For over 25 years, I have been engaged by a fictional character, Cliff Hardy. Cliff is the protagonist in Peter Corris' series of novels and he is a private investigator, based in Sydney. Since The Dying Trade was first published in 1980, I have followed Cliff's investigations and life adventures through these stories.
Kerry Greenwood, another wonderful Australian novelist says:
"I don't know how many Cliff Hardy novels there are, but there aren't enough."
and I have to agree with her. In fact, there are 31 in the series so far.
Cliff has not had an easy life. He has been bashed so many times; has had many relationships with women, some happy and some not so happy; has solved cases; has taught PI skills at college to eager students - all the while living in a shabby terrace in Glebe. In the most recent book, Cliff tries to deal with being stripped of his investigator's licence while at the same time seeking revenge for his lover's death.
Over the years, Cliff has found crime in practically all the suburbs of Sydney. Corris' descriptions of place are so spot-on and he is the quintessentially Sydney bloke. Peter Corris says of Cliff:
"He has a love-hate relationship with his time and place. He embraces the best aspects of Australian life - the tolerance, the classlessness, the vigorous urban and rural culture - while despising the greed and the conservatism that are constantly threatening to undercut what he sees as "real Australia".
I have been a Cliff groupie for a long time now and have enjoyed meeting Peter Corris several times at book readings during the years I worked in a library. To hear Corris read from a Cliff book is the ultimate thrill for such a groupie and his skill as a writer has ensured that Cliff is revered as the most famous Australian hard-boiled detective. Bring on the next book - soon!