Skip to main content

Vigilante Virgin: a review completed

Last week Vigilante Virgin, Australia's "first" m-book, wrapped up. It ran just shy of 7,000 words to the final “Thank you for reading” message and much was made of its technical deficiencies. But what about the writing? Did it stand up as a read?

As a story it’s a gentle encounter between two characters thrown together: newbie protester, Judy Bowler, and Greta, daughter of the object of the Dennis Ferguson-style vigil. From outrage to empathy, readers follow Judy as her allegiances waver, but will she be won over by the charm of Simon Markson or the social inclusion of an extra Scotch finger?

There’s good writing over the four weeks of the story. Hardy has a columnist’s wit that she cracks over the lamer characters – Markson is likened to ‘an off-the-rails Womble’ and there are well-timed deflations of pompous vigilantes squabbling over who is more committed.

Dialogue shows a good ear through Hardy's television writing. A besieged resident finds herself unable to explain herself to the mob and shouts "Just stop … putting shit on the lawn." Judy tenderly leans over to the booger-blessed Greta and diplomatically offers “You might need a little … hooter blow."

As a short story it hangs together well, but this isn’t a short story. It’s serial delivered to your mobile ("in the tradition of Charles Dickens" who totes wld hv txted Gr8 Xpectations) so to work it needs to keep you hanging for the next episode. But the pacing doesn't work well for the episodic delivery. Almost all of episode 2 is given over to characterization of Judy and, despite being the protagonist, she’s not that interesting to justify an episode to herself. The quick sketch of Greta – “the sort of blonde, gentle limpet of a child you would instantly forget if you saw her in a school concert, even if she was playing the princess” suits this tight format better.

And that dialogue – a great way to advance plot in a short story – creates long scrolling screens that leave you feeling unsatisfied by that day’s episode. The long conversations of episodes 12 and 15 particularly left the thumb throbbing from too much scrolling.

The narrative was unbalanced over episodes. By the end of the first week of five episodes, readers got little more than a neighbourhood meeting and Judy unhappy with her iPod. Episode 9 ended with a too-obvious cliffhanger:
“'And we might...'
She bit her lip, didn't want to say it.”

The real disappointment of Vigilante Virgin as an m-novel is that you had to click back and forth between episodes to re-read in a clumsy web interface. I ended up cutting and pasting it into a Word doc to make it into a very readable e-book. But perhaps this is Fairfax’s new direction.


  1. Any idea how 'successful' it was - i.e. how many subscribers signed up and whether it was popular enough to do another one?

  2. No idea how sucessful it was, Lisa, but if it was a runaway sucess I think Fairfax would be crowing about it. I really hope they do it again and iron some of the bugs out.


Post a Comment