Monday, May 23, 2011

Robert Barnard: Death of an old goat

Colleagues recommended I read Robert Barnard’s Death of an old goat (ISBN 0-00-231198-4, Collins Crime Club, 1974). The book features a thinly disguised University of New England – Drummondale University in the book – and perhaps some of the staff of the English department are also ciphers. Barnard apparently spent some time teaching at UNE’s Armidale campus in the early 1970s. The references to the menace of Whitlam from some members of the squattocracy support this. The book itself was published in 1974.

It’s a pretty poor whodunit, more of an excuse for the author to lampoon almost all his characters. The only one who escapes with some dignity – but not much of it – is the temporary English lecturer Alice O’Brien. The rest of them, including the police, seem to dissolve into a nauseating mixture of beer, rough red wine and sherry.

Did Barnard not enjoy his sojourn in Armidale? This poorly constructed, nasty book suggests not.

1 comment:

Jim Belshaw said...

It's not a good book, Jeremy, but it's very funny for those who know the town and people at the time. Interesting that it seems to have launched his writing career. He returned to New England in a later book.