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by Peter Doyle
Verse Chorus Press/Dark Passage, August 2012
256 pages
ISBN: 1891241249

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Out for a swim one morning in 1952, Billy Glasheen finds a bookie's right-hand-man floating in his local pool, with a bullet-hole in his head. He soon finds that he is in the frame for the killing, and has to hide from the police, Ray Waters in particular. Such inconveniences do not however distract him from his normal occupation and he soon has an innovative betting scam running. By 1955, Billy is involved with the new 'Rock & Roll' scene, but also making deliveries for some very dodgy Croatians, with important political connections. In 1957 he helps manage a tour of visiting US musicians, while withstanding attempts to deprive him of the proceeds of a jewellery robbery, and some outstanding puzzles from the last few years are finally resolved.

GET RICH QUICK is told in the first person: this, and the fast pace of action and dialogue, gives the book a tone somewhat reminiscent of US private eye novels of an earlier era. It has a zest all its own, however, with a distinct Australian flavour. A glossary of mid-twentieth-century Aussie slang is appended to the book and there will be few readers who won't have to refer to it. While this can interrupt the flow, interest in the derivations of colloquialisms tends to compensate. Billy himself, while often on the wrong side of the law, is humane, quick-thinking and intelligent and makes for a sympathetic protagonist.

It might be thought that the life of a petty con man would have limited scope, but Billy's activities touch on matters of wider relevance. Local police corruption is less surprising than the involvement of the right-wing Liberal Party, the dominant force in Australian politics at the time, in anti-communist propaganda and action. Connections with the American CIA, rabidly anti-red at the time, and covert support for Croatian nationalists with a Nazi history, are made apparent.

The rock-and-roll episodes are also interesting, featuring some of the early greats. Unlike today's anodyne products, these performers bottled raw power and excitement, besides being distinctly odd, and this is well depicted, together with the attitudes of the establishment and the majority of the public to this new threat to respectable society.

All this adds up to a book full of interest which, despite having been written nearly twenty years ago, still feels fresh and sharp. GET RICH QUICK is distinctly different and well worth a go.

Chris Roberts is a retired manager of shopping centres in Hong Kong, and now lives in Bristol, primarily reading.

Reviewed by Chris Roberts, January 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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