I've read nine novels by Garry Disher over the past two years. I haven't checked but I'd feel safe in saying that's the most by any one author over that time period. I had been unable to get to hear him speak a few times over the past year - some family function or other had always intervened. So I was happy to finally get the chance to attend the local library last week where he was speaking.
Garry Disher has had a varied writing career, and as he pointed out, is probably one of the few Australian writers to make a living purely from writing novels - he's right, there can't be a lot of them. He has achieved this enviable (?) position as a result of being capable of writing across a number of genres and by being able to stick to his craft. Being able to write effectively using character, dialog and plot to create enjoyable story-driven novels with a distinct sense of place probably doesn't hurt either. After a career as an academic, and as a teacher of creative writing Disher bit the bullet some 15 years ago and threw his lot into full-time writing. In that period he has produced six Wyatt novels, three featuring Inspector Challis, six young adult books, and three novels that don't fit any specific genre definition, one of which (The Sunken Road) was submitted for the Booker Prize by his publisher. Added to this are two volumes of short stories which he edited, two volumes of his own stories, reviews, a children's picture book, history text books, critical articles and, well, you get the picture. He's prolific.
Garry Disher reminds me of nothing less than the main character of his recent successful crime series, Inspector Hal Challis. I'd reckon he'd deny it, but there's enough there for a decent comparison to be made: age, demeanour and physical location being just some of them. He started his talk in slightly nervous fashion, as if he didn't do this sort of thing terribly often, but warmed to his task as the night progressed. It came out later that while he had done an author tour of Germany (where his Wyatt novels are very popular) and was scheduled to tour the UK in about 18 months, he had never journeyed around Australia talking about his work - it appeared he only made local appearances whenever a new novel was due out. That's a pity.
I asked him if he felt that his readers were divided between his Wyatt and his Challis novels, or whether he'd noticed a cross-over between the two. Oddly enough, he said that he doesn't get a lot of feedback from his readers and so wasn't aware of there being any problems in that area. Only later did I wonder about the reasons for that. Crime fiction seems to be where he's putting the bulk of his energies at present. He still likes writing for young adults as it allows him to follow a very different process. His crime novels need to be planned in very fine detail ahead of the writing, else he tends to write himself into plot corners. He's currently working on the final edits of the fourth Hal Challis book, which have interrupted his seventh Wyatt novel. I'm looking forward to both of them.