Heaven’s Gate: Trevor Fing 2001 (Novel)

Heavens Gate

by Margaret on July 19, 2001

‘HEAVEN’S GATE’ (2001)
ISBN 0 9577330 4 6

This, Trevor Fing’s first novel, was written in a series of NSW prisons. He knows the chafing oppression, menace and claustrophobia of ‘inside’ as one who is enduring years in jail, and the freedom and peril of the skies as one who has flown in both. The soundless precision of expert criminal trespass and the meticulous alertness of a helicopter pilot come through, chill and passionate, as you have never read them before.

Located in an authentic Central Coast, Sydney, Hunter, and neighbouring areas, and equally authentic Maitland, Long Bay and Lismore prisons. Heaven’s Gate (prison slang for Release Date) is a helicopter book, as well as a prison story, a crime thriller, and a police corruption drama. It begins, ‘Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring.’ Jake Love is a quiet, unambitious man, devoted to his beautiful wife, their four-year-old son, and his craft as a helicopter pilot. Admittedly, some of his activities might not quite match the letter of the law, but Jake thought he could look forward to tomorrow. His arrest and conviction show how a bent cop as unscrupulous as Detective Theo Wolfe can change his victim’s world.

Danny Steel was a long-term, dedicated and precise criminal. It was twenty years since he had asked anything of tomorrow, and that had been under a different name, in a different country. His every job was solo, using a different methodology based on months or years of impeccable research: if anyone could avoid the processes of justice, it was Danny. His arrest and conviction show how a shrewd cop, with a sufficient slice of luck, can see past the most meticulous defences.

Thanks to these contrasting police operations, Jake and Danny meet; a bond of trust is forged in a grim prison yard, with maiming or death only a heartbeat away. As Jake’s unjust imprisonment lacerates his family and his future, Danny’s long-lost family is recreated, in the form of a splendid, grown-up daughter he did not know had even been born.

Jake serves his sentence, and tries to take up his old life and damaged marriage again—with the help of Danny’s stashed-up fortune. Admittedly, he cannot be sure that Detective Wolfe will leave him in peace, but at least he has a second chance. Then he finds that his friend Danny has only months to live. He will die in prison, and the reunion with his new-found daughter will not happen.

Rather than allow his friend’s tomorrows to be snatched from him in the bitter futility of jail, Jake hatches a complex plot by which, as a chopper pilot, he can spring Danny, yet have a neat intercontinental alibi, but complex plots have a thousand ways to go wrong. By a precarious mixture of luck and daring, he lifts Danny out of jail, and no one can prove he had anything to do with it. But, simultaneously, a dreadful, precise revenge is taken on Detective Wolfe.

Trent Penfold’s winning design evokes the novel’s prison and helicopter motifs with moody eloquence. Because the author could not be given day release, it seemed appropriate to fly the first copies by helicopter down Newcastle Harbour for the media launching in November 2001. They were accepted by Councillor Barbara Gaudry on behalf of the Lord Mayor of Newcastle. This was the first Catchfire launching to be given TV coverage.

362 pages, r.r.p. $5.95

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