Black Rock White City by A.S. Patric

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Reviewed by Mary McConville

 cover

On Wednesday the 8th of April A.S Patric had his book “Black Rock White City” launched by Maxine Beneba Clarke, the author of “Foreign Soil”. It took place at Readings book store in Acland St. A.S. Patric is a bookseller who works in St Kilda and lives down by the bay. “Black Rock White City” is not his first title, he has also written several other books; “Bruno Kramzer”, “The Rattler and other stories” and “Las Vegas for Vegans” which was short listed for the Steele Rudd prize in 2013.

Black Rock is a suburb here in bayside Melbourne. White City is the literal translation of the European city of Belgrade.

Whodunnit? Dunno, it’s only in the very last pages that we find out who the madman is, the man that was behind the philosophical graffiti, the violated corpse, the suicide of the quiet optometrist, and many more malignant acts.

The mystery within “Black Rock White City” is mostly portrayed through the existential fog of the war, numbed minds of Jovan and Suzana Braskechevich, two refugees from the vicious and chaotic Balkan civil wars. Jovan and Suzana fled from the horror of war and resettled in Australia, but not before dealing with the torture of Jovan, the rape of Suzana, and the deaths of their two children, Ana and Dejan, from eating UN food rations that had been deliberately poisoned. It’s certainly understandable that one character “uses a rail for a pillow – always listening to the vague rumblings of oncoming annihilation”.

In Australia, this highly intelligent and educated couple must work as cleaners. Both were University teachers, Suzana in history and Jovan in languages and literature. Their carefully acquired knowledge was no use in their new country. Jovan’s work as a janitor in a bayside hospital brings him into contact with the madman Dr Graffito. Jovan must clean up the unpleasant results of the Doctor’s work.

The psychological emphasis in this tale does not follow the pattern of ordinary whodunnits and the police do not play a large part in the story. This is a story of the recovery of hope, the patching up of a marriage and the new life carried in Suzana’s belly. It’s not the usual police procedural.

There are a few, very minor problems in the literary style in this book. It starts in the present tense which is unusual and just a little awkward. Another problem is the difference in sense between Jovan’s admittedly bad English and his intelligent personal conversations. Jovan’s English is just too clumsy to be believed.

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