Monday, July 17, 2017

Miscellaneous Monday—Number Seventeen

"From Lonely Outback to Multicultural Cities."
By Rowena Johns.
First appearance: Booktopia Australia.
Article (6 pages).
Online (HERE) (PDF).

"The hansom cab murder had been placed in his hands for solution, and he was trying to think how he should make a beginning." — Fergus Hume
Crime fiction in the Land Down Under mirrors that of the Northern Hemisphere, certainly, but Australian crime fiction writers for a century and a half have been adding their own unique tweaks to the genre, changing it, as the Bard says, "into something rich and strange":

   "THE CRIME AND mystery section of Australian bookshops has never been more diverse, with writers hailing from every corner of the English-speaking world, especially from the US, UK and Scandinavia (in translation). Amid the wide range of crime subgenres—'cosy' crime, the urban American 'hardboiled' detective, police procedurals, and psychological or forensic thrillers—it may be surprising to discover that much of Australian crime fiction can be loosely classified under those same categories, albeit influenced by antipodean traditions, such as an ambivalent attitude towards authority and a love of laconic humour. The environment is also a crucial aspect of Australian crime fiction. An Australian setting, whether in the bush or the city, helps to shape atmosphere, plot, character and language."

In the beginning, Aussie crime fiction tended to be more insular:

   "Australians today are keen to read about crime on an international scale, but in the colonial era they were preoccupied with dangers at home, in the form of transported convicts, bushrangers, fraudsters using false identities, and other ruthless characters. Public imagination was captured by newspaper reports of crime, and crime fiction soon appeared. Force and Fraud (1865) by Ellen Davitt was the first novel to be serialized in the newspapers; the author’s name is preserved in the annual Davitt Awards for crime writing by Australian women. Other early crime writers include Mary Fortune, whose police proce- dural series, The Detective’s Album, was published under the pseudonym 'W.W.' from 1868 to 1908, and Fergus Hume, who is best remembered for The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886)."

When Australian crime fiction was getting started, the European model held sway—but with a slight twist:

   "Historical whodunits are probably the closest thing in Australian crime fiction to the 'cosy' subgenre, which in Britain or America features a civilian sleuth in a small community (think Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple), and which spares readers the gory deaths and graphic violence of current forensic and psychological thrillers."

It wasn't long, however, before the influence of the putatively "realistic" American "hard-boiled" school began to be felt:

   "In the same year The Maltese Falcon was appearing weekly in America, British readers met Arthur Upfield’s Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte ('Bony') in The Barrakee Mystery (1929). However, the first 'Bony' novel published in Australia was The Sands of Windee (1931). Bony is part-Aboriginal, reflecting Upfield’s fascination with Indigenous culture and his knowledge of the outback from patrolling vast spaces in Queensland and Western Australia and working on sheep stations."

Australian writers have been combining "hard-boiled" with the police procedural for some time, even making a criminal a series protagonist:

   "Garry Disher grew up on a farm in South Australia, which seems to have inspired his latest effort, Bitter Wash Road (2013), a tale of a city cop who is demoted and sent to the sticks, where he is assumed to be a whistleblower and accordingly ostracized. Disher’s main police procedural series, featuring Detectives Hal Challis and Ellen Destry, is set on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. Apart from investigating the crimes of assorted serial killers, rapists and burglars, these novels tap into the personal lives of the police. Disher also writes a hard-boiled series with an unusual protagonist, Wyatt, a career crimi- nal who plans major robberies, is double-crossed, and seeks revenge and recovery of the money."

But all is not doom and gloom in Aussie crime fictiondom:

   "Although many Australian crime novels invoke dry humour, there is a particular type of larrikin yarn that gives equal weight to comedy and action. These stories usually involve a wise-cracking, accidental sleuth caught up in dangerous encounters with ruthless villains, while simultaneously juggling financial, family or romantic woes.  . . .  'Chicklit' crime is a description that can be applied to larrikin sleuths who are female. Marele Day’s Claudia Valentine series (1988–95) paved the way to some extent for the current generation of feisty, resourceful and quick-witted heroines."

Thus, all the permutations of crime fiction as we know it in northern climes are present in Australian mystery writing, but with a few local adaptations uniquely their own.

======================================================================== Resources:
- Here are just a few related links that you might find useful:

  ~ "The Transvestive Bushranger from Bundoora: The Beginnings of Australian Crime Fiction" by Lucy Sussex (HERE).
  ~ "A Woman of Mystery: Mary Fortune (1833-1909?)" by Lucy Sussex (HERE).
  ~ Fergus Hume (HERE) and The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (HERE).
  ~ Arthur Upfield (HERE), The Barrakee Mystery (HERE), and The Sands of Windee (HERE).

   ~ "True Blue? Crime Fiction and Australia," by Stewart King, The Conversation, October 4, 2015 (HERE).
  ~ Goodreads: Australian Crime Fiction, 205 titles (HERE).
  ~ Fair Dinkum Crime (HERE).
- By sheer coincidence, today's posting relates to last week's Miscellaneous Monday (HERE).

The bottom line:
   "Sometimes I think I'm my own worst enemy."
   "Not when I'm around, Peter."
   — "The Course Whisperer"

No comments:

Post a Comment