Scoop catches up with medic-turned-author Robert Edeson to chat about his latest novel Bad to Worse.

An evil boss, a disastrous aircraft crash and a giant crab are just a couple of the unusual storylines at work in Robert Edeson’s latest novel Bad to Worse.

Working as both a standalone novel and a sequel to Edeson’s previous book The Weaver Fish, Bad to Worse continues to follow the adventures of protagonist Richard Worse – a top intelligence analyst from Perth. Bad to Worse delves into international crime, revisits ancient family feuds that began in the USA and gives more than one fond nod to Fremantle.

Ultimately, Robert says, ‘an individual writes what interests them’ and if Bad to Worse is anything to go by, then Edeson’s interests include exploring science, adventure and friendship in the most intricate way. The narrative is somewhat secondary to the structure of the novel, with detailed footnotes, cryptic clues and lengthy appendices in abundance, all that serve to challenge the reader. ‘Some people may read Bad to Worse as a crime story and gloss over the endnotes which I think is a pity,’ Robert says. ‘But often, part of the narrative explanation is in the endnotes.’

It’s this impeccable attention to detail that makes Bad to Worse a confronting but enjoyable read. Despite their seeming authenticity, the in-depth scientific and mathematical references throughout the novel may or may not be true. Robert says, ‘the book is full of academic falsehoods […] and I hope the reader enjoys having their credulity stretched somewhat’.

With a background in medicine, Edeson explains how his shift in focus from science to literature influenced the novel’s style: ‘Everything needs to be supported by evidence in science. It’s quite fun to come to fiction and realise that you’re released from that constraint and that duty. Not only that, but you can pretend that something is factual and use the idioms of science, which I think is what I’ve done in Bad to Worse – to give that impression of veracity.’

The author’s playfulness with the truth is represented in countless different ways throughout the novel, including through the use of wordplay and references to far-off invented countries such as the Ferendes. But it is perhaps the image of the giant bipedal crab that graces the cover that is the most curious – where did such a visual idea come from? ‘I remember somebody telling me – a fisherman – that if you catch a crab and they clasp your finger, you just can’t get it off. It’s just a terrible situation,’ Robert says. ‘I just enlarged that thought to a man’s neck – a perpetrators neck.’

Whether or not you have a background in science, Bad to Worse is a novel for any reader who has a sense of humour, a worldly view and an eye for detail – just like it’s author.

Bad to Worse is published by Fremantle Press and is available now.

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