Thursday, October 25, 2007

I love Lucy

A big hat tip to Perry Middlemiss of Matilda for linking to Lucy Sussex’s short history of Australian crime fiction. Australia’s early crime writers, Sussex tells us, “are an interesting, colourful bunch including thieves, drunks, bigamists and general literary ratbags. Of course, they also include some perfectly respectable people with extremely lurid imaginations.”

Beyond the zest lie fascinating facts:

– Crime has been part of Australian fiction since its beginnings “precisely because of the nation’s origins as a penal colony.”
– The first known Australian murder mystery novel, Force and Fraud (serialized in 1865), was written by a woman, Ellen Davitt.
The Shepherd’s Hut, which became the first Australian crime serial, features a transvestite bush ranger.

Here’s a link to Sussex's article about Mary Fortune, a 19th-century pioneer whose life contains enough adventure for several stories: “Her ‘The Detective’s Album’, a series of self-contained crime tales – the form later used by Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes – was published for over forty years, making it the longest running series in the early history of crime fiction. … Seven of her stories were reprinted in book form, as The Detective’s Album: Tales of the Australian Police (1871), the first book of detective fiction published in Australia. Yet nobody knew who she was…”

And now, a historical question for readers: What is your favorite fact, tidbit, anecdote or excerpt from crime fiction’s early history?

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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