WINTER TRAFFIC by Stephen Greenall, Review: Strikingly original

An epic novel of corruption, murder and the true nature of justice, Stephen Greenall’s Winter Traffic announces the arrival of a compelling new voice in literary crime.

Winter Traffic Stephen Greenall

Winter Traffic Synopsis:

Sutton doesn’t like the three a.m. phone calls. He should change his number—that way Rawson wouldn’t have it. Sutton’s best mate is a hero cop, but strife flows through him like a highway.

He was supposed to die young. Maybe Millar will do it for him: she’s the hot young detective from Internal who still thinks intellect and integrity will take her places. If she doesn’t watch her step, she might find out what they are…

This is the story of good dogs living in a bad-news town—a fragrant harbour city where the judges are dead, the vendettas lively and every glittering fortune hides a sin.

(Text Publishing)

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I have read some strikingly original fiction in my time but Greenall’s debut stands out amongst them. The terms ‘literary thriller’ and ‘literary crime’ are bandied around a lot these days – novels too often categorised as such without being deserving in my opinion – but in Winter Traffic Stephen Greenall has attributed to them deeper meaning.

The writing style is unusual, tangential – something I took time to acclimate myself with. It demanded my full focus and attention.

The hero lifeguards from hs famous verandah, watching the beach but never lowering to swim. It is a place for tourists in crude mosaic, souls in want of postcard recollection. It is foreigners new to oceans sporting dark and uniform hair, half-crowing in the shallows even when between the flags. It is muscle boys and liar blonds and pale-totted youth, girls from over there who turn red and moan in Irish. It is west and fat chick and laughing mum and dad, a locust-swarm of Kiwi and a county-load of Pom.

He has no business in that easy sand: the hero must in-grow like a nail / feel the splendid mouths of the harbour. Its water is black with memory and the memory is Sydney, interior beaches formed around its single coalface eye. Stare into that membrane and declaim you cannot see them, the hero and his sidekick man who chauffeurs in a truck.

It is lyrical, rhythmic and frequently poetic. Timelines and viewpoints sharklike – lurking with bouts of frenzy. Meaning often conveyed through pacing and attitude rather than defined by words. The city of Sydney in the 90s being just as much a character, if not more than, the people that ‘run’ it.

‘This is a novel where the mood that is evoked plays as large a role as, or perhaps even greater than, the plotline. One for the dark poets.’ — Craig Kirchner, Abbey’s Bookshop

Is Greenall’s writing indulgent – yes, but unashamedly so.

Both this novel’s soaring ambition and execution is a study in contradiction in many ways – the conviction and ferocity of the characters and their actions, alongside their dispensability and futility, evoked by Greenall’s thrilling yet at the same time languorous prose. It is a story of simple truths bound in complexity, a story as fresh and colloquial as it is ancient and universal – from character monikers and decadent symbolism through to myriad alliances, corruption and crosses borne from self-deception.

Stephen Greenall’s Winter Traffic is not an easy read, but a worthy one for literary enthusiasts. A title I’m sure with the rare capacity to yield countless ghosts of meaning on each new reading.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5  — Overall 4.25

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Genre: Literature, Thriller, Mystery, Crime-Detective

This review counts towards my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2017

About the Author, Stephen Greenall

Stephen Greenall was born in Moree in 1976. His writing has appeared in Overland and he won the 2014 NSW Writers Centre Varuna Fellowship. This is his first novel and was commended in the 2014 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript.

* My receiving a copy of this title from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions in the review above.