Norsemans Song

Joel Deane

Norsemans Song
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Norsemans Song

Joel Deane

‘A bold unfolding of a succession of nightmares … Deane belongs to a long line of yarn-spinners in Australian fiction from Henry Lawson to Frank Hardy to Peter Carey.’ - Sydney Morning Herald. An ancient man without a past hails a taxi driven by a petty criminal with no future. Reluctantly, the pair embarks on a journey in search of a legendary whaler and murderer known only as the Norseman. This is a one-way trip - but who’s taking who for a ride? The Norseman’s Song is a stylish blend of gothic mystery and modern crime noir. Evoking the spirit of Joseph Conrad and Edgar Allan Poe, Joel Deane creates a violent and lyrical vision of contemporary Australia with the pace and energy of a road movie and the haunting atmosphere of a nightmare.

Review

As I never tire of pointing out to prospective fiction writers, it’s highly recommended to try to grab your reader’s attention right from the beginning, or at least spark some sort of curiosity – there’s a plenitude of other books out there vying for readers’ attention after all! Well in some ways the estimable young Melbourne publisher John Hunter has given his equally young author a bit of a leg up already with his blurb for this debut novel: ‘An ancient man with no past hails a taxi driven by a petty crim with no future.’ Weird certainly, but also strangely enticing.

A lot does indeed ride in this novel on a suspension of disbelief, but I must say I was utterly beguiled. In somewhat of an anti-picaresque, the Norseman of the title is a whaler in the nineteenth century, stranded in a sea of winter pack-ice off the Alaskan coast, passing his time seeing off marauding Eskimos and surveying his (rather bloodcurdling) life to date.

That his story then cleaves in alternating chapters to a keenly observed, ultra-noir contemporary one (the taxi driver on the mean streets of present-day Melbourne, and his mysterious passenger-cum yarn-spinner, all but destitute, who neve-theless carries around an old skull in a hat box) is a piece of pure writerly seduction by Deane.

Indeed, in its bold invention and exquisite command of narrative registers, I feel The Norseman’s Song is a debut bound to be up there with the most intriguing novels published in the 2010 fiction year.

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