January 8

A Man You Can Bank On by Derek Hansen

Review #3 – 101 to go.

I rarely get the chance to read any ‘literary fiction’. Most of my reading is either adventure, suspense, mystery, or fantasy. So when this book arrived, I didn’t even recognise the author’s name even though he has a huge bestseller backlist. As a result it got boxed away until I had time. And over the last few months I have been trying to clear this box. Maybe it was the change of diet, or maybe it was the great storytelling, but I found it very difficult to put this book down.

In your mind pick any tiny Australian country town, way out in the country. Far enough from any city that a gang of thieves on the run know that burying the proceeds from their bookie robbery will be safe for 10 years while they do time. Then imagine the surprise of a farmer when he is digging up a stump to find several million in cash underneath. What does he do? He takes it to the local ‘ex’ bank manager (the bank just closed the branch). Hampton, the bank manager, decides to set up his own unofficial loans company, gently supporting community projects and streamlining business plans. Gradually the locals discover that their town is thriving, while others nearby are fading away. But then the thieves get out of gaol… and some smart investigator starts sniffing around…and two hitmen arrive in town…and the nice neat controlled lifestyle begins to unravel.

This is not only literary fiction, full of hidden references for the knowledgeable reader, but it happens to be a very good adventure story. Sorry, but nothing was going to distract me once the gang boss went looking for that tree stump.

When this was released, I think I remember seeing it in bookshops for only a few weeks. It certainly did not make the impact of Hansen’s Lunch with Mussolini. But I think it was underrated. If you can find a copy, probably now as a remainder, grab it, read it and hand it on.