get away with it. Just like his preference in football, this lad prefers "Australian rules."

When he's not poking a stick into various nasty messes and (usually) getting in way over his head, he splits his time between the pub, the horse racing, football and -- oh, yes -- cabinetmaking.

An excellent, well-written series that balances heart and heat in equal measures. Of course, that meant for years you couldn't easily find any of them in North America, or at least anywhere I looked.

Fortunately, the 2013 DVD release of Jack Irish: Set One, featuring two made-for-Australian-television movies starring Guy Pearce, seems to have rekindled interest in the series, and all four books in the series are being re-released.

Arguably the most successful Australian crime writer of recent years, South African-born Peter Temple is best known for his Jack Irish books. He's won Australia's Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Novel three times -- more than any other writer. A former journalist, editor and lecturer, he decided to become a full-time freelance writer in 1995. He published his first novel, Bad Debts, which introduced Jack Irish, in 1996, and promptly won the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel). He's so far won four more (a record!), for Dead Point (2000) and White Dog (2003), both Jack Irish books, and one each for standalones Shooting Star and The Broken Shore, which also won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger in 2007, making Temple the first Australian to win a Gold Dagger.

UNDER OATH

  • "Temple's tales are gracefully choreographed, each turn of plot and leap of character establishment a deceptively simple exertion fraught with precise intent. While there are episodes here of gripping drama (a workplace explosion, an assault on Irish by that eponymous white dog), the author also takes time to cast a sharp and sometimes skeptical eye over Melbourne, both past and present. Early in this book, Irish presents a typical streetscape: "I got out and crossed the street, made my way in the late-morning throng, young and youngish people mostly, modish, long-haired, hairless, the odd balding man with a small tuft sticking out of the back of his head like a vestige of tail, people in Melbourne black, people in Gold Coast white, people in saris, sarongs, the odd suit, the odd secondhand pink tracksuit, many naked midriffs, some not much wider than a greyhound's, some not much narrower than a 44-gallon drum but the colour of lard." It's hard to beat a crime novel packed with wit, savory prose, gripping action and a protagonist whose weaknesses enhance his strengths."
    -- J. Kingston Pierce, The Rap Sheet, on White Dog

  • "(The TV films) are solid examples of how the Australian and British TV industries still put some care into the production of genre movies, a format that's been reduced to hack work and camp in America."
    -- The New York Times

NOVELS

TELEVISION

  • JACK IRISH: BAD DEBTS..Buy this DVD...Buy this Blu-Ray
    (2012, Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
    Based on the novel by Peter Temple
    Starring Guy Pearce as Jack Irish
    Also starring Roy Billing, Marta Dusseldorp, Aaron Pedersen

  • JACK IRISH: BLACK TIDE..Buy this DVD...Buy this Blu-Ray
    (2012, Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
    Based on the novel by Peter Temple
    Starring Guy Pearce as Jack Irish
    Also starring Roy Billing, Marta Dusseldorp, Aaron Pedersen

  • JACK IRISH: DEAD POINT...Buy on DVD....Buy this Blu-Ray
    (2014, Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
    Based on the novel by Peter Temple
    Screenplay by Matt Cameron
    Directed by Jeffrey Walker
    Starring Guy Pearce as Jack Irish
    Also starring John Jarratt, Barry Humphries, Roy Billing, Marta Dusseldorp, Aaron Pedersen

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, following a lead from Inkerman Hotel, whoever you are. Thanks, mate.


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