Alright. Perhaps I should have known better. The back-cover synopsis for One Dead Diva:
Marc, a 50-ish opera queen with a habit of breaking everything he touches and Paul, a young, ditzy dancer and circuit boy, are an odd pairing as friends. As detectives, however, they are one small step from disaster. Why these two feel the need to investigate the death of Jennifer Burke, a rising opera star (or at least she was rising, until she plunged off the edge of a cliff), is almost a bigger mystery than whether the diva actually was pushed off the cliff. Hot on the trail of clues that lead to all the wrong answers, our energetically inefficient sleuths investigate a sharp-tongued music critic, a way over-the-hill prima donna, and a formidable drag artiste before accidentally stumbling over the truth.
Detective novel. Good. Sopranos. Even better. And set in Sydney, which is a significant kind of city for me these days. Besides which it was free. As a result of all of which, I felt rather compelled to read it. Don't get me wrong, I expected fluff. But, alas, it's unreadable fluff. In primary school I was obliged to write numerous stories in the "imagine you're a ..." mould. These invariably opened with "Hi, I'm ...", followed by a page or two of clumsy and mostly unnecessary exposition, and then perhaps a hurried and barely interesting attempt at a plot. But I was ten. I was allowed to write like that. A novel by a grown-up published author surely shouldn't read like that? Oh but it does. Or at least the 12 pages I've made it through do and I can't take any more. Which is a shame. Plotwise it is appealingly silly already. But I can't endure the dialogue. For instance:
"There's the couch, Paul. The sheets are in the closet."
"What's a closet?"
"I hope you don't mind listening to a couple of Verdi arias before nye-nyes, exquisitely rendered by Tebaldi."
Honestly. But then again, perhaps it's just me. It could be. In which case, the book goes free to a good home.
On the subject of books, however, I discovered the existence of this one yesterday, quite by accident. David Hobson: A Celebration in Words & Pictures. David Hobson, if you didn't know, is an Australian tenor. Scratch that. David Hobson is Australia's Favourite Tenor, as decreed by ABC Classics. I have a measure of respect for that title, for reasons shortly to become clear. Hobson was the first Rodolfo in the famous Baz Luhrmann La bohème. He has an official website, an Amazon So You'd Like To... guide and a fluorescently enthusiastic (though now apparently lapsed) Japanese fan. He features prominently in the classical sections of Australian CD stores (and as you know, I've visited many). I have no reason to doubt that he's a wonderful singer and very nice person, though there's a slight air of Too Much Information (for me) about his website and the Amazon guide. He's Ferrando in the Opera Australia Così I have on DVD, and a respectable one too. Rather thin-voiced but this was early in his career. Before he was Australia's Favourite. The book itself is gorgeously produced. Every singer of talent deserves such a beautiful Celebration With A Capital C.
Which brings me to my point. Just where, exactly, is the Celebration in Words & Pictures of the Fiordiligi to Hobson's Ferrando? Of the woman ABC Classics packages as Australia's Favourite Soprano? Worthier, more distinguished and at least as photogenic, with a career a good decade longer than Hobson's and a far more impressive CV and discography: not only does she deserve such a tribute, but hers ought to have come first. Ye deities of ABC Classics, hear my cry. Repair your error. Celebrate your "national living treasure" (those aren't my words either) as she deserves to be celebrated. Otherwise I'll have to think that what I (reportedly) said was indeed the truth.