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Love on the run in a hot climate

BY PHIL FITZPATRICK

Love by Marke 
THESE TWO BOOKS are like having half a pack of cards in each hand.  Love in a Hot Climate and Love on the Run really need to be shuffled to make a whole pack.

The main character in both works of fiction is an ultra-conservative and very repressed Englishman called Temlett Conibeer.  Temlett hails from Devonshire and works in pre-independent Papua New Guinea.  He has a perchance for cats and Victoriana.  His dominating pre-occupation is finding a suitable wife.

The prose is masterful but a bit lumpy here and there.  You get the impression that both works are compilations; some things are unnecessarily repeated and there are a couple of editing slips that suggest a revision from first to third person in mid stream.  This is especially disconcerting in the first book.

The same suite of subsidiary characters in both books hops across locations inexplicably, propping up barstools in Rabaul and then Madang as if by magic.

Temlett’s views are extremely right wing, as are those of most of the other characters.  Eric, the location hopping ex-nazi who refers to Hitler as ‘the boss’ and maintains that most problems can be solved by having the offenders ‘shot’ is the most extreme.

This is not a criticism of the author’s characterisations.  When I thought about it I realised they were spot on.  In the days of the Territory of Papua New Guinea they abounded.  It is an uncomfortable truth however.

It doesn’t take long to realise that poor old Temlett, with a broomstick firmly shoved down the back of his shirt, is never going to capture his true lady love, no matter how seedy his attempts.

I don’t think the author intended this doomed quest as a device to maintain suspense and once it’s out in the open it’s possible to enjoy the other aspects of the books.

Towards the end of the second book the plot tends to become a bit too coincidental and the amorous scenarios a bit far-fetched.  Strangely enough, the latter are more uncomfortable than titillating.  The walk-on, location hopping, characters and the ritual encounters with them in the local club also becomes a bit tedious.

And before I forget; the author spells bilum as billum.  A minor point perhaps but it can affect the authority of a work.  I made the same criticism of Rosemary Esmonde Peterswald in her book Bird of Paradise.  I don’t think it is intentional in either case.  I’ve since discovered that a certain automatic spell-check program slips in the extra consonant without the writer noticing.  Best to turn it off or add the word to the dictionary I think.

If you read the author blurbs at the back of each book you discover that Andrew Marke was born in the west of England, worked for Treasury, Health and HELP in TPNG and is interested in cats and the Victorian age.  The obvious inference is that both books are semi-autobiographical.

The rebuff is that most works of fiction have an autobiographical element, just as they borrow from other authors, and to suggest otherwise is naive.  This was something which I could never explain satisfactorily to my late parents.  I imagine Andrew Marke might have a similar problem.

His other interest according to the blurbs is nostalgia and that is precisely what I got out of both books.  This is his forte; the atmosphere, mode, mores, sense of place and even scents of the old TPNG come across in a delicious manner.

I’d say, buy the second book, Love in a Hot Climate, and if you like it try the first, Love on the Run; the one doesn’t necessarily follow the other.

Both books are available by writing to Andrew Marke at 187 Low Head Road, Low Head, Tasmania, 7253.  They cost $30 each, including postage.

Comments

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Phil Fitzpatrick

I was down that way about a month ago. The place is still absolutely beautiful and the people are some of the friendliest I've ever met. There are a lot more of them however. Mailu Island is stunning.

Did you know that on the 24 August 1606, Luis Vas de Torres had an altercation with the Mailu people and after killing quite a few of them took 14 children away on his ship, the San Pedro. Apparently he dropped them off in Manila. I wonder what ever became of them?

Reginald Renagi

JF - Oibe Mailu tauna korikori. Ede bamona Mailu bona Domara hahine ta oi adavaia lasi?

KJ - Some years ago JF (Moses) was a manager on Mamai plantation in the hinterlands of the Mailu area. This is along the Abau coast of the Central Province, Papua.

The Abau region is wedged-in between my Rigo electorate to the west and Milne Bay border to the east.

This former plantation manager says he was working in a really beautiful place with the locals being very friendly, and peaceful. Just like all Papuans (there, that's JF's police motu translated for you, KJ).

JF - Why don't you write a good blog story of your days here? It would make an interesting read for our readers.

Phil Fitzpatrick

Keith has sent me a box of books that various people have supplied to him for review. Quite a few are self published. I believe 'self published' is a modern synonym for 'vanity publishing'.

I'll work my way through them gradually and review the good ones and any that are appallingly bad.

Outfits like Sidhartha tend to prey on aspiring writers, although quite a few people use them, Tim Fisher for instance. Their covers and blurbs are first class. What is between the pages, well ....

I know some Papua New Guinean writers who have outlayed thousands of kina publishing with similar organisations.

I imagine some of the books in Keith's box will be very good. They will also probably have zero value as publishing propositions, mainly because of the subject matter.

That's the dilemma. In the old days before ebooks and print-on-demand there must have been millions of good but commercially non-viable books sent back to their owners.

At least with modern publishing, failed writers don't end up with garages full of unsaleable books in boxes.

John Fowke

Oibe, turagu. Gabu be Mamai Plantation ia noho Mailu gunika dekenai; gabu namona, taunimanima manada namo herea.
____________

Knowing John, I'm sure this comment is neither subversive nor offensive. Well, I'm nearly sure - KJ

Reginald Renagi

Welcome back Moses (JF). Have not heard from you in ages.

By the way, was that plantation you managed somewhere south of the border in Papua?

Just guessing as how else would you have mastered the Motu dialect...

John Fowke

For masochists who love really bad novels set in PNG , try The Moratau Affair by Vernon H Baker, published by Sidhartha Publishers in Victoria.

They seem to have quite a big list of unknown writers' works - one assumes that they are a vanity publisher.

I bought it because the blurb indicated that the setting for the story is a rather beautiful coastal plantation I once managed.

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