Also writes as: Bant Singer ; Timer ; O. D. ; Mat's Mate
Born: Established: 10 Aug 1900 South Melbourne South Melbourne - Port Melbourne area Melbourne - Inner South Melbourne Victoria ; Died: Ceased: 1 Aug 1955 Sydney New South Wales
Charles Herbert Shaw was the third child of Frederick Francis Shaw, a Tasmanian horse trainer, and his wife, Mary nee Murphy from South Australia. From about 1904 the Shaw family struggled to survive on a small wheat-farm near Beulah in the Mallee district. When they moved to St Arnaud, Shaw briefly attended the high school, but after his father died in 1914 he had to fend for himself. He struggled to make a living according to Rutledge by 'driving horse lorries, pruning, ploughing, harvesting, clearing and fencing, dairying . . . and lumping goods in a railway yard'. During the Depression he travelled over 2,000 miles around south-eastern Australia.
While working on a sheep station in New South Wales, Shaw helped to found an Australian Rules team at Forbes in 1931. One of its members, the co-proprietor of the Forbes Advocate, encouraged him to write, then gave him a job. In 1932 he married Phoebe McLachlan, a schoolteacher, in Sydney. Nancy Keesing (q.v.) remembers the 1930s in these terms: 'Nor can one know how many good books were "lost" during the depression, either because their authors could not afford time or energy for writing, or dissipated their talent writing hack work for quick cash, as did my friends Gertrude Scarlett, Charles Shaw and Eric Schlunke (qq.v.) - though Shaw and Schlunke wrote substantial works after World War II' (208-209).
Shaw moved to Sydney in 1939 to work on the Farmer and Settler, but soon joined the staff of the Sydney Bulletin. As its rural editor, he wrote under different pen-names on a variety of subjects. He also wrote sketches and verse based on his outback experiences. During World War II he published two collections of short stories, Outback Occupations (1943) and A Sheaf of Shorts (1944), a volume of verse, The Warrumbungle Mare (1943), a detective story, Who Could Hate Purcey? (1944), and two adventure stories for his sons, The Green Token (1943) and The Treasure of the Hills (1944). Shaw also wrote People at Work: The Man in the Country (1944-1946?), a discussion pamphlet for the Australian Army Education Service.
The Bulletin staff had low rates of pay, but less pressure of work than those in daily journalism. Nancy Keesing remembers: 'They were their own bosses and could apportion their time to suit their own pace of writing and interest. Whether or not Charles Shaw wrote his novels in the office, I do not know' (108). After publishers rejected several of his manuscripts, Shaw decided that the outback was 'too parochial to hold much interest for people outside Australia'. His next book, Heaven Knows, Mister Allison (1952), was a novel about an American marine and a nun, stranded on a Pacific island during World War II, who formed an improbable alliance against the Japanese. It became an international best seller and a film of the novel, Heaven Knows, Mr Allison, was released by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation in 1957, starring Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum. He is reputed to have sold the film rights for $US25,000. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
Meanwhile, as 'Bant Singer', he published an action-packed detective story, typed for him by Nancy Keesing: You're Wrong, Delaney (1953) was set in an Australian country town and centred on Dennis Delaney, Shaw's strong-arm investigator, 'a two-fisted, fast-living Australian'. Written in 'terse, laconic prose', the book was an immediate success and his publisher, Collins, hailed him as a successor to the late Peter Cheyney. It was followed by Don't Slip, Delaney and Have Patience, Delaney! (1954). The pseudonym Bant Singer was derived from his favourite car, a Bantam Singer (Loder). The pressure of success proved too much for Shaw; he died of a stroke at the age of fifty-five. He was survived by his wife and two sons.
(Source: Adapted from Nancy Keesing Riding the Elephant (1988); John Loder Australian Crime Fiction: A Bibliography 1857-1993 (1994): 214; Martha Rutledge, 'Shaw, Charles Herbert (1900 - 1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, MUP, 2002, pp 218-219).