Peter Temple: Biography & Books

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore the works of Australian crime novelist Peter Temple, author of the famed 'Jack Irish' series. We will also explore his biography to include the numerous awards he has received for his works.

Crime Fiction

A body found on the side of the road. An escaped convict on a killing spree. Cryptic clues, one after the other, that police cannot seem to figure out. These are just a few scenes typical of crime novels. Fast-paced and thrilling, crime novels are a popular part of today's literature. In this lesson, we'll explore the life and works of arguably Australia's most successful crime novelist, Peter Temple.


Temple was born in South Africa in 1946. In his young career, he worked as a newspaper writer and editor at various establishments across the English-speaking world. He also taught journalism at several different universities, including at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, where he designed editing courses. He settled in Australia in 1980, and two years later he moved to Melbourne and became an editor of the journal, Australian Society.

In 1995, Temple officially retired from his career as a professional editor and journalist. Though he continued editing privately, he largely turned to a second career as a fiction writer. His first novel, Bad Debts, was published in 1996.

Peter Temple
Peter Temple


Peter Temple has published a total of nine books; four in the Jack Irish series and five stand-alone crime fiction novels. Let's take a look.

Jack Irish Series

Temple's first work, Bad Debts, was also his first with the Jack Irish character that has brought Temple writing fame. Irish is a hard-drinking, gambling attorney and private investigator from Melbourne with bad luck and a shady past. In Bad Debts, Irish begins investigating a former client when the client turns up dead, and in the process runs afoul of some powerful people. Bad Debts won Temple the Ned Kelly Award (Australia's awards for both the crime fiction and true crime genres) for Best First Fiction in 1997.

Black Tide and Dead Point, published in 1999 and 2000 respectively, continued the Jack Irish series. Both feature Irish doing what he does best: investigating missing persons and moving through the shadowy underworld of bars, gambling, and crime. While both were loved, Dead Point gained critical acclaim as it featured Irish trying to balance his job and his personal life, which took a turn for the worse as he and his love interest drifted apart. Dead Point won the Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction in 2001.

The fourth and final Jack Irish novel, White Dog, published in 2003, puts Irish into the unfamiliar and unusual position of falling for his client, who also happens to be accused of murdering her boyfriend. White Dog won Temple his fourth Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction. The Jack Irish series, and White Dog in particular, is renowned for its dark humor and well-written prose.

So popular and successful is the Irish series that the first three books were turned into made-for-TV movies, the first two in 2012 and Dead Point in 2014. Beginning in February 2016, the Irish series is also being adapted into a television series on the Australian Broadcasting Channel.

Stand-Alone Novels

An Iron Rose, Shooting Star and In the Evil Day

After Bad Debts, Temple wrote two stand-alone novels before returning to the Irish series. The first, An Iron Rose, published in 1998, follows a country blacksmith who investigates his best friend's murder. The second, Shooting Star, released in 1999, won the 2000 Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction. In Shooting Star, a fifteen-year-old girl's life hangs in the balance as a disgraced police investigator, charged with delivering the girl's ransom money to her captors, begins investigating who might be her captors.

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