Arthur Upfield

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Arthur Upfield
Arthur Upfield
Born (1890-09-01)1 September 1890
Gosport, Hampshire, England
Died 12 February 1964(1964-02-12) (aged 73)
Bowral, New South Wales
Occupation Novelist, adventurer
Nationality Australian
Genre Detective fiction
Notable works The Sands of Windee (1931)
Spouse Ann Douglass

Arthur William Upfield (1 September 1890 – 13 February 1964) was an Australian writer, best known for his works of detective fiction featuring Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte ("Bony") of the Queensland Police Force, a half-caste Aborigine.

Born in England, Upfield moved to Australia in 1910 and fought with the Australian military during the First World War. Following his war service, he travelled extensively throughout Australia, obtaining a knowledge of Australian Aboriginal culture that he would later use extensively in his written works. In addition to writing detective fiction, Upfield was a member of the Australian Geological Society and was involved in numerous scientific expeditions. In the 1970s his books were the basis for an Australian television series entitled "Boney".

Early life[edit]

Upfield was born in Gosport, Hampshire, England on 1 September 1890.[1] His father was a draper. In 1910, after doing poorly in examinations towards becoming a real estate agent, Upfield's father sent him to Australia.[2]

With the outbreak of World War I, he joined the First Australian Imperial Force on 23 August 1914.[3] Upfield sailed from Brisbane on the HMAT Anglo Egyptian on 24 September 1914 to Melbourne. At the time of sailing he had the rank of Driver and was with the 1st Light horse Brigade Train (5 Company ASC [Army Service Corps]).[4] In Melbourne he was at a camp for several weeks before sailing to Egypt.[5] He fought at Gallipoli and in France and married an Australian nurse, Ann Douglass, in Egypt in 1915. He was discharged in England on 15 October 1919. Before returning to Australia, Ann gave birth to their only child, a son James Arthur Upfield, born in February 1920.[6]

For most of the next 20 years he travelled throughout the outback working at a number of jobs. He learnt much of Aboriginal culture, later to be used in his books.

Career[edit]

Upfield created the character of Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte, based on a man known as "Tracker Leon", whom he had met in his travels. Leon Wood was a "half-caste" (in the language of the day: part) Aboriginal man employed as a tracker by the Queensland Police.[1] The novels featuring "Bony", as the character was also known, were far more successful than other Upfield writings.

3 Jasmine Street, Bowral, the house where Upfield spent his last years and died[7]
Snowy Rowles, convicted for The Murchison Murders, standing beside the car of James Ryan, photographed by Arthur Upfield. Ryan was one of the victims.

Late in life Upfield became a prominent member of the Australian Geological Society, involved in scientific expeditions.[6] In particular he led a major expedition in 1948 to northern and western parts of Australia, including the Wolfe Creek crater. The Wolfe Creek crater was a setting for his novel The Will of the Tribe published in 1962.[8]

After living at Bermagui, New South Wales, Upfield moved to Jasmine Street, Bowral, New South Wales.[7] Upfield died at Bowral on 12 February 1964.[7] His last work, The Lake Frome Monster, published in 1966, was completed by J.L. Price and Dorothy Stange.

In 1957, his defacto Jessica Hawke, published a biography of the author entitled Follow My Dust!. It is generally held however, that this was written by Upfield himself.[2]

Works[edit]

Upfield's novels were held in high regard by some fellow writers. In 1987, H.R.F. Keating included The Sands of Windee (1931) in his list of the 100 best crime and mystery books ever published.[1] J.B. Priestley wrote of Upfield: "If you like detective stories that are something more than puzzles, that have solid characters and backgrounds, that avoid familiar patterns of crime and detection, then Mr Upfield is your man."[1] Others have found Upfield's prose stilted. Much of the appeal of Arthur Upfield's stories lies in the depiction of outback Australian life in the 1930s through into the 1950s.

In The Sands of Windee, a story about a "perfect murder", Upfield invented a method to destroy carefully all evidence of the crime. Upfield's "Windee method" was used in the Murchison Murders, and Upfield was called to give evidence in court.[9]

The late US mystery novelist Tony Hillerman was generous in his praise for Upfield's works. In his introduction to the posthumous 1984 reprint of Upfield's A Royal Abduction he described the seduction in his youth of Upfield's descriptions of both the harsh outback areas, and "the people who somehow survived upon them ... . When my own Jim Chee of the Navaho Tribal Police unravels a mystery because he understands the ways of his people, when he reads the signs in the sandy bottom of a reservation arroyo, he is walking in the tracks Bony made 50 years ago."

Arthur Upfield's grandson William Upfield looks after the Estate to this day. The Estate's official publishing site is www.arthurupfield.com

Television series[edit]

From 1972 to 1973, Fauna Productions (also responsible for Skippy the Bush Kangaroo) produced a 26-episode television series. After a long search for a half-white, half-Aborigine actor, the producers chose English actor Jon Finch for the role of Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte. When he suddenly became unavailable, Fauna's John McCallum flew to London in panic and was lucky enough to audition New Zealand actor James Laurenson on his last day there. Offered the lead role, Laurenson hurriedly flew to Australia, reading "Bony" books all the way over.

The series was called Boney, partly to make the pronunciation of the name obvious, and partly because that had been Upfield's original intention – a publisher's misprint on the first novel had renamed the character.[citation needed] Most of the episodes were based directly on one of the novels, but there were some adaptations. Two original scripts were not directly based on any novel; five novels were not adapted for television, effectively "reserving" them in case a third series eventuated. At the time, many of the books were reprinted with the spelling altered to "Boney" on the covers (although retaining the original in the text), and featuring a photo from the relevant episode.[10]

Bony was also a 1990 telemovie and later a 1992 spin-off TV series (using the original "Bony" spelling). However, the series was criticised for casting Bony as a white man (played by Cameron Daddo), under the tutelage of "Uncle Albert", an elderly Aborigine played by Burnum Burnum.

Table of books[edit]

Name of book Setting English language publication [11]
The House of Cain Hutchinson, London, n.d. [1928];

1st US Edition: Dorrance, Philadelphia, 1929; 2nd US Edition: (pirated) Dennis McMillan, San Francisco, 1983.

The Barrakee Mystery Near Wilcannia, New South Wales 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 Dongara, Western Australia[12] Hutchinson, London, n.d. [1930].
The Sands of Windee 'Windee' is a fictional sheep station near Milparinka_, a 150 miles (240 km) north of Broken Hill. Windee covered 1,300,000 acres (5,300 km2) of land and ran 70 000 sheep. Hutchinson, London, n.d. [1931];

1st Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1958; 2nd UK Edition: Angus & Robertson, London, 1959.

A Royal Abduction Cook and Eucla, on the Nullarbor Plain Hutchinson, London, [1932];

1st US Edition: (pirated) Dennis McMillan, Miami Beach, 1984.

Gripped by Drought Hutchinson, London, n.d. [1932]
The Murchison Murders Upfield's own account of the murders in the Murchison region Midget Masterpiece Publishing, Sydney, n.d. [1934];

1st US Edition: (pirated) Dennis McMillan, Miami Beach, 1987.

Wings Above the Diamantina Lake Eyre region Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1936; 2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1940

1st UK Edition: Hamilton, London, n.d. [1937] – as Winged Mystery 1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1943 – as Wings Above the Claypan

Mr. Jelly's Business Takes place at Burracoppin and Merredin east of Perth in the Wheat Belt of Western Australia along the rabbit-proof fence. The railway station in the story map and the water pipe have changed little since Upfield's day (he worked clearing brush in Burracoppin). Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1937; 2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1964

1st UK Edition: Hamilton, London, 1938 1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1943 – as Murder Down Under

Winds of Evil Silverton, New South Wales and the nearby Barrier Range which is north and east of Broken Hill Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1937; 2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1961

1st UK Edition Hutchinson, London, n.d. [1939] 1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1944

The Bone is Pointed "Opal Town" or Opalton, Queensland in the Channel Country of the Diamantina River Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1938; 2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1966

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

The Mystery of Swordfish Reef Takes place from Bermagui, New South Wales; the reef extends from Montague Island. The plot is based on the 1880 disappearance of the geologist Lamont Young near Mystery Bay, New South Wales.[13] Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1939; Aust. Book Club Edition:Readers Book Club, Melbourne, 1963

1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1960; UK Book Club Edition: The Companion Book Club, London, 1963; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1971 1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1943

Bushranger of the Skies Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1940; 2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1963

1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Book Club, New York, 1944 – as No Footprints in the Bush

Death of a Swagman Lake Mungo in south-western New South Wales 1st Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1947; 2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1962

1st UK Edition: Aldor, London, 1946 Doubleday/Crime Book Club, New York, 1945; US Book Club Edition: Unicorn Mystery Book Club, New York, 1946

The Devil's Steps Set in a fictional mountain resort called Mount Chalmers, similar to the Dandenong Ranges on the eastern edge of Melbourne, Victoria (most probably in the vicinity of Mt Dandenong, but with some similarities to One Tree Hill in Ferny Creek), and also in Melbourne City and its suburbs South Yarra and Coburg. 1st Australian Edition: Invincible Press, Sydney, n.d. [1950–1953]; 2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1965

1st UK Edition: Aldor, London, 1948 Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1946; US Book Club Edition: Unicorn Mystery Book Club, New York, 1946

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 Set mostly in the Grampians mountain range in western Victoria. 1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1952; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)

Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1948; US Book Club Edition: Unicorn Mystery Book Club, New York, 1948

The Widows of Broome Set in Broome, Western Australia 1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1951; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1967

Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1950; US Book Club Edition: Dollar Mystery Guild, New York, 1950

The Bachelors of Broken Hill Broken Hill, New South Wales 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 Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1950; US Book Club Edition: Detective Book Club, New York, 1951

The New Shoe Aireys Inlet; The Split Point Lighthouse and Broken Rock[14] 1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1952; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1968

Doubleday/Crime Book Club, New York, 1951

Venom House Set in and around "Edison", the real-life Elston, on the swampy coast south of Brisbane.(The name was later changed as Surfers Paradise) long before it became a tourist resort. 1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1953; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1970

Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1952; US Book Club Edition: Unicorn Mystery Club, New York, 1952

Murder Must Wait "Mitford", New South Wales, which is approximately where real-life Wentworth is located. Various references indicate far west of New South Wales. 1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1953; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)

Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1953; US Book Club Edition: Detective Book Club, New York, 1953

Death of a Lake Near Menindee, New South Wales Heinemann, London, 1954

1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1954

Sinister Stones Kimberley region of Western Australia "Agar's Lagoon" is Hall's Creek. 1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1955 – as Cake in the Hat Box; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)

Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1954

The Battling Prophet The Murray River Heinemann, London, 1956; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)
The Man of Two Tribes Nullarbor Plain 1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1956 – as Man of Two Tribes; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)

Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1956

The Bushman Who Came Back Lake Eyre region 1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1957 – as Bony Buys a Woman

Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1957

Follow My Dust! Heinemann, London, 1957
Bony and the Black Virgin; also published as The Torn Branch "Lake Jane", a fictional lake in the Murray-Darling Basin[15] 1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1959; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)
Journey to the Hangman "Daybreak", a fictional mining town 150 miles (240 km) from Laverton, Western Australia 1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1959 – as Bony and the Mouse; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)

Doubleday/Crime Club, New York. 1959

Valley of Smugglers; also published as Bony and the Kelly Gang Possibly set in a town and valley similar to Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales not far from Bowral where Upfield lived for the last years of his life.[16] However, Robertson on the top of the escarpment, which is known for its potatoes, is also possible.

The waterfall may be Fitzroy Falls in Morton National Park.[15]

Narrates some episodes of the Ned Kelly true history.

1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1960 – as Bony and the Kelly Gang; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)

Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1960; US Book Club Edition: Detective Book Club, New York, n.d. [1960]

The White Savage Timbertown is a light disguise of Pemberton, a timber town in the south-west of Western Australia. 1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1961 – as Bony and the White Savage; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)

Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1961

The Will of the Tribe Wolfe Creek crater[15] First UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1962

Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 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

[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.]

Lake Frome, South Australia Heinemann, London, 1966; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)
Breakaway House Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1987
The Great Melbourne Cup Mystery ETT Imprint, Watson's Bay, Sydney, 1996

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Petri Liukkonen (2003). "Arthur Upfield (1890*–1964)". Books and Writers. www.kirjasto.sci.fi. Retrieved 14 January 2006.  (Although some authorities give his birth date as 1888, his birth certificate is reported to state 1890.)
  2. ^ a b "The Arthur Upfield Mystery – Bony (transcript of radio show 12 May 2002)". Radio National, Books and Writing. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2002. Retrieved 16 January 2006. 
  3. ^ Walker, Terry (1993). Murder on the Rabbit Proof Fence: The strange case of Arthur Upfield and Snowy Rowles. Carlisle, Western Australia: Hesperian Press. ISBN 0-85905-189-7. 
  4. ^ "First World War Unit Embarkation Rolls (search for Arthur Upfield)". Nominal rolls. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 3 February 2006. 
  5. ^ Upfield, Arthur (19 April 1934). "One Digger's War". Melbourne Herald.  Copy of article with Upfield's World War 1 Military Records held by the National Archives of Australia.
  6. ^ a b Jonathan Vos Post (2004). "Arthur Upfield". Periodic Table of Mystery Authors. Magic Dragon Multimedia. Retrieved 15 January 2006. 
  7. ^ a b c Peter Pierce, ed. (1987). The Oxford Literary Guide to Australia. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. pp. 30, 33, 302. 
  8. ^ Kees de Hoog (2004). "Arthur W. Upfield, Creator of Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte (Bony) of the Queensland Police". Collecting Books and Magazines. www.collectingbooksandmagazines.com/. Retrieved 9 February 2006. 
  9. ^ "Arthur Upfield". Bookorphanage.com. Retrieved 9 August 2009. 
  10. ^ "Boney". Classicaustraliantv.com. Archived from the original on 13 September 2009. Retrieved 9 August 2009. 
  11. ^ Barry John Watts. "Arthur Upfield and Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte of the Queensland Police". Pegasus Book Orphanage. Archived from the original on 26 February 2006. Retrieved 15 January 2006. 
  12. ^ "'Beach of Atonement' Discussion Forum". Famous Folk Arthur W. Upfield Discussion Forum. www.proboards.com. Retrieved 5 February 2006. 
  13. ^ "Bermagui". Travel. Fairfax Digital. 2004. Archived from the original on 27 April 2006. Retrieved 17 May 2006. 
  14. ^ N.L. Nicholson (2003). "Images of the Lighthouse and Eagle Rock featuring in Upfield's Novel, "The New Shoe"". Dingo's Breakfast Club: Australian Natural History; Human ecological context for the "Bony" mysteries by Arthur William Upfield. nicholnl.wcp.muohio.edu. Archived from the original on 4 January 2006. Retrieved 5 February 2006. 
  15. ^ a b c N.L. Nicholson (2003). "Australian Natural History; Human ecological context for the "Bony" mysteries by Arthur William Upfield". Dingo's Breakfast Club. nicholnl.wcp.muohio.edu. Retrieved 5 February 2006. 
  16. ^ "The Wild, Wombat's Wonderings!Part 4 [sic]". (Journal of trip to Australia in 1999–2000). The Latham-Albany-Schenectady-Troy Science Fiction Association. 2000. Archived from the original on 15 January 2006. Retrieved 5 February 2006. 

Further reading[edit]

de Hoog, Kees & Hetherington, Carol (editors) (2012). Investigating Arthur Upfield: A Centenary Collection of Critical Essays. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 978-1443834520. These critical essays mark the centenary of Upfield's arrival in Australia from England on 4 November 1911.

External links[edit]