Thursday, December 15, 2016


Arthur W. Upfield’s An Author Bites the Dust (1948) is a wonderfully crafted story.

The motive for murder is literary, and Upfield himself surely had a lot invested in what he wrote.

At one point in the story, Australia’s Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte (Bony) asks an intelligent friend about a popular novel. She says of the author, “He can paint word pictures and tell a story, but he lacks the gift of taking pains.”

She says a gift with language, the ability to tell a story, and enough dedication to take the pains to write a good story are three things needed for great literature.

In this book, Bony investigates the murder of a critic who failed as a novelist. His death appears to have come about because of natural causes. He is a man who spent his life attempting to destroy commercial writing, well-written popular writing.

In the end, his snobbery was his undoing. In exposing the murderer, Bony reveals the victim’s hypocrisy.

All this has to do with literature. What is great literature? Can commercially successful books also be great literature? And is there a band of snobbish critics who promote poorly written non-selling books over best sellers? (Surely the popular author Arthur W. Upfield had strong feelings about all this!)

The murderer in An Author Bites the Dust has a literary motive. The murderer’s method is unusual, but Upfield assures us that such a method does exist.

As the story unfolds, the murderer kills a second man. Then the murderer attempts to murder Bony.

Bony uses his tracking skills, even in this mostly non-rural setting in Victoria near Mt. Donna Buang.

An Author Bites the Dust has Upfield’s usual detailed descriptions of nature and of inside settings.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. I always enjoy reading about Bony.


Bernadette said...

I've been re-connecting with Upfield myself recently and finding it easier going than I did in my youth (when I was full of self-righteousness)...this one sounds like a good one for me to track down

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading my first Upfield book...."Winds of Evil". I found it enjoyable, but long....the only Upfield book that I can get from my library.

Joe Barone said...

Thanks for the comment. They are always long. The best one I've read so far is THE BONE IS POINTED.