Monday, June 4, 2012

Moonlight Downs by Adrian Hyland

Moonlight Downs (Emily Tempest, #1)

I am thrilled to see a writer of Hyland’s gifts create a series with an Aboriginal heroine called Emily Tempest. Hyland’s use of language is so specific to the region that readers unschooled in the language of the Australian bush might not be able to comprehend. There is a glossary--for Aboriginal words and Australian slang—but still. For me, however, it is pure bliss.

Strains of music can be heard throughout the book and one is tempted to listen while reading to those artists mentioned to see what it is about each one that defines character. Lucinda Williams, the Louvin Brothers, Paul Kelly, the Warumpis, Slim Dusty, Nick Cave… If one has downloaded the book to an ereader, one can crank up the Pandora® app, select these artists for the background, plug in earphones, and get down to it.

Emily Tempest is half white Australian and half native Aborigine, which gives her entree to both circles. Descriptions of her native ground do not stint on the realities of bush dwellers’ (white and black) unusual habits and habitats. But she also has a fascination with geology, and that clinches my certainty that this is more than just a very funny mystery about an underreported culture—it is a mystery that goes to the very heart of Australia itself. The discussion of geology raises the level of discourse and makes one’s mind wander to the unique characteristics of the continent and its inhabitants.

Author Adrian Hyland won the Ned Kelly Award for Crime Fiction in 2008 for this debut novel and first book in a series. It suffered a title change when it was published in the United States to Moonlight Downs from the Australian title Diamond Dove. Since that early success, Hyland has produced another title in the series: Gunshot Road. It is likewise published in the United States by Soho Press and both are available as ebooks.

Hyland himself worked in Central Australia for ten years as a community developer in remote Aboriginal communities, so knows whereof he speaks. He has a clear eye and sense of the absurd that allows us to revel in a remarkable indigenous culture. The beauty of the Australian bush comes through strongly—its riches and treasures are celebrated. Hyland also wrote Kinglake-350 about the devastating bushfires in the state of Victoria in 2009, and which is considered a masterpiece of reportage. It has been shortlisted for the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Nonfiction in 2012.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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