I saw a copy of this novel on my grandad’s reading pile about ten years ago. I felt cross because – as a teenager with grand literary ambitions – I had written a short story with the same mediocre title and was hoping to turn it into a novel. And here was this guy stealing my title!
Since then, I’ve noticed the book around at a lot of secondhand booksales and op-shops. For some reason, I kept noticing it. The cover is distinctive – a skyscraper being struck by lightning at night. It was only by chance that I discovered last week the story behind the novel and realised that the skyscraper is probably meant to be the Bankwest Tower.
I was helping a client locate an article in The West Australian from 1990 when I noticed a competition being run by the Herd On The Terrace column to come up with the best fake review of a new WA book called… Retribution. The columnist wrote that Roget was pestering The West for a review of his book so he could quote from it in the second print run.
The self-published novel is apparently a thinly-veiled account of the W.A. Inc days of Western Australian history, written by a man who knew a lot of the key players. The twist is that in the novel, the Brian Burke-style character has a long lost brother raised in the bush by Aborigines and now returning to Perth for revenge on his brother.
The proper review which did finally appear was quite critical of the novel, but that didn’t stop Roget from taking some selected quotes appearing to endorse it.
The book apparently sold well in Western Australia and enjoyed notoriety for its fictionalisation of the events which were gripping the state.
You won’t find much about Robert Roget on the internet. He did write a second novel in 1993 – Hollywood & Vine – which you can order from WA public libraries. (The catalogue record for Retribution shows only Battye copies are left, which you can read in the State Library building but not borrow.)
In 1998, he also wrote and produced a TV mini-series called Justice, starring Kerry Armstrong.