Doyle’s four-book series about knockabout Billy Glasheen is set in the period from the 1940s to the early 1970s. The attention to detail is impressive and Doyle’s lippy character, world weary and cool, has proved popular, with the novels winning several awards.
The Big Whatever is set in a time – the late 1960s and early 1970s – that many readers will remember and remember fondly. It charts the arrival of heroin in the counter culture and uses the interesting device of providing its back story by way of a pulp novel, a book within the book. The details – Moratoriums, dope, the music scene, real people such as Bob Gould and Neville Wran – are engaging. After a strong start the book turns into a road story for its last third, somewhat shambolic but the ride continues enjoyable.
The novel is published by a US press (Verse Chorus of Oregon) and has an introduction by Luc Sante, the respected New York critic with an eye for low life.
Doyle is also the author of two excellent books of photos and accompanying text published by the Justice & Police Museum. They are based on mug shots from the NSW Police Force.