... dedicated to finding caring homes world-wide for orphaned books
HOME
BROWSE
ADVANCED SEARCH
SECURE SITE
SHOPPING TROLLEY
POSTAGE
EMAIL
WHO ARE WE? TESTIMONIALS LINKS CONTACT  DETAILS
 
WRITERS
ANECDOTES & BIOGRAPHIES

 

Search our stock
for books by or about
ARTHUR UPFIELD

Search our stock
for books about
WRITERS

Search our stock for
AUSTRALIAN  FICTION


 

 

We invite you
to read our

ANECDOTES
on
C.J.Dennis
Dame Mary Gilmore (1)
Dame Mary Gilmore (2)
Frank Hardy
Norman Lindsay
Nettie Palmer & Friends
Hill of Content
George Robertson
Miles Franklin
E.J.'Ted' Banfield
Frank Dalby Davison
Henry Lawson
Joan Lindsay

and other
BIOGRAPHIES
on
Arthur Upfield
Peter Carey
Bryce Courtenay
Thomas Keneally
John Marsden
Colleen McCullough
Ruth Park

 

 

We invite you to visit our
SPECIAL INTEREST ROOMS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Search our stock
for books by or about
ARTHUR UPFIELD

 

Search our stock
for books about
WRITERS

 

Search our stock for
AUSTRALIAN  FICTION

 


 

 

 

We invite you
to read our

ANECDOTES
on
C.J.Dennis
Dame Mary Gilmore (1)
Dame Mary Gilmore (2)
Frank Hardy
Norman Lindsay
Nettie Palmer & Friends
Hill of Content
George Robertson
Miles Franklin
E.J.'Ted' Banfield
Frank Dalby Davison
Henry Lawson
Joan Lindsay

and other
BIOGRAPHIES
on
Arthur Upfield
Peter Carey
Bryce Courtenay
Thomas Keneally
John Marsden
Colleen McCullough
Ruth Park

 

 

 

We invite you to visit our
SPECIAL INTEREST ROOMS

 

     
ARTHUR UPFIELD
and Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte
of the Queensland Police

Arthur Upfield  
The writer who stamped 'Australia' firmly on the international crime fiction scene for a three decades of the twentieth century was actually born in England in 1890, and acquired his love for the Australian outback as an itinerant bush worker.


The eldest of five sons, Arthur Upfield was a poor student and after failing an apprenticeship examination, was despatched to Australia by his father, aged twenty, with letters of introduction to an Adelaide real estate company.

But Upfield, who had always been a keen reader and writer, had other ideas.

Despite his lack of experience, he eventually talked his way into becoming a boundary rider on an inland cattle station at Momba, some 140 miles north-east of Broken Hill. (In the 1957 book Follow My Dust!, Arthur Upfield recalled his 30-hour Cobb & Co coach trip from Broken Hill to Wilcannia in 1911 - and Broken Hill is almost 300 miles from Adelaide!)

Over the next couple of years, he worked at odd jobs in the bush - trying his hand at gouging for opal, boundary riding, droving, rabbit-trapping, and as a station cook. He became enamoured of Australia's wild landscape, the freedom it provided, and the outback characters he met.

By August, 1914, when Australian Prime Minister Joseph Cook announced "Australia is now at war", Arthur Upfield had ventured north into central Queensland. He went to Brisbane and quickly enlisted, joining the 1st Light Horse Brigade Train (5 Company, Army Service Corps). Forty days later he embarked on HMAT Anglo Egyptian for the Middle East. Upfield saw service in Egypt, United Kingdom and France. Whilst in Egypt, he met an Australian nurse, Anne Douglas, who was to become his wife.

John Hetherington tells us in his 1962 book Forty-Two Faces, that Arthur Upfield during the First World War wrote several short stories set in the Australian outback and sold them to English magazines. At war's end, he returned to Australia. "I went bush like a homing pigeon," he was quoted as saying, "[I] loaded up a push-bike - minus its pedals - and carried my swag all over the country."

During the next decade, Upfield started to take his writing seriously. Journalist Pamela Ruskin, who knew the writer well, writes that 'he took a job in Queensland and found in his employer's wife someone who took an interest in his writing and urged him to keep trying' ('Mean Streets' February 1992).

Later, when writing his second murder mystery manuscript, Arthur Upfield decided to model his investigator on Tracker Leon and named the character 'Napoleon Bonaparte' (at least the third syllable of his given name matched that of Upfield's friend). He became Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte of the Queensland Police, a man who asked everyone to just call him 'Bony'.

Geoffrey Dutton, in describing Bony's attributes, says: 'He has the white man's capacity to cope with theory and planning. He has the Polynesian's warmth and human sympathy, and capacity to include all types in the human family. Finally he has the Aboriginal knowledge and love of the earth of Australia, and the capacity to listen and respond to the spirits of the country. And he has the traditional Aboriginal skills of tracking and survival.'

In short, a unique fictional character, well equipped to observe, absorb and be patient. (Bony was, 50 years later, to inspire US crime writer Tony Hillerman to create his own native North American law enforcement characters, Navajos Sergeant Jim Chee and Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn.) Upfield's first published book, a mystery story The House of Cain (1928), did not include the Bony character but Upfield went on to write 32 Bony books.   (see right)

The first appearance of his part-Aboriginal police inspector was in The Barrakee Mystery (Hutchinson, London) in 1929, renamed in the later US edition as The Lure of the Bush (Crime Club, New York, 1965).

Arthur Upfield's second Bony novel, The Sands of Windee (1931), attracted sensational attention when it became entangled in a real murder mystery which resulted in the writer giving evidence in court, and the conviction and execution of the murderer. These 'stranger-than-fiction' circumstances arose when Upfield was working on patrol of the Western Australian vermin fence in 1928/9. Around the camp-fire one evening, Upfield sought help from his mates for the plot of his next Bony story. How can a human body be disposed of without leaving any trace of its existence, he posed. Their solution was ingenious: shoot the person, burn the body, filter the ashes for small bones, teeth etc, then dissolve them in acid and pound anything remaining to dust in a gold-seeker's dolly pot and, finally, disperse what remains to the winds.

Unfortunately, one of those present at the camp-fire, Snowy Rowles, put the plot into real-world action in 1930, while Arthur Upfield was busy employing the identical methods in his fictional Bony text.

Several accounts of this famous multiple-murder case are available. Terry Walker published his Murder on the Rabbit Proof Fence (Hesperian Press, 1993); Judge Eric Clegg includes it in his Return Your Verdict, Studies in Australian Murder (Angus & Robertson, 1965); Alan Sharpe devotes seven pages to it in his Crimes that Shocked Australia (Currawong Press, 1982); and Jack Coulter includes it in his 1982 With Malice Aforethought - West Australia Murder Cases (St George Books).

Arthur Upfield prepared his own account of the murder trial and the circumstances leading up to it. His UK publisher, Hutchinson, declined the manuscript saying it wouldn't be of sufficient interest to the British public.

In August 1932, Upfield wrote from Perth to Angus & Robertson (A&R) in Sydney offering his 'complete and unbiased' manuscript containing "about thirty thousand words on how Rowles learned the murder detail for a novel, Sergeant Manning's investigation, and pre-trial impressions [another] forty thousand words on the trial published in the West Australian, with running commentary a selection of some forty photographs Are you interested or not?"

They were not. Nor were they interested in his next two submissions. But in 1936, as A W Barker reminds us in Dear Robertson - Letters to an Australian Publisher (A&R, 1982), "he submitted Wings Above the Diamantina, with which he began a long association with A&R."

Eventually Upfield found an Australian publisher for his authentic account of the Rowles murders - the little-known Midget Masterpiece Publishing Company of Sydney. They released his The Murchison Murders in 1934, two years after the culprit was hanged at Fremantle Gaol. Incidently, a pirated edition of this book was released in America in 1989; because of its short print run (some 600 copies), collectors at the beginning of the twenty-first century are paying three-figure sums for a copy, just to complete their Upfield holdings.

The period between The Sands of Windee and the commencement of World War Two (1939) was often financially difficult for Arthur Upfield. Australia was in the grip of the Depression, his marriage was rocky, and there was little opportunity for writers; but Upfield kept doggedly writing his Bony murder-mysteries and other books.

While he had many books published during the 1930s - A Royal Abduction (a non-Bony title), Gripped by Drought (another non-Bony book), The Murchison Murders (non fiction),Wings Above the Diamantia, Mr. Jelly's Business, Winds of Evil, The Bone is Pointed, and The Mystery of Swordfish Reef - sales were not sensational, despite being issued in several countries.

He accepted an offer to join the Melbourne Herald newspaper in 1933 to write a serialised, non-Bony, horse racing story called The Great Melbourne Cup Mystery. Sixty-three years later, long after the author's death, this material was published, for the first time in book form, by Tom Thompson of ETT Imprint, Watsons Bay, Sydney (1996).

Upfield was far from being a 'born writer'. "Upfield's style is never much better than stiff and wooden, though his dialogue can be lively," wrote T J Binyon, in Murder Will Out - the Detective in Fiction, (Oxford, 1989), "But his plots, over-melodramatic in the first novels, improve considerably with time, and some indeed, are masterly. The outstanding features of the novels, however, are their setting - the Australian outback."

Each Bony book is set in a different part of Australia, all described in accurate detail by a writer who had spent time there, one who carefully studied his surroundings and its inhabitants. Hetherington observes "He [Upfield] likes to feel that even the most carping veteran living in some small town or district he writes about could fault him on the finest point of topography or idiom." But it was Bonaparte's skills as a tracker, his ability to identify obscure clues and reach rational conclusions about them, which truly set Upfield's crime novels distinctively apart.

Aged nearly fifty, Arthur Upfield enlisted during the Second World War (perhaps, it has been suggested, in military intelligence). He literary fortunes changed dramatically during this time of international unrest - his American agent placed his works with Doubleday, New York and various US book club publishers. "My books have earned big money only since 1943,' Upfield once said. "Arthur Upfield's marriage had broken up soon after World War Two," according to the Mean Streets profile in 1992.

Around 1945 he met a recently-widowed store-keeper from Kalorama in the Dandenong Ranges, east of Melbourne, Jessica Uren (nee Hawke) [later to become the supposed author of the Upfield biography Follow My Dust!]. Upfield "was unable to get his estranged wife, Anne, to agree to a divorce but, despite this, he and Jessica lived together as husband and wife from 1946 until his death in 1964," Kay Craddock, Melbourne antiquarian bookseller, wrote in her Introduction to her sale catalogue of Upfield's books and papers (199?).

From the end of the Second World War until his death in early 1964, Arthur Upfield had nineteen new titles published, plus 49 editions of these and earlier books - that is an average of four books a year for seventeen years.

He and Jess had at least four homes during this period: at Yarra Junction, and Airey's Inlet, in Victoria, and at Bermagui South and Bowral in New South Wales.

An Author Bites the Dust (1948) is set in the Dandenong Ranges and the Yarra Valley where the couple lived during the late 1940s. The New Shoe (1951) has the white granite Spit Point Lighthouse in a scene at Airey's Inlet, where they also lived.

Journalist Pamela Ruskin recalled her first interview with Arthur Upfield in Melbourne about the publication of The Widows of Broome (1950): "He told me how much he loathed being in the city and that he was dying to get back to Jess at Airey's Inlet his one real luxury was a magnificent black Daimler which he cleaned and polished frequently he would leave it parked at the edge of the city and take a taxi in because he was unwilling to hazard it in city traffic" (Mean Streets).

The Upfield home at Airey's Inlet, along with many others located in this popular Great Ocean Road district, was destroyed in a bushfire. The family moved to Bermagui South on the New South Wales south coast - an area made famous by American western writer Zane Grey and his marlin fishing exploits. Grey visited the area in the late 1930s, and Arthur Upfield's The Mystery of Swordfish Reef - first published in 1939, twenty years before he lived nearby - begins at this very fishing port.

Some of Upfield's books were turned into a radio serial titled The Man of Two Tribes and broadcast over thirteen Australian radio stations in 1953. During their time at Bermagui South, Jessica Uren (Hawke) changed her surname by deed poll to Upfield, while Arthur concocted a little literary shape-changing of his own.

The biography of Arthur Upfield, titled Follow My Dust! was published in 1957 by Heinemann, London, supposedly written by Jessica Hawke, with an Introduction by Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte.

The ruse was transparent however - most of the material was a series of stories which had appeared previously in magazine and newspapers written by Upfield, but it was his intention that it be seen as her biography of him.

Unfortunately Follow My Dust! reveals disappointingly few dates and very few identifiable people.

The book sold well and generated a lot of interest; in the early twenty-first century even a poor copy of it, with dust jacket, costs a three-figure amount.

Six further Bony books appeared during the author's lifetime, and a final one, The Lake Frome Monster (Heinnemann, London, 1966) was published posthumously. It was based on an unfinished manuscript and copious notes left by Upfield when he died in 1964.

Arthur Upfield left Bermagui "after Jess had to be moved to a nursing home," Pamela Ruskin reports, "[and] took a cottage ...at Bowral [in the New South Wales central highlands]. After a series of mild heart attacks, he had a massive one and died there on February 13, 1964. He was found some hours later by the boy who delivered the groceries."

Jessica Upfield died fifteen months later, May 29, 1965.

Almost a decade after Upfield's death, his highly-successful Detective Inspector featured in his own 26-part, one hour television mini-series called 'Boney' (spelled 'Boney' - with and 'e' - so poorly-read viewers would get the pronuncation right!). New Zealander James Laurenson playing the leading role. Other well-known Australian actors in the series included David Gulpilil, Jack Thomson, Kate Fitzpatrick and Googie Withers.

Upfield was one of very few Australian writers of his era able to sustain himself entirely from his writing. Many of his books were translated into at least three other languages. He became the first non-American admitted to the Mystery Writers Guild of America and, after twenty years of membership, received a pair of gold cufflinks with manacles engraved on them to mark the occasion. #

© BARRY JOHN WATTS 2006

   
ARTHUR UPFIELD'S
PUBLISHING HISTORY


The House of Cain
Hutchinson, London, n.d. [1928];
1st U.S. Edition: Dorrance, Philadelphia, 1929;
2nd US Edition: (pirated) Dennis McMillan, San Francisco, 1983.

The Barrakee Mystery
Hutchinson, London, n.d. [1929];
2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1965;
1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1965 - as The Lure of the Bush.

The Beach of Atonement
Hutchinson, London, n.d. [1930].

The Sands of Windee
Hutchinson, London, n.d. [1931];
1st Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1958;
2nd UK Edition: Angus & Robertson, London, 1959.

A Royal Abduction
Hutchinson, London, [1932];
1st US Edition: (pirated) Dennis McMillan, Miami Beach, 1984.

Gripped by Drought
Hutchinson, London, n.d. [1932].

The Murchison Murders
Midget Masterpiece Publishing, Sydney, n.d. [1934];
1st US Edition: (pirated) Dennis McMillan, Miami Beach, 1987.

Wings Above the Diamantia
Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1936;
1st UK Edition: Hamilton, London, n.d. [1937] - as Winged Mystery;
2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1940;
1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1943 - as Wings Above the Claypan. .

Mr. Jelly's Business
Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1937;
1st UK Edition: Hamilton, London, 1938;
1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1943 - as Murder Down Under;
2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1964.

Winds of Evil
Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1937;
1st UK Edition Hutchinson, London, n.d. [1939];
1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1944;
2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1961.

The Bone is Pointed
Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1938;
1st UK Edition: Hamilton, London, 1939;
1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1947;
US Book Club Edition: Unicorn Mystery Book Club, New York, 1946;
2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1966.

The Mystery of Swordfish Reef
Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1939; 1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1943;
1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1960;
Aust. Book Club Edition:Readers Book Club, Melbourne, 1963;
UK Book Club Edition: The Companion Book Club, London, 1963;
2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1971.

Bushranger of the Skies :
Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1940;
1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Book Club, New York, 1944 - as No Footprints in the Bush;
2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1963.

Death of a Swagman
Doubleday/Crime Book Club, New York, 1945;
US Book Club Edition: Unicorn Mystery Book Club, New York, 1946;
1st UK Edition: Aldor, London, 1946;
1st Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1947;
2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1962.

The Devil's Steps
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1946;
US Book Club Edition: Unicorn Mystery Book Club, New York, 1946;
1st UK Edition: Aldor, London, 1948;
1st Australian Edition: Invincible Press, Sydney, n.d. [1950-1953];
2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1965.

An Author Bites the Dust
Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1948;
1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1948;
US Book Club Edition: Unicorn Mystery Book Club, New York, 1948.

The Mountains Have a Secret
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1948; US Book Club Edition: Unicorn Mystery Book Club, New York, 1948;
1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1952;
2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified).

The Widows of Broome
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1950;
US Book Club Edition: Dollar Mystery Guild, New York, 1950;
1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1951;
2ndUK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1967.

The Bachelors of Broken Hill
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1950;
US Book Club Edition: Detective Book Club, New York, 1951;
1st Australian Edition: Invincible Press, Sydney, between 1950 and 1953;
1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1958;
2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified);
Large Print Edition: Ulverscroft, Leicester, 1974.

The New Shoe
Doubleday/Crime Book Club, New York, 1951;
1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1952;
2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1968.

Venom House
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1952;
US Book Club Edition: Unicorn Mystery Club, New York, 1952;
1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1953;
2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1970.

Murder Must Wait
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1953;
US Book Club Edition: Detective Book Club, New York, 1953;
1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1953;
2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified).

Death of a Lake
Heinemann, London, 1954;
1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1954.

Sinister Stones
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1954;
1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1955 - as Cake in the Hat Box;
2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified).

The Battling Prophet
Heinemann, London, 1956;
2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified).

The Man of Two Tribes
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1956;
1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1956 - as Man of Two Tribes;
2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified).

The Bushman Who Came Back
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1957;
1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1957 - as Bony Buys a Woman.

Follow My Dust!
Heinemann, London, 1957.

Bony and the Black Virgin
1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1959;
2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified).

Journey to the Hangman
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York. 1959;
1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1959 - as Bony and the Mouse;
2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified).

Valley of Smugglers
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1960;
US Book Club Edition: Detective Book Club, New York, n.d. [1960];
1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1960 - as Bony and the Kelly Gang;
2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified).

The White Savage
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1961;
1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1961 - as Bony and the White Savage;
2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)

The Will of the Tribe
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1962;
First UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1962.

Madman's Bend
Heinemann, London, 1963;
1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1963 - as The Body at Madman's Bend.

The Lake Frome Monster
Heinemann, London, 1966;
2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified).
[Note: This posthumously published work was based on an unfinished manuscript and detailed notes left by Upfield. It was completed by J L Price and Mrs Dorothy Strange.]

Breakaway House
Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1987.

The Great Melbourne Cup Mystery
ETT Imprint, Watson's Bay, Sydney, 1996.

EMAIL
WHO ARE WE? TESTIMONIALS LINKS CONTACT  DETAILS
HOME
BROWSE
ADVANCED SEARCH
SECURE SITE
SHOPPING TROLLEY
POSTAGE