David Foster, ‘Man of Letters’ in the Sydney Morning Herald

Life in the Old Dog

Andrew Riemer reviews David Foster's Man of Letters in the Sydney Morning Herald Oct 20 2012


MORE than a quarter of a century has gone by since we first visited Dog Rock, the charming rural community with an uncanny resemblance to Bundanoon in the southern highlands of New South Wales. Our tour guide for this third visit is again D'Arcy D'Oliveres, fallen scion of the British nobility and Dog Rock's former postman. D'Arcy has grown old. He sports hearing aids and a comb-over and has trouble mounting the motorised bikes posties use these days. But he has to soldier on valiantly, because he is back in the saddle on a highly sensitive and secret assignment.

Someone has played fast and loose with an issue of stamps honouring ''Australian Legends of Popular Song''. How did the Dog Rock nonentity Ross Common come to be celebrated as one of those legends? And besides, who had pinched a valuable Bunnings Warehouse gift voucher that failed to reach its destination? A shadowy organisation known as the Corporate Security Group of Australia Post – CSG for short – has sent D'Arcy back to his old haunt to solve these intricate puzzles.

Much has changed since the adventures and mysteries we encountered in Dog Rock and its first sequel, The Pale Blue Crochet Coathanger Cover. The post office is no more; new subdivisions to house the ever-increasing ranks of commuters have sprung up everywhere. Yet some things never change: many of the township's roads and tracks are as rutted as they had always been and some of the citizenry – getting just as long in the tooth as D'Arcy – are still up to their old tricks.

The mystery is solved eventually, of course, but not before a large cast of characters – a corrupt cop, a horse breeder and an Indian diplomat's daughter, for example – gets enmeshed in strange, mostly nocturnal goings-on. And there's the fate of a particularly energetic tomcat, too. David Foster is a most courageous writer. For some 40 years now, he has demonstrated his courage by way of long, intricate, often obscure and almost always highly erudite novels that offend contemporary pieties and sensibilities: treading on toes and getting up noses seems to be his modus operandi. …

Andrew Riemer 

Read the full review in The Sydney Morning Herald

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