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Crime in the outback

The crime fiction genre is littered with offshoots about all manner of crime and thriller related topics. From detective stories and legal/courtroom dramas, to hard boiled noir, suspense and even horror. Throw in a bit of sex and you’ll cover romance as well! 

Location and settings are just as diverse as the genre itself; the snowfields of Sweden, ancient cobblestoned laneways of London, gritty backstreets of New York or LA, the wide plains of Texas and the island paradise of the Bahamas. 

Drill down even more to Australian crime fiction and you’ll discover tales of city gang wars, murders on the Great Barrier Reef and madmen stalking dusty country roads. As an author, you can take your pick. Of course, one doesn’t have to specialise, but most have a general area of interest. For the reader too, there’s a hell of a lot to choose from!

But for me, writing (what I loosely call) outback crime/detective stories is not so much about the setting (which, by the way, is not always the “outback”) but about the characters. The “bushies,” the country folk, the fellas out west. They’re a different breed. Not better. Not worse. Just different. 

I’ve spent most of my life living and working in non metropolitan areas. The call of the bush is one that only a country bloke or lass knows. Wide open spaces, a Milky Way that you can actually see and the scent of clean eucalyptus (or cow shit, depending on where you are). A quick “whattayaknow” and the one fingered steering wheel wave tops it off for me. I’m home. 

But like everywhere, crime doesn’t discriminate according to setting. I love reading about crime in the bush. Stories like Jane Harper’s The Dry, Kenneth Cook’s Wake in Fright, Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock and a host of others ignite the senses and take readers to parts of Australia beyond the skyscrapers and city traffic. And that’s the point, isn’t it?. To take a reader somewhere they’ve never been.  Or take them back there. 

My debut novel, Bordertown, showcases the characters and landscapes of north western New South Wales and western Queensland. And the realities of being a cop in that frontier country in the 1980’s, a time before either state had it’s groundbreaking Royal Commission. If nothing else, I’m hopeful it’s an entertaining story that will raise a few eyebrows. And give an insight into life in the bush.

What’s also exciting is the emergence of this sub-genre, both in literature and film/TV. ABC’s upcoming television drama Mystery Road – based on the Ivan Sen movie – is a good example. Every week I’m discovering a new Australian authors writing yarns about crime in Australia. 

So next time you’re in your local bookstore, ask for Australian crime fiction and give it a go. If you’re like me, you’ll get hooked and keep wanting more. 

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