Books - Novels

Toccata and Rain

Toccata and Rain, my second novel, was shortlisted for the ALS Gold Medal and the WA premier's Prize. It is an experiment in fusion or hybrid structure, what I call a toccata and fugue, as against inventions of linguistics or syntax. It combines prose in brief chapters, narrated in third-person, with sonnets and ghazal-like poems in first-person, which stand in for / as the utterances and perceptions of the main character. The novel is the confused last few years of a man who has suffered a dissociative disorder - once called a fugue state amnesia... a man who has flown from one life into an assumed 'other', then fallen, as it were, back into his original self. The novel traces his attempts to make sense of who he is and what he has lived while in the fugue self, a self largely hidden from conscious awareness but (possibly) recoverable through hypnosis. A curious, poetic novel.


The main character is a folklorist who has set up residence on a cattle research station while visiting the nearby country town, and the farms, to record verbatim accounts of local history from the populace. The novel is vividly realistic but blended with a farcical vision of oddness and surreal eccentricity. There has a been a local tragedy that Jack Biner learns much of and which he feels increasingly unable to ignore, bringing his professional ethics into direct question. This book is an amusing but also intense vision of country town life and the uncertain varieties of 'truth'. Playback won the WA Premiers Prize for Fiction.