Peepshow

Author: Leigh Redhead
Publisher: Unwin & Allen
Release Year: 2004

For this review, I am going to look at a bit of local fiction. When I was younger (so much younger than today), I used to live in Richmond, which is a inner-city suburb of Melbourne. Richmond is also the home of the M.C.G. or Melbourne Cricket Ground, if you prefer. The M.C.G. is a massive sporting arena, which holds approximately ninety thousand people, and plays host to the cricket, AFL (our national game), Soccer, Rugby and the odd Rock Concert. Across the road from the M.C.G. is The Royal Hotel. ‘The Royal’ is a grubby little hotel that regularly has topless bar-maids and strippers. After all, is there anything more appealing to a drunken male sports fan after a game, than naked women dancing and serving drinks? Me thinks not. As I lived so close to The Royal, I may have accidentally dropped by there on a few occasions. On these very, very rare occasions I may have accidentally watched the odd strip show. Don’t hold it against me. I am only human.

That brings me to Peepshow by Leigh Redhead. Before becoming a novelist, Redhead worked on a prawn trawler, worked as a masseuse, a waitress and as a stripper. Drawing on her past, Redhead has invented a character called Simone Kirsch, who is a full time stripper and a part time Private Eye. Kirsch’s stomping ground happens to be Melbourne, and naturally she puts in a performance at The Royal. I must admit, I find it somewhat strange reading about places and environments I know, but as fiction. Particularly in such a seedy milieu, such as detective fiction. It makes me feel naïve about what was going on around me, because I didn’t see it. I know I am blurring the line between fact and fiction, but when your home town is displayed it is easier to get suckered in to the author’s universe. I wonder if in years gone by, if Hollywood based readers of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels felt the same way? Also Redhead’s use of surroundings that are familiar to me, like the Duke Of Windsor Hotel in Prahran (another old haunt – sadly it’s some other club now) make it hard for me to be truly objective when reviewing this book. Many of my reactions to certain scenes are based on my own personal experiences, rather than what’s on the printed page.

Having mentioned Chandler, it is worth continuing the comparison. The book is written in the Chandler style, but far from that high standard. Describing the plot in a labyrinthine story like this, is all but pointless, but all the usual suspects are here, from crooked cops, sleazy club owners and an assortment of underworld figures. But the book is pretty clunky at times, and does drag out the resolution a bit too much.

At the end of the day, I really enjoyed this book, but I guess, I am it’s audience. Those unfamiliar may not enjoy the chuckle (if I remember a venue fondly), or cringe (for not so pleasant memories) factor that I do. Outsiders may look at the story on it’s merits. And on that level, it may disappoint.

Peepshow was successful enough that three follow up novels featuring Simone Kirsch have been written. The first was called Rubdown. I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, but as you’d expect, I have thumbed through it. At a quick glance, it would appear that the venues mentioned are no longer real venues, but fictitious pubs and clubs. If that’s the case it is a shame, but not surprising that the ‘owners’ of certain establishments should or would feel a bit edgy that their venue is being displayed in a unflattering light.

The next book was called Cherry Pie and the fourth book, Thrill City has just been published.

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