Set in modern day Perth, ‘City of Rubber Stamps’ by Guy Salvidge is a domestic noir centred around the death of Klara, a 38 year-old single Mum from Piara Waters. Klara’s best friend, Lesley, suspects foul play and with the help of Klara’s brother, Frank, and other key players, uncovers the darkest of deeds on her quest for justice.
In a nutshell, who are you Frank, and what are you like?
Frank: I like to think of myself as a simple man, but look under the hood and your mileage may vary. I drink too much and aren’t shy about getting behind the wheel after a few too many, but I always feel bad about it later. My sister Klara messed up my insides years ago and I haven’t been right since. I’m like your average bogan, with a twist of lemon.
We first met you in the story, ‘Frank’, where you were portrayed as a drunken ruffian who performed shady deeds for a guy called Sando (Ian Sanderson). Is this still the case?
Frank: Ruffian, yeah. I’m ruff. I work in a bottleshop, I hoon around in my car and the only books I ever read are those left in the toilet by my fiancee. I’d be quite content to sit around drinking myself into the ground if not for Klara’s friend Lesley, who has this foolish notion that someone pushed all those pills down Big Sis’ neck.
Is Sando back from the dead, then?
Frank: It seems I’ve skipped out of the dimension where Sando existed and into another one where the bad dude is called Patrick Sheedy. They even seem to share the same house in Swanbourne. It’s perplexing.
Do any other characters from ‘Frank’ feature in CoRS, like Emily, your partner at the time?
Frank: Emily’s still around, but just quietly our relationship is on the rocks. Totally my fault.
Do you still have your HZ Kingswood and the maroon suitcase, or did you upgrade from the money you gained in ‘Frank’?
Frank: That cock-and-bull story about five grand and a maroon suitcase must be something I concocted while on a jag. I have no memory of a guy called Sando or a bitter-ex who wanted to push him off a cliff. Honest.
CoRS seems to be centred around some key locations e.g. the City Trophies business, Klara’s home, and the farming town of East Hills etc. Why are these locations important to the story?
Frank: Lesley works just around the corner from that City Trophies place and that’s where the shady types seem to hang out. Klara used to live in the northern suburbs but a while back she got it into her head that she wanted to own her own home. Didn’t even have enough for a deposit, did she? I didn’t even know Piara Waters was a place. Now I do. I haven’t been to East Hills but I hear it’s a hole in the ground. Don’t they have that Super Pit there, or am I getting it mixed up with somewhere else?
Your sister, Klara, is the main victim in CoRS. What was your relationship like with her as a child, and as an adult?
Frank: Well, we were close. On second thoughts, let’s not go there. It’s kinda, um, personal.
How has her death shaped your motivations and behaviours?
Frank: I stopped wanting to live and started wanting to die, or at least to keep drinking until I stopped breathing. I guess you could say it shaped my behaviour, couldn’t you?
We find out Klara died of a suspected overdose, and yet you demanded an autopsy. What was your reasoning?
Frank: That was all Lesley’s doing. I’d have let Special K rest, but Les just won’t let it go. She’s tenacious, I’ll give her that. Like a bulldog with a packet of beef jerky.
As the plot twists and turns, we discover Klara had a secret life. How did finding out about this affect you and your opinions / feelings towards her?
Frank: Bad enough to find out that your sister’s some kind of prostitute, but to find out that she does that? And these blokes reckon they’re straight? Christ Almighty.
Do we find get to find out any of your ‘dark’ secrets, and if so, care to reveal?
Frank: I like to think of myself as an open book, or failing that a broken record. I’m not proud of everything I’ve done, but at least I can look myself in the eye and say I never ended anyone. Yet.
The story sees you and Lesley coming together to figure out what happened to Klara. Do you two become romantically involved? If not, what was your relationship like?
Frank: Nah, see, people assume that if a guy and a girl hang out a lot, then they must be banging. 90% of the time they’re probably right. There’s a word for Les and me and the word’s platonic. It’s not that she isn’t my type (well, she isn’t) but I think she’s gone off men altogether. I reckon Les has about as much sex drive as a glass of water. Flat, not sparkling.
Tell us about some of the other key players in the story e.g. Patrick, Bill & Anna, Maria, and Royce, and how they relate to you.
Frank: Patrick’s this Irish douchebag and Maria is this Filipino chick who works for him. Now she’s more my type. Royce is this conniving prick who works with Les. Bill, I dunno.
Has this story changed you in any way, and if so, how?
Frank: Um, yeah. If not for Les I’d be dead by now, I reckon. She saved me, kinda, even though she’s a royal pain in the ass at the same time.
What is/are the major lesson(s) you've learned?
Frank: Wine then beer, feeling queer. Or, a friend in need’s a friend indeed, but a friend with weed is better. Oh, you meant in this story?
Where has life taken you since CoRS occurred?
Frank: I guess you’d say I’m on the wagon. More or less. It’s bumping along, but it has wheels. Most of them. I need to get out of the liquor business though. Better update my CV quick smart.
Do you fancy yourself as a bit of a crime fighter now?
Frank: Let’s just say that if Les is Holmes, then I’m Watson.
Other than any dark secrets, what wouldn’t we know by just looking at you?
Frank: That I missed out by a bee’s dick on getting a scholarship to a fancy high school when I was twelve. That my parents are dead. That I’m a Polack [of Polish descent].
Will we be hearing more about you in the future?
Frank: Who knows. You might not be hearing from me at all at this rate ;)
Okay, one last question. Would you survive if you were stranded on a desert island, and if so, how?
Frank: They have coconuts and pineapples on desert islands, don’t they? Maybe if I get stranded with a crate of rum I can mix my own pina coladas…
Thanks Frank for a really insightful interview. I can’t wait to read more about you in ‘City of Rubber Stamps’.
About the Author:
High School teacher by day, award-winning author of ‘Frank’ and novel ‘Yellowcake Springs’ (and follow-up ‘Yellowcake Summer’) by night, Guy Salvidge delves deep into the secret lives of some of Perth’s most unsavoury characters in his latest offering, ‘City of Rubber Stamps’.
For more information on Guy and his work, visit:
To read Guy’s 2015 City of Rockingham winning short fiction story, ‘Frank’, visit:
https://westerlymag.com.au/issues/new-creative/ to sign up.