Thrillers are about characters who are in ‘terrible trouble,’ writes Dean Koontz.
Peter Gray does appear to have cracked the thriller formula with Rough Cut, for on the very first page his character is indeed in ‘terrible trouble’. We are immediately drawn into the story of how Charlie Robertson came to be in that trouble and the way he deals with it that gets our pulses beating and the pages turning, which is what we want when we read a thriller. The exotic topic of pink diamonds helps heighten this whole experience!
I must declare that I know Peter Gray. We met at a local writers meeting in The Illawarra more than a year ago and we have enjoyed occasional conversations about writing since we first met. Over the span of his career as an engineer and engineering consultant, he has enjoyed reading thrillers as a pastime. One day he got the notion to write his own thriller and as they say, he had a go. So his engineering and business experience was able to serve him in a new way- to allow him to build a credible and detailed setting for this mining novel.
Back to the story, Charlie is a likeable character, one formed from some very bleak and sad contrast that spurred him to really know what he wants in life. My first impression of Charlie was to be someone who has some fangled new age skill which allows him to manifest all the money that he wants as he wants it. He is a generous and big thinking sort of person. Others would say he is successful because he is smart and he works hard. Diamonds may be beautiful, especially pink diamonds, but it’s the diamond industry that attracts unsavoury characters who are driven by greed and corruption and the wish to control it all. It is this environment which helps to reveal other sides of Charlie’s character, all formed in his younger, tougher Cockney-steeped days. Does this diamond have a flaw?
The novel starts with Charlie being clobbered badly. Peter is in such a hurry to tell the story that he adopts a method of telling parallel stories. The following chapters switch back to a more chronological account of Charlie’s life- we pick it up during the German bombings of London in WW2 way before he is sent alone as a child to Australia. But at the end of each chapter we have the second story of Charlie’s urgent medical treatment and later convalescence, which eventually re-blends with the main story line. This story works well because he keeps the parallel storyline short and sharp, aware that we want the main story line to move to keep moving forwards even as we want to dip in at the end of each chapter and see how Charlie is progressing after his page one experience.
The settings in Perth city and the Western Australian outback where the mine is located are refreshing to read. We get to see it all through the eyes of a recent arrival. As Charlie establishes himself in this environment, we are reminded of the vastness, the openness and the simplicity of purpose in this part of Australia. And of course that serves as the perfect contrast to the complex, crowded and bustling life in Central London. The characters of each of the places seem to breathe the air of the place where they live which further highlights these contrasting locations. They add to the colour.
In these days of upheaval in the publishing industry, writers are learning that to be creative enough to write a book, whether it be fiction or nonfiction, is only half the story. There is also the next step which is to create the business vehicle to connect the book to readers. This is also a big reason why I am watching Peter’s progress as a writer. Having been rejected by the main publishers, Peter decided to research self-publishing and to get up to speed with it himself and again have a go. His website is impressive – see here . He has shopped for and chosen very talented editors and his book production is top quality, the cover is beautifully designed, the diamond image is even reflective and the blood on the main title, the subtitle, the author’s name and the Diamond is all embossed. The cover also has a ‘matte velvet cello’ which gives it a soft feel, similar to feeling the skin of a peach! I know that Peter already has two follow up volumes in the Charlie Robertson series and he is fired with lots of enthusiasm to get this work out there, and I mean far and wide.
In summary, Rough Cut is a great story that spans wartime London, post-War life in Western Australia, a business story, a love story, WA diamond mining, the world diamond industry, and life in London at a heady time. It’s all good reading.