Friday essay: from convicts to contemporary convictions – 200 years of Australian crime fiction

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(This is republished from The Conversation and written by Stephen Knight
Honorary Research Professor, University of Melbourne

File 20180712 27030 1qtvss2.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Guy Pearce as the Chandleresque private investigator Jack Irish: in the early years of Australian crime fiction, convicts and bushrangers featured prominently.
Lachlan Moore

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Arthur Gask an Adelaide Based Author

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Arthur Gask

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Arthur Cecil Gask (10 July 1869 – 25 June 1951), dentist and novelist, was born on 10 July 1869 at St Marylebone, London, fourth of five children of Charles Gask, merchant, and his wife Fanny, née Edis.[1]

Gask, accompanied by his second wife, their two sons, and by a daughter of his first marriage, emigrated to AdelaideSouth Australia in 1920, where he set up practice as a dentist. He was among the first in the city to carry out extractions with gas.[1]

He began writing crime fiction while waiting for his patients and in 1921 paid for the publication of his first novel, The Secret of the Sandhills, which was an immediate success,[1] which he partly attributed to generous reviews by S. Talbot Smith.[2]

 

Over a period of thirty years Gask wrote over thirty books as well as contributing short stories to The Mail in Adelaide. Most of his novels described the activities of a detective, Gilbert Larose, in solving crimes. Gask’s work was translated into several European languages, serialised in newspapers and broadcast on radio. He also wrote short stories.

H. G. Wells, an admirer of Gask’s work, corresponded with Gask. Wells regarded The Vengeance of Larose (1939) as Gask’s “best piece of story-telling…It kept me up till half-past one.”[3]

Bertrand Russell, also an admiring reader, called to see Gask at Gask’s home in Walkerville, an Adelaide suburb, when he was in Adelaide in August 1950.[3]Gask was reported to have been delighted when, within a few hours after his arrival in Adelaide, Lord Russell called in and spent about an hour and a half with him. Russell confided that he was a reader of Mr. Gask’s books in England, and said that now they were so near to each other he felt he really must make his acquaintance. Lord Russell was 78 at the time and Arthur Gask was 81.[4]

Gask’s sister, Lilian Gask, was also a writer.

When nearly 80, Gask was still turning out two 80,000-words novels a year,[5] and was reported to have got out of bed to write 23 pages and complete his final novel, Crime After Crime.[3]

Arthur Gask died on 25 June 1951, in an Adelaide private hospital.[3]

The full article and references is available here

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Lenin’s Roller Coaster by David Downing

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Lenin's Roller Coaster (Jack McColl, #3)Lenin’s Roller Coaster by David Downing

Lenin’s Rollercoaster
This is the third instalment Jack McColl and Caitlin Hanley series written by David Downing. The preceding volumes One Man’s Flag  and Jack of Spies set the tone but are not required reading .This time the protagonist are in Russia after the fall of the short-lived Kerensky government. The Bolsheviks under Lenin have come to power. There are however many factions who are fighting each other within Russia. Some want peace with the Germans others want to fight on. The supporters of the Czar the White Russians want the old order restored. This forms the backdrop to the adventures of Jack McColl and Caitlin Hanley.
The background really highlight a time when there as optimism and the thought that the Russian revolution would yield a utopian workers’ paradise. As the story progresses the idyll is slipping away. The Bolsheviks execute the Czar and his family and the state security apparatus is emerging. The terror that follows the spring of hope is more than just rumour. Our heroes Jack and Caitlin are traversing the Russian landscape separately he a spy she a journalist. Narrow escapes and shady characters are the order of the day. Their adventures are always crisscrossing but separate. In some ways it is two stories in one. A wonderful way to have glimpse of this turbulent time in history.

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Greeks Bearing Gifts: Bernie Gunther Thriller 13Greeks Bearing Gifts: Bernie Gunther Thriller 13 by Philip Kerr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the penultimate instalment of the Bernie Gunther series the author Philip Kerr passed away 23rd March 2018. There is another novel coming Metropolis which is due out at the end of the year. Like all the novels in this series there is enough to explain his past without necessarily reading them all. I have read all in order and enjoyed the series.

This time we find Bernie Gunther in Munich working as a morgue attendant under another assumed name. He reluctantly becomes embroiled in a scam which ultimately lands him in Greece. He is a belligerent as always and falls for an attractive woman who is embroiled in the plot. surprisingly he becomes an insurance assessor and upon proving himself he gets sent to Athens. Here he becomes embroiled in an insurance scam involving antiquities.

Bernie Gunther novels have always referenced the Nazi era and the current context. Philip Kerr’s attention to historical detail always makes these novels interesting combined with an engaging plot. Here we find references to de-Nazification and the links that post war Western Germany has to the Nazis. This link to the atrocities committed in Thessaloniki and other places in Greece.

Our grumpy hero is moving along towards his final adventure.

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One Man’s Flag by David Downing

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One Man's Flag (Jack McColl, #2)One Man’s Flag by David Downing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second Jack McColl novel’ by David Downing, which continues his spying, adventures this time inside enemy lines on the continent. Europe engulfed in the war to end all wars. There is continuation from the first novel, Jack of Spies, but enough to read this on its own. Since the first yarn, McColl has now become a spy being formally part of the fledgling British secret service. Previously he may more accurately described as an amateur spy. He has and troubled relationship with Caitlin a journalist from the US who is sympathetic to the Irish republican cause. She comes from a strong Irish-American family.
The story explores the war on the western front as well as issues on the home front in the United Kingdom. This becomes entwined with the 1915 uprising in Dublin where there was an attempt to overthrow the British. The plot moves between the Irish uprising and McColl’s troubles behind enemy lines in Western Europe. The background to the Irish uprising is interesting as are the escapades of Caitlin and Jack.
I really enjoyed David Downing’s Station novels, which I felt were more immersive than the McColl series. That has not to say I do not like them but enjoyed the Station novels more. It could be that the period that the McColl novels are set does not hold the same appeal. There are another two to come and I will definitely be reading

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Google Photos and WordPress

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Just ranted on my other blog about Google Photos and WordPress. See rant here . I have been patiently trying to seamlessly access my Google Photos to use on this and another blog. Happy to use the WordPress interface but the whole photo thing is becoming a pain. A single image on a self hosted blog works fine. See sample below, the wine was nice. Otherwise I really like Google Photos and WordPress just wish they would get on better.

Nearly had another rant when this wouldn’t publish. Seems the site was auto-updating a plugin.

Addit: Now to add insult to injury the photo alluded to above is saved by alt text. The image itself is gone .

Wine Glasses with a Sunset Backdrop
Sunset at the bar

The Shadow District by Arnaldur Indriðason

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The Shadow DistrictThe Shadow District by Arnaldur Indriðason
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Shadow Killer is new series by Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason set during he allied occupation of Iceland during World War II. Indridason previous series revolved around a rather melancholic detective called Erlendur who was tormented by his brother’s disappearance in a storm when they were boys. The setting for the Erlendur series was contemporary. So the new series is a change of pace with a historical setting.
I have read a bit of Icelandic history that pointed to a degree of tension between the locals and the occupying forces during World War II. This forms the backdrop to this novel. The Shadow Killer sees Flóvent, Reykjavík’s sole detective, joined by the young military policeman Thorson. Flóvent is an Icelander whereas Thorson was raised in Canada by Icelandic parents.
The murder is intriguing and points to a variety where the initial clue is an American service revolver. This draws in the military which means there is lots of tension. Flóvent and Thorson are both neophyte homicide detectives. Red herrings abounds make it an enjoyable read. This is the first of the series translated into English and I am looking forward to more.

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Three Weeks in the US

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We have just spent three weeks in the US including a few days in Toronto. This is our last night before we head back to Australia. We have been to New York, Raleigh North Carolina, Las Vegas and San Francisco. All very different places. Our three weeks in the US has been something of a whirlwind.

New York was cold and the people brash. We saw Times Square and rode the subway something I never imagined that I would do. Central Park seemed safe and we walked the the length of it admittedly by mistake. Nevertheless it was an interesting experience.

North Carolina was different as we visited my cousins who I only found through family history research. They looked after us very well. I met four second cousins which was great . North Carolina had a much gentler pace than New York. The visit was great.

San francisco was another world altogether  old architecture when a distinctly European flavour. This is not surprising as California has its roots in Spanish and Mexican culture. The big surprise was how cold it was.

Finally our three weeks in the US revealed that most people were friendly and helpful.

The Other Side of Silence (Bernie Gunther, #11)

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The Other Side of Silence (Bernie Gunther, #11)The Other Side of Silence by Philip Kerr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Other side of Silence is the 11th Bernie Gunther novel by Philip Kerr. I have read all in order and I must say that all have been enjoyable. I admire the way Kerr keeps the narrative rolling forward. Bernie Gunther’s past keeps catching up with him in different ways. There is always a nod to his Kripo past and his wartime service. Those who have been along for the journey will know that the latter always causes him grief.
We find our hero Bernie Gunther working in a hotel on the French Rivera in 1956. It is all spies and blackmail in this instalment. A cleverly crafted tale involving W Somerset Maugham, MI6 and the STASI. However, Bernie’s past with the NAZI’s casts a shadow over his current position a discreet hotel concierge.
There is intrigue a plenty up and down the Riviera and Bernie finds himself falling for a woman. Bernie usually falls in the arms of a woman or is fondly remembering a liaison with another.

I am an unabashed fan of this series and can only wait to read the next instalment Prussian Blue.

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The Lady from Zagreb – Phillip Kerr

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The Lady from Zagreb (Bernard Gunther, #10)The Lady from Zagreb by Philip Kerr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the 10th Bernie Gunther novel from Phillip Kerr. Bernie Gunther is a former Berlin detective who gets sidelined during the Nazi regime in Germany. He is a man who more often than not treads his own path usually comes at personal cost. What makes the Phillip Kerr novels so interesting is the blend of fact and fiction. Bernie Gunther is woven in and around real events from the Nazi era. The earlier novels were firmly placed in the prior to WWII   then and  during the war. However, the hero Bernie Gunther has slowly aged across the series. The evolution of the series now has Bernie Gunther living in a post WWII world where he inevitably encounters people from his past.
In this volume Bernie’s mind is cast back in time whilst in the cinema watching a famous actress. In an imaginative plot Joseph Goebbels features as a tormentor of Bernie. The atrocities that were committed in what is modern Croatia by the notorious Ustaše militia. Throughout this there is time for a wartime romance which is the subject of his reflection. Buried in all of this is a detective novel all very satisfying.
I am an unashamed fan of Phillip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther novels. The is one more that I am aware of and possibly another in the pipeline.

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