popular but forgotten Australian writers – Arthur W. Upfield

In a recent comment by Roy mention was made of popular Australian writers of the past such as Nevil Shute, Morris West and John Cleary. I’d add Arthur W. Upfield to that list. Upfield’s Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte mysteries were immensely popular from the late 1920s up to at least the 1970s. They now seem to be out of print.

Upfield’s books enjoyed considerable international success at the time.

The Bony books, dealing with a half-Aboriginal detective, might not satisfy modern standards of political correctness although in fact there’s nothing even remotely racist about them. On the other hand Upfield carefully refrained from the modern practice of lecturing his readers.

The novels formed the basis of a successful (and extremely good) 1970s Australian television series, Boney, which now seems to have vanished without trace. I’m not even sure if the series survives but it certainly hasn’t been released on DVD.

James Laurenson as Boney in the TV series

The TV series caused some minor angst because a white New Zealander, James Laurenson, was cast in the title role. In fact the producers tried to find a suitable half-Aboriginal actor but without success.

I’ve just posted a review of one of the more celebrated Bony mysteries, Wings Above the Diamantina, at my Vintage Pop Fictions blog. Here’s the link.

Both the novels and the TV series are a great deal of fun.

As for Nevil Shute, I think No Highway is an absolutely superb novel. I think I read most of his books years ago.

I know I’ve read a couple of Morris West’s books. I’m afraid I’ve never read anything by John Cleary though.
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