Book Review: Line of Sight by David Whish-Wilson

I’ve been looking at a few writing competitions of late. As a new author I like the idea of submitting a short story or novelette to test myself, set my standards at a high enough level and create that snooty air that literary people are known for. One of the things I’ve been doing is grabbing as many past winners’ stories as possible to figure out which story I should enter.

What has struck me about these past winners is that: most winners are graduates or academics in literature; most winners don’t write stories with any narrative structure. This last point frustrates me as a reader: what is the point of the story; why am I reading this; where is this all going; is that character’s cat important or an allegory or just there for page padding? But this is a very popular style for award winners and academics.

David Whish-Wilson was my lecturer recently at the Perth Writers Festival Crime Writing workshop. He is a creative writing lecturer at Curtin University. David does not suffer from this disease of literature. His book is not only entertaining and engrossing but it has a narrative structure.

Now this really shouldn’t be that surprising. Given David’s proclivity for crime writing and his day job you really expect a well written novel. But it is more than just well written, it really conveys the time and place it is set in, it also has characters that I recognise. It really is a crime novel that you can sink your teeth into.

David in traditional cool writers’ pose

This novel is partly a crime fiction novel set against police corruption in Perth Western Australia during the 1970’s and part true crime. Basically any Perth native will not only recognise the locations, but will remember the events and investigations alluded to. I was still nothing but a mistaken case of food poisoning when the true crime aspects that this novel was based upon took place, but when I mentioned the book to mum she immediately recognised it all. It really is hard to discern where to draw the line between reality and fiction in this book. Put another way, if David had written this book 25-30 years ago he would have disappeared in the local forest mentioned in his book, despite his protestations that this is fiction “based on actual events”. Normally “based on actual events” means that there is nothing in the book/movie/TV show that even resembles the “actual events”.

Even a non-Perth native will still find a lot to enjoy in this book. It is a completely engrossing crime thriller and captures the setting and characters of the era to create a thoroughly entertaining read. This book not only surprised me but completely engrossed me. I really enjoyed this book. 4.5 stars.

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