The Rules of Backyard Cricket
Paperback: 289 Pages
Publisher: Text Publishing Company
28 October, 2016
What? A crime novel set against the backdrop of cricket? In Australia? Seriously? Well, on the face of it, that’s what Jock Serong’s second novel, The Rules of Backyard Cricket appears to be. However what ensues is a whole world cup tournament away from the gentle thwock of leather against willow, tea in the pavilion and hardy laughs with your chums. Instead, it is a stomach punch, a knee in the groin and a knuckle drive to the base of the throat kind of a novel that leaves its readers whooping and hollering, as much as it does self-analysing and regretful.
In short, The Rules of Backyard Cricket is one hell of a ride!
Faded cricket star Darren Keefe, brother to the saintly former Australian cricket captain Wally, lies in the boot of a car, bound at the wrists and ankles with cable ties, a bullet wound to the knee, sharing the space with a shovel and bags of quicklime. As he heads towards what he believes to be his almost certainly violent death, Darren takes the time to recall the events that have led to his current, unenviable situation.
There are number of things to whet the appetite here. Firstly, the very fact that Darren is tied up in the boot of car instantly provides honesty in the narrative. That he should lie in this predicament is unthinkable. As such, because it Serong that has ultimately put Keefe in this position, we must therefore trust him to lead the way. A simple device, exquisitely – if you’ll excuse the pun – executed.
Secondly, it is the Keefe brothers themselves. This is not simply an examination of sibling rivalry – the good old Kane & Abel syndrome psychological mumbo jumbo – but is rather an analysis of what drives anybody with a modicum of ambition: the need to succeed and the very definition of what constitutes triumph.
The manner in which Jock Serong lays everything before us, yet still manages to electrify the precise points at which our interest is still further piqued, is quite masterful. Think a mixture Thomas Harris and Chris Brookmeyer and you might be close, but not close enough. Will understanding cricket help? A bit but it isn’t essential. What is vital to getting the message of this novel, however, is an understanding of what it is that drives each and every one of us to get up out of bed in the mornings.
Then there is the natural, everyday atmosphere of the book. The author’s ability to draw on the everyday and speckle it with just enough light and dark, sweet and sour so that by the time the final punctuation mark is reached, we can be sure of just one thing and that is that The Rules of Backyard Cricket is not just an ordinary, everyday crime story at all.
Beautifully drawn, highly intoxicating and fabulously poised, Jock Serong’s The Rules of Backyard Cricket gloriously ushers in a new kid on the crime writing block of excellence and those already secure in their posts there should welcome this Australian’s skills warmly.