Title: GRAPHIC Author: Shane Briant

Publisher: Marburg Press
Edition released: February 2005
ISBN: 0957882610
274 pages
Review by: Karen Chisholm

There are a stack of books lurking in a corner in my lounge room that are from little / basically unknown Australian authors and I've been promising to catch up on my reading of them to myself for ages now. GRAPHIC was my most recent read from that pile and I'm really pleased I finally got around to it. Straight from the back cover of the book:

"A writer of graphic novels, in an attempt to rescue a kidnapped father of two children, is taken over by his own fictional creation, tough guy P.I. "Sainte-Claire", and undergoes a terrifying metamorphosis.

Set in the Sydney underworld, against a backdrop of a crime war between rival mobsters, Kings Cross' hard man Tim Brierley is pitted against Cabramatta's Vietnamese crime identity Mr Chin."

Now I'm not sure that the blurb actually does the book total justice as the "take over" or "metamorphosis" is not unconscious - there's no woo woo element here. Slowly mild-mannered graphic crime book writer (don't call them comics please), finds that adopting the clothing style, the speech patterns and the general demeanour of his main character, helps in gaining respect, in establishing a persona, in giving him the guts to go up against Brierley and Chin to help the very young (but terrifyingly grown up) daughters of the kidnapped man.

At all stages Robert is aware that he's enjoying being Saint-Claire more and more and this worries him, frightens his girlfriend profoundly and changes his life totally.

It's not the world's most complex or intricate plot and it's not one of those novels that you finish and think, wow, that was a life changing experience. Frankly the very precocious young daughters of the kidnapped man nauseated me ever so slightly, but it was a good read. Robert Howard was a great character to spend some time with, and that idea of having to put on a character, change into somebody else to handle a difficult situation, was interesting. The author's also written "Bite of the Lotus" which I'll excavate from the pile one day.

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