Allen & Unwin, $29.99 pb, 345 pp, 9781743316115
Infamy comes packaged with a blurb declaring it to be an Australian western, and a testimonial from Malcolm Knox, who compares this evocation of the hellish convict colony of Van Diemen’s Land in the 1830s with the imaginative achievements of Martin Scorsese. Neither claim is quite right. Bartulin’s narrative style does have affinities with a certain sort of action movie: the reader is wrenched from short take to short take, with one clutch of characters momentarily left in peril while the plight of others is unveiled. This builds suspense and mostly works, but the relentless violence is more reminiscent of Peckinpah than Scorsese. And, although that does put Infamy in the realm of the western, the tale keeps drifting towards the mood and conventions of an earlier Hollywood genre, the swashbuckling adventure movies of the 1930s. This is The Wild Bunch meets Captain Blood.