If we know move on to talk about your first book, Hell Has Harbour Views, that John Birmingham [another author] said, your book is “the funniest most unutterably savage lawyer joke ever”. So was the aim of your book to satirise the ethical and personal dilemmas of a corporate life?
It was in the end. When I sat down to write it I thought I was going to write a John Grisham-type thriller. But no matter how hard I tried to do that, as soon as I started writing about lawyers, I couldn’t help taking the piss out of them. So I figured there was no point resisting that urge. The nature and tone of the book changed. As you say, it’s got a serious side to it, the dilemmas facing any young white-collar worker, who’s in a job they don’t particularly like and what do they do about it. It just so happens for obvious reasons it’s about a lawyer. But obviously also there’s meant to be a lot of humour in the book as well. So that’s all intentional.
Once I started writing I realised it was going to be comic and satirical and hopefully funny, but still had a theme of someone stuck in a job that was contrary to their conscience and they’re struggling with at that level, and how that drama in their life plays out.
With the plot, did you have it figured out from beginning to end? I felt that the ending was abrupt. The use of the affidavit as a plot device was very dramatic.
I had a plot outline, one, the beginning, to thirty-five, this is what happened in the end. But I didn’t let that become a straitjacket. As I progressed, things changed, the order of events changed, new things happened.
The bit you’ve just raised about the affidavit was my thinking how do I resolve this? How’s he going to get out of it? How are the bad guys going to get brought down? And that idea of the affidavit only came to me when I was about two-thirds of the way through the book. I thought, geez that could be a really good idea, I could make that really funny and so I was really happy with that part of the book, because it did resolve the issues of the book and wrap it up well.
I also noted that earlier this year, around February, ABC screened the telemovie version of the book – were you happy with that?
I was delighted with the film. A guy called Peter Duncan wrote the script and directed it, I think he did a terrific job. The people who produced it did a great job. I thought the cast was great. I thought it looked great and was very very happy. The only disappointing thing was that the ABC put it on the night of the tennis final, which took some of the audience away to say the least but they’re putting it on again I think in August, which is good.
Is it your opinion that there should be more Hugh Walkers or Chris Blakes in the world?
*chuckles* Well it’ll be a funny old world if there were. Certainly Chris, and Hugh are damn braver than I, but Chris is really out there. But yeah, of course. Ultimately, these are sympathetic characters, they’re people that I like, people with far more good qualities than bad qualities. And they want to do, and ultimately do do what I consider the right thing. Yes, of course. They’re heroes.
So, in Hugh’s position, you would have done what he did?
No of course not. No way in the world. *chuckles*
Would you say what you wrote in the book portrays corporate legal life?
I think it does portray an aspect of it. Some people would say it’s totally far fetched in terms of plot. But I know the reaction from a lot of people, because I’ve got a couple of folders of email, letters and cards from young lawyers all around Australia that wrote to me in the months after the book was released, saying geez you’ve written my life, say they’re Hugh Walker. I even had two letters from women saying they were Hugh Walker. So I know a lot of people, a lot of young lawyers identify with that character and recognised aspects of their firm in the firm that’s in the book.
So what advice have you got for law students, and indeed law graduates, who having read your book, are a bit hesitant about entering a corporate law career?
Generally I wouldn’t presume to give advice because I’m not sure I’m the best person to give it. But, firstly the book is a work of fiction, so it is pretty far-fetched, it’s not meant to be taken literally. Secondly there are plenty of people at law firms that do fantastic work, work they’re very happy with, with people that they like, who are honest and good lawyers. And there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious and work at a prestigious law firm.
But if I was giving advice, I’d say if you’re doing a lawyer degree you really need to think: if you want to be a lawyer, and I think deciding these things is ridiculous at such an early age. You start law school when you’re 18, 19, just so young to think about what you really want to do with life. But anyway, that’s what we’re made to do.
And if you do want to be a lawyer, to think carefully about what sort of lawyer you want to be. Because if acting for powerful interests and powerful companies is going to cause you some angst, then it’s possible, just possible, a huge law firm may not be what you’re after. There are other options. So, think carefully about where you want your career to head; apart from having a law degree, whether you want to be a lawyer.
Hell is not meant to be taken literally, although parts of the book do have the ring of truth. But it’s not to be taken literally. It is a novel.
You said that you’ve got a sequel to The Ambulance Chaser in the pipeline, so how about Hugh Walker No. 2?
From the perspective of a writer, I think we’ve seen the last of Hugh. I think that going back to going back to him would be doing the same thing again. The reason I’m doing a sequel to The Ambulance Chaser is that I think that: firstly there is two lead characters to that book, Chris and Gabrielle. They’re both now lawyers at a community legal centre. I think the device of having pro-bono lawyers at a community legal centre is a great device to use for writing about the things I like to write about, but also a great launching pad for plotlines where injustices are being undone and wrongs are being righted.
So the next book, can you give us a little bit of a hint?
*Hesitant* It involves the sudden demise of a very very wealthy Australian tycoon and possibly the wrongful charging with his murder of an ex-client of Chris’. Chris and Gabby are on the trail of investigating of exactly what’s happened, why this powerful person’s been killed. So a bit of a thriller, but certainly still in the tone of comedy. The intention will be that it will be funny. It’s meant to be comedy-crime-thriller. But I’m in the pretty early stages of it, in terms of how much is written, but pretty far advanced in terms of where I think it’s going to end up and what it’s about.
Thank you very much for your time Mr Beasley. Thank you.