First, the bad news. I’ve written briefly about this before, but the fuller news is worse. Over the past six weeks I have had increasing pain in my back, not low down (L5) which has been my companion for 35 years, but quite a lot higher. At about the same time, but perhaps a month earlier, I noticed another pain in my left thigh, a pain which worsened and eventually stopped my playing tennis. My chiropractor (35 years in attendance) could not find anything to stop the pains, and proposed an X-Ray. The observed result was a fracture at T8. The pains were severe indeed, and my wife and I went to A&E in the evening to see what could be done. We returned with an opioid, which was only a bit useful.
My doctor ordered a blood test, and the results were not good. I was given to a good haematologist, who had looked at my bloods before when they had worrying signs, and a pain relief nurse who was said to be astonishing, as indeed she was. The outcome is that I went into hospital again for some work on kidney function. The pain control is much better, and I have returned home from hospital with a new pain regimen. It enables me to write, but the pills have multiplied. I have been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and acute renal failure. I will need chemotherapy, which will start in a couple of weeks. All of this means some massive changes in my life. I will keep the website going, because it is good for my brain. But my typing is now awful, slow and fault-ridden. I will try to produce a column every two weeks, but can’t promise.
So here is the first attempt. And what a strange title! Writing keeps me sane, and I have been writing political commentaries and other thought-pieces for fifty years now. In the last few years I have turned to fiction, with some pleasure and success. The new book will be launched next Saturday, as you will see. Since most of my readers can’t attend, and I’ve left the invitation very late, I’ve written this piece to let you know what is happening, and allowed you to order a copy if you are so moved (AUD 29.95, p&p included). Here is the invitation:
In this new novel, his sixth, Don Aitkin moves into the world of mystery and darkness. Nick Carrington, New York television scriptwriter, is back in Australia to see his parents. An old friend, millionaire Ben Mitchell, begs him to read the manuscript of a biography of his grandfather, whose author has just had a heart attack, and is on life support. The job will require a weekend, and Nick has only two weeks back home. Equally nettled and intrigued, Nick finally agrees, and discovers he is being taken by helicopter to a grand old mansion on the Hawkesbury River, west of Sydney. He meets the female staff, Kate the housekeeper and Laura the research assistant. The house is wonderful, yet oddly disturbing. There is no ghost, but an air of apprehension hovers over the group.
The biography covers the life and work of Sir Arthur Innings, a most successful immigrant. He seems to have done almost everything right, and the biography makes that plain, as Nick reads on. It’s almost too good to be true, yet Laura says they could not find any great sins, or even any villains. Before the weekend is over Nick finds himself in a plot that is even more intricate and tense than anything he has ever written for television.
Don Aitkin dedicates his novel in tribute to the masters of the thriller, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald. Chris Uhlmann, Channel 9 political editor, himself the author of three crime novels, will launch The Innings Biography at Muse, Hotel East, Kingston, ACT at 4 pm on Saturday 14th July at 4 pm.
Title The Innings Biography Author Don Aitkin AO
Format 235 x 150 mm , ePub to come Length 166 pages
Weight approximately 300 g Imprint Danbee Books
Category Fiction ISBN 978-0-6481130-1-0 Price AUD 29.95
Why a thriller? I’ve always liked them, starting with John Buchan, and following through with Leslie Charteris (remember the Saint?) and others. Along the way I came across the California detective genre, starting with The Maltese Falcon, written by Dashiell Hammett and memorably starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. He was followed by Raymond Chandler, whose hero was tough and introspective, and played chess. At these times I got up and pushed down the novels of the British crime writers like Agatha Christie and others, which seemed to me long on mystery and ‘detection’, and short on thrills and reality. The along came Ross Macdonald, the third of the Californian thriller-writers, whose best books are major literary works. I read them and keep on re-readimg them.
The day came when I wanted to write one myself, with the Macdonald feature plot: something in the past, long pushed aside, because it could be, finds its tendrils creeping into the present and disturbing a pleasantly ordered current reality. My setting is not the contrasting richness and squalor of postwar California but the reality of contemporary Sydney, and not much of its own squalor. It is not a thick book, but around the right size, I think. Anyway, there it is. I enjoyed writing it, and I hope you enjoy reading it. There will be an ebook version before long.
I might write something on Pain next time, because I’ve learned a lot about it. But in any case there will be a return to my reflections on Australia life, society and politics. We’ll see how I cope,
My many thanks to those who have written to me here, by email and by SMS. Most encouraging support from readers to a writer. Thank you all!