Saturday, 25 October 2008

The Sands of Windee

Thanks to Jamie Sturgeon, I’ve finally acquired a paperback I’ve had my eye on (but found rather elusive) for several years. It is The Sands of Windee, by the Australian author Arthur Upfield.

I first became aware of this novel when researching for my book about true crime cases, Urge To Kill, which includes a section on ‘murder inspired by crime fiction’. In 1929, Upfield was working on a book which needed the victim’s body to be destroyed so that it was not identifiable. He discussed the problem with his mates (as you do) and it was suggested that the victim should be shot and then burned on a wood fire. The culprit could return to the fire later and sift through the ashes, removing and destroying any evidence.

Three years later, John Thomas Smith (who used the marvellous alias of Snowy Rowles) was charged with a similar murder and Upfield was called to give evidence at the trial of the conversation, in which Snowy had taken part. His testimony was controversial, and arguably irrelevant, but Snowy was found guilty, all the same.

It’s a story that has long fascinated me. It will be interesting to see whether The Sands of Windee, which uses the method that Upfield discussed with Snowy, is equally memorable.

10 comments:

Barrie said...

I try to read an Australian author from time to time. I'm not sure whether I'll be able to find this book, but must give it a go.

Kerrie said...

I'll be interested in reading your review of the book Martin. Have you read much Upfield?

Martin Edwards said...

Kerrie, I tried one or two books by Upfield long ago, but found the writing a bit dry and the plots not quite twisty enough for me. But that was a teenager's judgement and he deserves another look, I feel sure.

Kerrie said...

You may find a few "politically-incorrect" things in the novel(s) by today's standards. He is not generally read here now.
I too read him decades ago.
I think your reason for reading this particular one is interesting Martin. Not a story I was familiar with.

Philip said...

I'm delighted to see Upfield get a mention here, as, indeed, your nods to crime writers of yore always delight me. Happy memories. The Winds of Sandee is on H.R.F. Keating's list of 100 Best Crime and Mystery stories. I read all the Bony books years ago, and would read them again if I could get hold of them. The quality is somewhat variable, but so is that of many more famous series, and at their best they are first-class. I am sure there are things that would seem politically incorrect by the measures of today, but Upfield's sympathy for the aboriginal people was immense, and his observations upon their status, the 'clash of civilizations', Bony's own dilemmas as he straddles the divide, show him to be an immensely humanistic writer.

Martin Edwards said...

I'm looking forward to reading this one and you can be sure, Philip, that there will be plenty more about the older writers coming soon.

Taylor Media said...

3 Acts of Murder is an Australian produced telemovie which is set for broadcast on the ABC in Australia this year on Sunday, 14 June at 8:30 pm. It deals specifically with the story of Snowy Rowles and Arthur Upfield at the time of writing The Sands of Windee. A website specific to the TV drama will be launched soon, but please see:

http://www.taylormedia.com.au/

for current updates. Hope this is of interest.

Mack said...

Martin,
I just read this book and wonder what you thought of it. Personally, I enjoyed it though the mystery isn't all that challenging and the language a bit stilted and the love story melodramatic. I like his descriptions of life on a station and the way he treats the character of Bony. Windee is also interesting because of The Murchison Murders as you mentioned.

Martin Edwards said...

I'm not a huge fan of Upfield's plots, Mack, but I do think he is quite important in the history of the genre and his love of the country shines through.

Mack said...

Martin, I agree about the plots. I do like the way his love of the country and the people who work the stations come through. And the fact that someone tried to act out one of his plot devices is interesting. I'm trying to get a copy of The Murchison Murders though my library.