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Issue Details: First known date: 2016... 2016 Colonial Australian Detectives, Character Type and the Colonial Economy
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'Crime fiction started early in Australia, emerging out of the experiences of transportation and the convict system at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The first Australian (that is, locally published) novel is generally agreed to be Quintus Servinton (1832), written by Henry Savery, a convicted forger who was transported to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1825 and—convicted once more of forging financial documents—died as a prisoner in Port Arthur in 1842. Quintus Servinton is a kind of semi-autobiographical fantasy that imagines its entrepreneurial protagonist’s redemption: surviving his conviction and jail sentence in order to return to England with his beloved wife. We can note here that it does four important things in terms of the future of crime narratives in Australia. Firstly, it presents colonial Australia as a place already defined by an apparatus of policing, legal systems and governance, where ‘justice’ can at least potentially work to restore an individual’s status and liberty: for example, through convict emancipation. Secondly, it insists that the experience of incarceration and punishment is crucial to that character’s reintegration into respectable life: ‘the stains that had marked him’, we are told, ‘were removed by the discipline he had been made to endure’ (Savery, vol. 3, ch. XIII, n.p.). Thirdly, the novel ties the colonial economy to financial investment and growth on the one hand, and fraud or forgery on the other. These apparent opposites are folded together at the moment of settlement to the extent that the phrase ‘forging the colonial economy’ is a kind of potent double entendre. Prominent transported forgers included the colonial artists Thomas Whatling (transported 1791), Joseph Lycett (transported 1814), Thomas Wainewright (transported 1837) and of course Henry Savery himself. In Savery’s novel, Quintus Servinton is ‘thunderstruck’ when someone explains the conventional distinction between legitimate financial deals and forgeries: ‘You surely do not mean, Sir, it can be a forgery, to issue paper bearing the names of persons who never existed….If that be the case…many commercial men innocently issue forgeries every day of their lives’ (vol. 1, ch. III, n.p.). This takes us to the fourth point: that crime fiction in Australia is also about imposture, where characters do indeed adopt ‘the names of persons who never existed’. The mutability of colonial characters—the question of how real (authentic) or fictional (fraudulent) they might be, and the impacts this has socially and fiscally on the colonial scene—soon becomes a tremendous problem for emergent systems of policing and governance in Australia. As Janet C. Myers notes, ‘the linkage between emigration and crime forged through convict transportation continued to evoke anxieties….The atmosphere in which such anxieties were nurtured was one of rapid social mobility and shifting identities in the Antipodes’ (2009, p. 83).' (Introduction)

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    y separately published work icon New Directions in Popular Fiction : Genre, Distribution, Reproduction Ken Gelder (editor), London : Palgrave Macmillan , 2016 11559068 2016 anthology criticism

    'This book brings together new contributions in Popular Fiction Studies, giving us a vivid sense of new directions in analysis and focus. It looks into the histories of popular genres such as the amatory novel, imperial romance, the western, Australian detective fiction, Whitechapel Gothic novels, the British spy thriller, Japanese mysteries, the 'new weird', fantasy, girl hero action novels and Quebecois science fiction. It also examines the production, reproduction and distribution of popular fiction as it carves out space for itself in transnational marketplaces and across different media entertainment systems; and it discusses the careers of popular authors and the various investments in popular fiction by readers and fans. This book will be indispensable for anyone with a serious interest in this prolific but highly distinctive literary field.' (Publication summary)

    London : Palgrave Macmillan , 2016
    pg. 43-66
Last amended 8 Aug 2017 13:52:14
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