RARA-AVIS: You're Wrong, Delaney - Bant Singer (aka Charles Shaw)

From: Rene Ribic ( rribic@optusnet.com.au)
Date: 16 Jul 2002

I've just read the above mentioned tome, a delicious slice of homegrown Aussie noir from the 50's. Bant Singer (aka Charles Shaw) is probably best known as the author of HEAVEN KNOWS, MR ALISON (subsequently filmed by John Huston, starring Bob ("The Man") Mitchum & Deborah Kerr). YOU'RE WRONG, DELANEY is the first of the 4 novels about Delaney, known as Del to his mates. Aside from the fact that it's a good book anyway I'm particularly chuffed because it's the first truly Australian hardboiled or noir I've read. This is not to put down authors such as Peter Corris
& Gary Disher but with authors such as these guys I feel I'm getting something more American than Australian, despite the local colour. YOU'RE WRONG, DELANEY, although undeniably influenced by American hardboiled, is quintessentially Australian in its language and milieu as well as the personality of the protagonist. In some ways, Del is a standard figure in hardboiled, especially of the 50's - he's an ex-WWII vet, in fact an ex-commando who had fought the Japanese in New Guinea
(they're pretty heavy credentials in any one's book, I would think, especially anyone familiar with WWII military history) but he is far from an invincible Mike Hammer type. He doesn't carry a gun, being just a small-time grifter & unemployed printer. Gun toting sociopaths frighten him as much as they would me. When he cops a beating he gets hospitalised. His ethical standards are very flexible, short of murder and intentional mayhem; he's not above a bit of blackmail when he's short of a quid & opportunity knocks - he's also willing to make himself a suspect to a murder to draw suspicion away from the mate who saved his life in New Guinea. (Particularly in the wake of 2 world wars, mateship was practically a religion in Australia.) In other words, Del Delaney is a complicated character although a very recognisable type of Aussie male of the WWII generation. Charles Shaw died in 1955.
 I'm keeping my eyes out for the other Delaney books. The first one was published in a US paperback ed. in the 1950's by Pyramid. Anyone, like Bill Crider, fer instance, read this? If not, I recommend you grab it if you see it around, if you can put up with the Aussie colloquial 1st person narration (although I notice that even back then the Australian dialect was using quite a few Americanisms, very much of the hardboiled variety, see? Del also kills time by going to see a movie at one point - CRY OF THE CITY,IIRC, an old film noir with Victor Mature, again assuming proper memory function). Not exactly British noir (a topic that doesn't really seem to have inspired a frenzy of postings) but I guess it's British Commonwealth noir. It's always so exciting to discover new authors - it's amazing that you can read widely in a genre for over 20 years & still find something completely new (to me, anyway). All the Delaney were published in the UK as hardbacks, so they may be easy to find in the UK at least, if anyone is interested enough to check them out. The one I read is kinda like an Aussie parallel to those Gold Medal novels set in small towns such as some by Gil Brewer, Day Keene, Charles Williams etc, rather than being influenced by these books, I would think. (The 1st Delaney book was printed in 1952).


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