Once Upon a Time in Melbourne
Well what to say about this book? It’s blurb is a history, an exposure if you will, of events that occurred in Melbourne at the turn of the century – political shenanigans, organised crime, corrupt cops, by all accounts the city had it all. It should be a gripping a read; especially for somebody like me who’s twin interests are politics and crime. And I’m sure for an Australian reader, and moreover one from that part of Australia, it is.
The problem is that the writer has such a flowery, and dare I say it, parochial writing style, that it just doesn’t translate to anyone unfamiliar with Melbourne, Australia, and the political culture therein. Some writers have an ability to transport the reader to a place and time across the globe. They have a way of bringing an environment to life, regardless of whether the reader has any experience of it. In fact that’s part of the joy, whether reading fiction or non-fiction, being transported to different worlds, experiencing events almost as vividly as if you yourself were there. The author failed to do this for me on this occasion and to be honest half the time I was left cold.
The other problem with this book is that the chapters were so disjointed, dealing as they did with different characters in each. It was hard to see how people and events described related to each. Even towards the end when the narrative began to come together, I wasn’t entirely convinced that they did. Don’t get me wrong, I accept that all non-fiction narratives in a sense construct a reality, in that an authors’ role is to interpret the world and relate people and events together to make sense of them. Without that one would be left with just a series of random points. But a good book makes the author’s narration seem natural, and at least while reading, the only possible narration. I never felt this with this book.
Once Upon a Time in Melbourne is a good effort and the author clearly has a passion for the city and for his story. It’s just a pity that he was unable to get that across to this reader.
I would give this book 2 out of 5 stars.