The Unvoiced Consonant
Five loud-soft voices, seven trips into the past, at least thirty pigeons.
Frequent conversations with Alexander Pope, John Donne and Emily Dickinson (plus a flying visit to Patrick Süskind).
Plenty of truly awful poetry, more phonemes than you can poke a stick at, one weather machine who meets a grisly end, and five other murders which, in my opinion, could not have been avoided.
This is THE UNVOICED CONSONANT.
The Curtain Raiser
Everyone, it seems to Dominic Rye, has something unique to get them through life. For his best mate Spiros, it’s fiery Greek origins and the prospect of inheriting a fish ‘n’ chips empire. De Salla’s got animal magnetism and girls queuing up; Simmo could win the Indy 500 with his mum’s station wagon; and Barry over the road’s got his jam-jar washing business and that grandma with the bristly chin.
Dominic, however, has never had a real driving force. Except for his half-hearted dream to be the warm-up act for the comedian Skinny Larry down at The Three Crown… but that’s not much of an ambition, is it?
Sometimes, though, all it takes to carry us through life is a wisp of ambition. Those occasional tiny rewards, and that elusive light at the end of the tunnel… in the end, it’s what we’re all living for.
A Race Across Burning Soil
I dream of her, always. She’s not got a name, just a flame; like a matchstick you set alight… when she lights up she throws a brilliant red flame over the whole forest… I have to cup my hands round my face with the head of her, the flames of her, I say, ‘Look what you’ve gone and done now, Sheila, you’ve lit up the whole world for me and all its bushes!’
She just looks at me.
Love, in many cases, is a race across burning soil – we run as fast as we can, but our feet still burn. In the case of Patrick Kernahan and Sheila Masters, their run is more like a chase – and neither will stop until they grab hold of that elusive element that is Love.
For Patrick, the object of his chase has always been Sheila, but for Sheila there are many and varied lures, none of which seems to be Patrick. Can we ever want the one who wants us? Or is the chase everything?
Beneath every elegant city, every nicely-mannered suburb, every well-kept street, lives a family like the Washbournes.
Colin and Linda Washbourne can barely keep themselves alive, let alone their three kids. Their home is a rented shell, and their survival is scraped from government benefits and welfare handouts.
But behind the squalor, patterns of beauty are at work. As the Washbournes spiral increasingly downwards, it is this beauty, together with the weakest glimmers of hope, that will see them rise…
Winner of the 1995 Angus & Robertson Fiction Prize.