Affirm Press 2017
Cast your mind back to 2006.
The Australian twenty four hour news cycle was in its infancy — scuttlebutt, innuendo, hearsay, grossly ill-informed speculation and flat out bullshit travelled at much slower speeds.
It was a gentler, simpler time of Blackberrys, Sky News and anti-terror fridge magnets.
Terrestrial television, talkback radio and tabloid newspapers were still the preferred delivery methods for half baked dog whistling and racist paranoia — Twitter and Facebook were years from hitting their straps in any meaningfully awful, democracy endangering way.
Fake News — AKA spurious bunkum– was what you heard over the back fence from your gossipy neighbour, or over a few pints from the dotty old racist down the local.
Viewed in the rear-view mirror from here in bad old dystopian 2017, 2006 has almost acquired a warm, nostalgic glow. Even the Howard Government looks vaguely — vaguely — palatable from this historical angle.
Believe it or not, that was all a mere decade ago.
Tony Martin’s career has thus far spanned four decades.
From his early days with The D-Generation and The Late Show, through film (Bad Eggs), popular commercial radio stints (Triple M’s Martin/ Molloy, Get This) and a return to the ABC (Upper Middle Bogan), Martin’s comedy has long been attuned to the art of gently pulling the piss out of day to day Aussie mundanity.
Deadly Kerfuffle, Martin’s debut novel, leans heavily on the Kiwi author’s keenly observed insights into the sinister flip side of our daggy national character.
Lifting directly from the cover blurb:
“It’s 2006, and terror scaremongering in the media has rattled the residents of sleepy, suburban Dunlop Crescent. When a Maori family moves into number 14, the local cranks assume they are Middle Eastern terrorists hell-bent on destroying the Australian way of life. Rumour has it that they plan to turn their house to face Mecca…”
Events spin madly out of control — as they’re wont to do — when pompous radio shock jocks, fedora sporting conspiracy theorists, cable news muckrakers, hysterical tabloid newspaper coverage and bumbling national security apparatchiks quickly turn a bit of benign cul-de-sac pensioner bigotry into a potential terrorist event.
Sounding all-too eerily plausible?
With an insider’s ear for the local media industry, Deadly Kerfuffle wrenches back the curtains on the sordid inanity of Melbourne’s rampant pundit class, throwing particularly dense shade at certain overly familiar personalities from the right wing nut job commentariat.
Deadly Kerfuffle’s plot — driven by mistaken identities and escalating farce — nods to Martin’s cinephilia. There’s a healthy dash of film noir via Coen Brothers quirk inherent in the book’s intertwining, pulp novel narrative beats, and the seedy cast of oddballs is fleshed out with bumbling twits, scheming egomaniacs with half-arsed schemes and some all-too believable Nazi thugs.
Martin’s keen eye (and ear) for trenchant detail — note the author’s obvious affection for the quaint anachronisms of mainstream Aussie culture — permeates Deadly Kerfuffle. Melburnians in particular will revel in Martin’s sense of place — dramatic hostage scenes play out in the absurdly appointed confines of an extinct theatre restaurant, and elsewhere some of St Kilda Road’s more naff “iconic” architecture is treated with the contempt it invites.
Deadly Kerfuffle is, to engage dual critical clichés, a laugh-out-loud funny page-turner. Martin’s affable literary voice makes this a jovial holiday read, while darker truths bubble at the fringes of this amiable tale of radicalised OAPs and outsized egos.
Having shrewdly set his first novel in our recent past, one wonders what accelerated horrors would beset Martin’s protagonists were it to have been set in the present day?