Playing at home, John McCrystal

Pearly Gates: A Novel
Owen Marshall
Vintage, $38.00, ISBN 9780143773153

“Pride goeth before a fall”, so the proverb runs, “and an haughty spirit before destruction”. The prideful one in Owen Marshall’s latest novel is Pat Gates, universally known as “Pearly”. He’s happily married, with two grown-up children, one of whom has made a notable success of her life. He’s a former representative rugby player – he had a few seasons for Otago and might well have gone on to higher honours still, had injury not intervened. He’s co-proprietor of a moderately successful real estate agency. And he’s mayor of a medium-sized provincial town that closely resembles Marshall’s home town of Timaru, on his second term when we meet him and looking quite likely to be re-elected for a third. His private interests dovetail comfortably with his public ambitions: his public profile is good for business, and his prosperity in business is a drawcard for voters. “You’re doing all right, Pearly”, as he says in one of his regular conversations with himself.

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