Over the years I have read a few of Robert G. Barrett’s Les Norton series. I don’t know how many there are in the series. I have about seven of them, and I’d guess there’s probably that many I don’t have. I have always found them to be – for wont of a lazy comparison – a knockabout variation on the Cliff Hardy stories – the obvious connection being that they are often set in Sydney (but the boys move around a bit from story to story). However Les is not a Private Detective like Hardy. Instead he’s a trouble shooter at the Kelly Club. ‘Trouble’ being the operative word. Les seems to attract it. In this story he gets mixed up in a movie deal – the movie being called ‘Leaving Bondi’.
As I implied above, I have enjoyed many of Norton’s adventures – but this one was undone by one particularly sleazy scene which ruined the whole book. In the scene, Les rescues a drugged girl from a cult of devil-worshipers who are about to slit her throat. After the rescue, Les takes the unconscious girl back to his hotel room – and let’s just say things get a little rapey for my liking. Worse, still the incident is passed off as a joke a bit later on. The Les Norton stories have never really been politically correct, but this one went over the line for me.
I doubt international readers would find a lot to enjoy in the Les Norton series. They are very Australian with little explanation of the wheres and whyfores – if you’re not familiar with the place names and products you may feel left out – and very much of their time. This book is fourteen years old and some of the products mentioned are no longer available, television shows are no longer on etc…
The Les Norton books can be good fun, but unless you’re a die hard fan of the series, I’d give this one a miss.