Secondhand Rows 

Join Stephen Reid, our secondhand maestro, every month here as he takes a closer look at a couple of titles from his shelves.

Bony with some light chipping

 - Monday, February 03, 2014
English born writer and bushman Arthur William Upfield (1890-1964) emigrated to Australia in 1911 aged 19. He spent three years roaming the outback and served in the Ambulance Corps in the Great War. Upon returning to Australia in 1921, Upfield took up bush work beginning in Western Australia. Encouraged by the station-owner of a Darling run in New South Wales, he began to write and soon turned to the popular genre of crime fiction. His first novel The Barrakee Mystery (1929) introduced the character of detective Napoleon Bonaparte, a part-Aborigine who had graduated from the University of Queensland. 'Bony' was based upon the part-Aborigine Leon Wood, a skilled tracker and friend.
Twenty nine Bony titles were written in the following 25 years. Meticulously plotted and written with a dry, austere style, they were notable for Upfield's descriptive passages of the desert landscape and his knowledge of Aborigine tribal lore and custom.
The plot of one book, The Sands of Windee (1931) gained notoriety when it was used by murderer Snowy Rowles, an itinerant stockman—in the so-called Murchison Murders—to dispose of his three victims  in Western Australia.
By 1943 Upfield was a full-time writer, his novels being especially popular in Britain and the United States. I can testify to his popularity in the UK over 45 years later. In 1989 while in London, I got a job in a second hand bookshop. Part of my task was to re-organise and cull the somewhat dated stock. On the shelves were literally dozens of paperback copies of Upfield's novels—various editions dating from the early 1950s to the late 1970s. I said to my boss that here might be a good place to start culling  and was met with the firm reply: 'No, no! Keep Upfield! He still sells!'
He was right. There were a steady stream of customers requesting Upfield titles. In fact he formed one third of Australian authors most Brits asked for—the other two being Ion Idriess and Neville Shute. In an interview published in 1954, Upfield claimed 'I'm not a literary figure and don't want to be'. He was 'a storyteller, first and last'.
The last of his Bony titles, The Lake Frome Monster (1966), was completed from his notes by J. L. Price and Dorothy Strange. A quartet of Bony titles have arrived in our Shop. Paperbacks with some light chipping on the spines otherwise in Good condition. All with suitably striking cover artwork. $15 each.
The Bone Is Pointed. 1960 reprint. Originally published 1938.
Bony and the White Savage. 1964 reprint. Originally published 1961.
Cake in the Hat Box. 1958 reprint. Originally published 1955.
Murder Must Wait. 1958 reprint. Originally published 1953.

POSTCRIPT : These have now all sold. The quick and the dead!