Sunday, 27 April 2014

Who Would Murder a Baby?

It seems like an outlandish question, but that's the title of a very old crime novel written by Australia's first Queen of Crime and mother of six, June Wright. And here's her crisp reply when one (no doubt male) reporter dared to criticise the title:
Pic of Melbourne crime writer June Wright
"Obviously you know nothing of the homicidal instincts sometimes aroused in a mother by her children. After a particularly exasperating day, it is a relief to murder a few characters in your book instead."

I just read this in a Sun-Herald book review and I had to laugh. I'd written a very similar comment a few blogs ago (see: Writing With Kids is Murder, March, 2014) and I can certainly empathise.

Our long-lost Agatha

June Wright (pictured above) is the (now) little-known author of six crime novels set in Melbourne's 1940s, the era in which she was writing. Once a telephonist, she turned her hand to writing when she became a housewife and only gave it up when her husband took ill and she needed to start earning regular income.

Still, she had a degree of popularity, apparently, and was only forgotten over time because, as one recent interviewer, Lucy Sussex, says: "Australia is a very sexist country and we tend to forget women's achievments ... There's always been a tradition of good women's writing but we privilege males. This is a country that's still coming to terms with women's writing, just as it was in her time."

My, how things have changed. Not.

Wright's books are being resurrected by a US publisher (of course!), called Verse Chorus Press. The first is titled Murder in the Telephone Exchange and its protagonist is a fiery telephonist who lives in a South Yarra boarding house. The last three have, of all things, a nun-detective! (I wonder if Amazon have a category to fit that one?!)

I can't wait to get hold of them, if only to see how a woman with six kids (including one with a severe intellectual disability), writing in a time when you still had to get up at dawn and light the copper (whatever the hell that is), managed it!

I won't complain about my lot, quite so much again. (And damn, there go all my excuses.)

Happy reading everyone.

xo Christina

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