Indigenous Australian Detective Fiction as Political Writing

Indigenous Australian Detective Fiction as Political Writing

Nicole Anae (Central Queensland University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9444-4.ch001

Abstract

Indigenous voices emerged within Australian detective fiction with the greatest clarity in the 1990s. This chapter examines the figure of the Indigenous Aboriginal detective created by Indigenous writers as an underrepresented character and speaking subject within Australian detective fiction that both traverses and disrupts conventional elements of literary style. Certainly, the conventional characteristic elements of crime genre are present within detective fiction written by Indigenous writers, but this literary post-colonialist analysis explores how Indigenous writers such as Mudrooroo (“The Westralian,” “The Healer,” and “Home on the Range”), Philip McLaren (Scream Black Murder), and Sally Morgan (My Place) juxtaposed elements of style to both highlight constructs of reality in Australian detective fiction while simultaneously providing fresh perspectives on both the Indigenous detective as a figure of political interest and Australian Indigenous detective fiction as political writing.
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The Indigenous Aboriginal Detective: A Literary Overview

A number of unique voices effectively co-opted the genre of contemporary Australian crime fiction for Indigenous title during the 1990s. Works by Philip McLaren, Mudrooroo, and Sally Morgan, among others, contributed to the liberation of the formerly displaced Indigenous voice in the realisation of Indigenous detectives as strong protagonists of a particular literary type. These writers, then as now, occupy unique positions as Indigenous Australians and as internationally published authors of fiction. Their works remain the focus of robust and extensive critical review and literary enquiry because their perspectives effectively explore postcolonialism from the inside-out. The novels and short stories under examination here bear out both a patriotic obligation to Aboriginal Australians and an ongoing engagement with the complexities of Aboriginal cultures while simultaneously moving the genre of crime fiction forward by situating Aboriginal protagonists at the forefront of crime detection. Importantly, these literary protagonists—Gary and Lisa in Scream Black Murder (1995), Sally Morgan in My Place (1989) and Detective Watson Holmes Jackamara in “Westralian Lead” (1990), “The Healer” (1991) and “Home on the Range” (1993)—also offer original counterpoints to the “black-tracker” construction in Anglo-Celtic crime fiction; those stories feature real-life individuals and actual investigations.

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