Again a picaresque novel this time featuring a charismatic psychopath, M.T. Riley, who turns homicide into an art form while using his expertise as an international expert on (fine) art itself as a cover. Not a novel for the faint-hearted, the ‘hero’ has the libido of a stud bull. His sentimental education across Australia and Europe entails bedding hundreds of women. Literature, the arts, marksmanship, the sciences of virology, toxicology and explosives, hypnosis and ventriloquism all come in handy when dealing with M16, the CIA and KGB, and certain heads of state. A modern Don Giovanni, Vasari, and a assassin-for-hire, Riley dies wallowing in luxury, utterly unrepentant.
‘…as ever full of low comedy and high spirits.’
- Stephen Knight
‘The jokes fly thick and fast: the verbal barrage is unrelenting. For his way with names, Hibberd deserves to rewrite the Australian Who’s Who….Along the route Hibberd travesties many of the modes of Australian writing from Lawson to Patrick Shakespeare: Thelma’s coathanger shoulders echoed that ultimate coathanger: Sydney Harbour Bridge. Despite the sweep of her kangaroo muzzle, the shortness of her upper arms and lower legs, the impression Thelma gave was one of tall primness. Yet behind there lurked a sexuality, for the discerning observer, of the kind exuded by the chaste giraffe or ambivalent emu. As low priapic farce, The Life of Riley outdoes all its analogues, whether Clive James, Howard Jacobson or Barry McKenzie, and makes Casanova look slow. It is outrageous, over-the-top, crude and larded with erudition, offends all literary and social decorum….If Riley is Australian manhood, it’s a worry, and if The Life of Riley is the Australian novel, it has swept the pieces off the board. But until the real thing comes along, what better way to spend the hours between midnight and dawn.’
- Nicholas Jose (The Australian, 1991)