Welcome to the second issue of The Australian Journal of Crime Fiction: a project designed to deliver exciting and innovative scholarship on crime fiction in Australia and around the world. As Alistair Rolls and Marguerite Johnson note, within this issue: “Crime Fiction is now a more than respectable area of scholarly endeavour” (2015). This journal highlights the diversity of these scholarly endeavours.
We begin with the work of Carolyn Beasley, Craig McIntosh and Jason Bainbridge: '"Social consequences be damned, it was money for jam": The Kennett Era, Shane Maloney and the Writer as Vernacular Theorist'. This work highlights Victorian politics in the 1990s and how this political environment provided a platform for crime fiction writer Shane Maloney. Focusing on the last two volumes of the Murray Whelan series, Something Fishy (2002) and Sucked In (2007) the paper identifies the ways in which Maloney engages with both the main tenets of Premier Jeff Kennett’s leadership style and the effects of Kennett’s political and social policies on the wider community. By placing Maloney’s work in the broader contexts of Australian crime fiction, the literature of protest and the politics of the Kennett era, this research suggests such works are as capable of critical reflection and insight as more traditional, or culturally legitimate, forms of theorising through the location of vernacular theory in these texts.
Ideas of a killer’s code are taken up by Jason Bainbridge with his article: 'Seduction of the Serial Killer: Representing Justice with Lecter, Dexter and the Death Note’. Exploring ideas that circulate around the serial killer and how, since Jack the Ripper, the “serial killer has been the monster at the heart of modernity, [a monster that] society has sought to control and understand,” Bainbridge goes on to explore the evolution of this type of murderer and how the serial killer has become increasingly represented as sympathetic, almost seductive. This is demonstrated through an analysis of the serial killer in popular culture, killers almost as well known as Jack the Ripper, such as Hannibal (2001), Dexter (2006-2013) and the central figure in Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s 2003 manga Death Note. The central theme is an argument that the serial killer maintains a position emblematic of the contradictions in modernity and speaks to ongoing tensions between law and justice.
Our third article: ‘Getting under the Skin to Read the Signs: The Call of Classical Myths and Mysteries in Leigh Redhead’s Peepshow’, comes from Alistair Rolls and Marguerite Johnson. Rolls and Johnson contribute to the debate on the origins of modern crime fiction through an outline of the interconnection of ancient myth and the contemporary crime story. This is achieved through a clever case study of Leigh Redhead’s Peepshow (2004) that posits Redhead as “at all times a consummate, and self-conscious, performer of Crime Fiction.” In keeping with the genre of gritty, detective novels, Peepshow is a “realistic, colloquial read, complete with lots of sleaze, sex, drugs and thugs.” Yet, as this article demonstrates, the work offers a series of classical references and allusions, some overt and clearly intentional, others potentially more a product of the reader’s imagination or the author’s unconscious. In this way this article asks questions as diverse as: Why crime fiction?; and What’s on the page for the Classically-educated reader?
Phryne Fisher and other Fantasies: The Female Detective in History
In addition, this issue of The Australian Journal of Crime Fiction, presents two papers, which resulted from the inaugural Historical Novel Society Australasia conference held this year in Sydney. Supported by Swinburne University, this conference saw a panel of academics (Wendy J. Dunn, Kelly Gardiner, Rachel Franks, Rachel Le Rossignol and Diane Murray) discuss the honorable Miss Phryne Fisher and the female detective in history. During a lively panel discussion, expertly chaired by Diane Murray, Rachel Le Rossignol established that the female detective in history was well and truly rooted in reality whilst Rachel Franks and Kelly Gardiner offered a first taste of papers now published in this journal.
Rachel Franks’ paper, co-written with Toni Johnson-Woods, entitled: ‘Phryne Fisher: Feminism and Modernism in Historical Crime Fiction’, sets out the history of the unforgettable and delightful Miss Fisher, from the time this liberated, sensual, slender, stunningly dressed woman – red woollen coat with an astrakhan collar, Russian leather boots and gloves – first stepped into Kerry Greenwood’s imagination, becoming a vivid construction of the written word in twenty novels, to her later rebirth in the media of television. Franks and Johnson-Woods reveal Miss Fisher as "quintessentially Australian". Perhaps this is not surprising when you consider that Miss Fisher birthed into her author’s mind on a Melbourne tram.
Kelly Gardiner sets out another type of overview – how Greenwood’s construction of Miss Fisher can be identified as fulfilling one of the vital archetypes in crime and mystery writing: ‘The Female Gentleman’. ‘The Female Gentleman’ breaks through the glass ceiling of a male-dominated world, with Gardiner proving: “that female sleuths could be rational and effective – and equal in intellect to their male counterparts. Her most adventurous, effective, ironic, and impeccably dressed descendant is, of course, Phryne Fisher. She smokes, drives, enchants, rescues damsels in distress (and herself), follows her own code of honour, and banters with artists as well as sportsmen and police officers”.
The Honourable Miss Fisher is an unforgettable, indomitable character, loved by readers since 1989. As these two essays demonstrate, she also a subject we can learn much from through academic study.
The articles outlined above are supplemented by several interviews. Angela Savage talks to Nick Temelkovski about the themes and research in her novel The Dying Beach. Carolyn Beasley interviews the increasingly popular Lenny Bartulin. And Amanda Frost catches up with David Whish-Wilson, writer of the Frank Swann series and Elizabeth Heiter creator of the Profiler series, featuring protagonist Evelyn Baine.
So – via a significant politician, serial killers, strippers, a dashingly dressed Lady Detective/Female Gentleman and several popular crime fiction writers – this issue of The Australian Journal of Crime Fiction demonstrates the diversity of scholarship in this continually expanding, and always fascinating, field of fiction.
Rachel Franks and Wendy J. Dunn
The Australian Journal of Crime Fiction
Vol 1 No 2 2015
Editors: Rachel Franks and Wendy J. Dunn