Hang up that .38 and leave the keys to the Falcon on the kitchen table, Cliff Hardy has closed his last case.
I was genuinely saddened to learn last night that Peter Corris had passed away. I didn't see any media reports or mentions on Twitter, but I was scrolling through Facebook when a post from one of his daughters popped up, announcing his passing.
I was a big fan of Pete's writing, especially the Cliff Hardy private detective novels, which I loved without reserve. I spoke to Peter a couple of times over the years, occasionally for work, and sometimes at writers festivals. He was a lovely bloke, very gentle and funny; no more so than when he once compared himself to Cliff, probably his greatest creation. I remember him doing so when I interviewed him for a review essay in The Australian, a long feature looking at his anthology of boxing stories. Hardy had been an amateur boxer, as well as a soldier, and it stood him in good stead as he moved through Sydney's underworld. Corris told me he'd had one fight as an amateur boxer, a skinny teenager, and he had cried the first time he got punched in the face. He was honest about writing Hardy is the sort of male character he'd wanted to be, but could only ever imagine.
I still remember reading my first Hardy novel, The Dying Trade, and then The Empty Beach which was later turned into a film starring Bryan Brown. It was a bit of it dud film, which was disappointing because Brown was a great pick to play the lead role. The book, However, I recall fondly. More than that. I remember it going off inside my head like a word grenade. Peter Corris made me want to write like that. I was immediately hooked on the narrator's point of view and I eventually bought every Cliff Hardy novel and short story collection that Corris released.
The very last title in the Hardy series, Win, Lose or Draw, sits unread on my bedside table. I picked it up a year ago, and felt a bit ashamed because I hadn't set aside time to read it. I bought the trade paperback at full price, because I liked to support Peter's work, but my eyes are going and I just don't read as much print media as I once did.
I have conflicted feelings about that now. I am desperately grateful that I have one more Cliff Hardy adventure to read, but also incredibly sad knowing that as every page turns I get closer to having to say goodbye.
I will pour one out for Peter Corris tonight. And another one for Cliff, too. I feel like I have lost an old friend. My sympathies to his family and friends.