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Saturday, November 05, 2011


Here it is - my sixth post as Writer In Residence on Insideadog! Go on, visit the web site - you know you want to...

The best cover I ever had!

When I was commissioned to write Crime Time: Australians behaving badly for Ford Street Publishing my brief was to do a volume of “Fifty Infamous Australians” to go with Meredith Costain’s Fifty Famous Australians. (“Infamous” means evil, not very famous.)

It was not, repeat, not, going to be a book for homework It was for entertainment. Mind you, when our Legal Studies students were looking for specific crimes, my book came in handy!

.As well as the fifty main stories, there had to be around the same number, or more, of “Did You Know?” boxes.  Plenty to choose from; we’ve had crime here for  centuries, since the ship Batavia was wrecked off the coast of WA in 1629, long before the First Fleet arrived from England in 1788. While the captain went for help in a boat, several of the crew mutinied and killed passengers. There were huge battles going on between mutineers and loyal crew when the captain returned. For the record, there’s plenty of fiction about it, from Gary Crew’s horror novel Strange Objects to Kirsty Eagar’s fabulous Saltwater Vampires, in which the mutineers did it to become vampires and are still around.

 I went for some silly crimes to break up the horrible serial killer ones – like the Russian librarian who rescued her boyfriend from Silverwater prison by helicopter and was identified because of an overdue library video.Then there was the couple who robbed a restaurant in the Dandenongs and escaped with a bag of stale bread rolls – on April Fools’ Day!

While researching Caroline Grills, a dear old granny who poisoned people with her cakes and pikelets and was sentenced to life in prison, I travelled to Northern Territory, where I met an elderly couple in a pub. I mentioned what I was working on and the wife said, “Oh, I met her when I was working in Long Bay jail as a nurse. Such a sweet woman!”

You couldn’t buy that kind of research help!

Looking for an angle to write about career criminal Tony Mokbel, who escaped the country while on bail and was caught in Greece, I went out for coffee one day and opened the newspaper to see a double page spread about that escape, along with all the silliness it involved. There was my angle. I called the chapter “The Adventures of Tony Mokbel” and it finished the book.

 I keep coming across terrific newspaper crime stories and thinking, “Oh, I wish I’d had that for Crime Time!” Still – there are plenty more stories out there for me to tell.


UrbanDragon said...

I'm really enjoying your insideadog posts. There's so much to talk about.

I can't imagine why they'd bother making The Dark Is Rising if they are going to completely change the story.

It sounds like the two times a movie was made of A Wizard of Earthsea, with the story completely changed.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Thanks, Morva! Yes, but at least Earthsea was an American book in the first place. With so many wonderful American stories to tell, why do those film producers have to pinch other people's stories? Do they really think their viewers are fools? The biggest protests I read about that movie were on American blogs!

Nice to know someone is reading my posts there. At least on this blog I can check the stats. :-) With no one commenting there, I have no idea.

UrbanDragon said...

Would you believe that one version of Earthsea was made by Canadians, who gave the solitary Ged a girlfriend to talk to while he was growing up, and the gave the silent Ogion a lot of lines.

The other version was made in Japan and doesn't bear much resemblence to the original at all.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Urk! Sounds dreadful. I do have the animated version somewhere, which I got for a birthday gift, but haven't watched yet. Maybe just as well.