The author is not an international cricketer recently returned from the cold, but a West Australian Arts graduate turned singer/songwriter who enjoyed his 15 minutes on the national stage back in the 1970s (remember them?) as a pioneer of “Australian suburban rock” with the aptly named Dave Warner’s From The Suburbs. Think Hilltop Hoods for the pre-hip-hop era.
Since then, he has written for the stage, television, films, newspapers (remember them?) and radio and published 9 novels. City of Light (1996) won the WA Premier’s Literary Award.
River of Salt begins in Philadelphia in 1961, where we meet Blake, an unlikely mob hitman. I say unlikely because he looks like this:
Following an unfortunate incident involving his brother, our boy heads west. After deciding California is not far enough, he ends up in a mythical coastal town on the far north coast of NSW where he runs a bar/restaurant and plays surf rock on the guitar, as you would.
Things are ticking along nicely (business profitable, casual sex aplenty, surfing every day) until some extortionists try to squeeze Blake (bad move). Then there’s a gruesome murder in a nearby town. The cops pin it on a local beach bum poet. Sure he’s innocent, Blake investigates, employing his unique skill set to good effect.
Convincing evocation of the era in the main, the social mores in particular. (I’d just started primary school; I wasn’t into the surf scene.)
Good pace, enough action without overdoing it, some twists and turns. It’s all there.
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