It’s the most brilliant pleasure to discover an affinity with a writer’s work but it’s even sweeter when you dare to harness an affinity with the writer himself.
When I was a young, aspiring writer in Australia, the young, accomplished writer whose work I valued most was Matthew Condon. Foremost, I loved the humour and pathos of his work, but I also appreciated a couple of biographical similarities that made me think my own writing life was possible. Like me, Matt has a twin sister; he also spent a chunk of his youth living away from Australia and when we corresponded we exchanged views on living away from and returning to places we knew well. From London, I sought out Australian copies of each new book as it was published.
My favourite of his books is the big, generous collection of long and short stories entitled The Lulu Magnet, which includes a dazzling novella in three parts that follows the course of man’s life from childhood onwards. Matt revisited the canvas of a long, memorable life in his epic – and rather beautiful – novel The Trout Opera. Some of his books are downright mischievous and fun, such as A Night at the Pink Poodle or Lime Bar.
Matt wrote a monograph about his home city, Brisbane, which seemed to unlock a new kind of writing and his books since have been works of non-fiction. I’m delighted to see that his own selection of memorable titles spans fiction and non-fiction and I hope he’ll return to fiction very soon.
It’s a huge pleasure and privilege to be able to introduce Matthew Condon to readers who have yet to encounter his writing.
- What was the first book you wrote?
The first books I wrote were small collections of photographs I’d clipped from magazines and given a pithy punchline. Alleged attempts at humour, no doubt stirred on by my love of Spike Milligan. My first “proper” book was a collection of related stories, The Motorcycle Café, published in 1988.
- For which book would you like to be remembered?
I would like my children to perhaps pass down the line a copy of my novel, The Trout Opera. It took over ten years to write and I hope did my best.
- Is there a book you abandoned partway through?
No. I have never abandoned a book. (That’s not to say I shouldn’t have in a couple of instances.)
- Is there a book you know you’ll never write?
In recent times I have come across a family secret of monstrous proportions. If it’s true, it would tear the family to pieces. If I wrote it, they might tear me to pieces. I am content at present with investigating the matter and seeing where it takes me.
- Which book do you believe should have fared better?
Many years ago I published The Pillow Fight, a novel that looked at the issue of female-to-male domestic violence. I was pleased at the time with how it came out, and thought it might have been a topic of some interest, but I was wrong. I thought it would at least have initiated some public debate about the topic. I read recently that a British writer has just published a novel dealing the same subject matter. I wish him well.
- Have you been surprised by readers’ reactions to a particular book?
For decades I laboured with fiction, then in 2013 I published the first volume of a trilogy of true crime books in relation to police and political corruption in Australia. It was a story that fell into my lap and I made the decision to go ahead with it, even though the project has now taken up seven years of my life, and counting. The readers’ reactions were instant. I began receiving what has now amounted to literally countless tip-offs, documents, emails, phone calls, pertaining to corruption over decades. I have now published four true crime books in the series, and the flow of information has not stopped.
- What book do you wish you’d written?
I can’t go past The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Pitch perfect.
- What are you writing now?
True crime: volume five. It centres on a triple murder case in Brisbane, Queensland, in the 1970s.
In Australia, Matt’s most recent books are published by UQP, distributed by Penguin. Here in the UK, The Trout Opera is published by Black Swan.