Books · Crime & Mystery · Movies/Television

Discovering Agatha Christie.

For months now I have been watching a lot of Agatha Christie – mainly Poirot and Miss Marple. I admit I’ve been pretty late on jumping onto the Agatha Christie bandwagon. The main reason, and perhaps foolishly, is because I was never interested in the time period her novels are set. Since watching Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries, my opinions about that time period have changed; so too my interest in Agatha Christie.

Until her death a few years back, my mother-in-law was a great reader. Her bookshelves are filled with crime novels, so I have a ready-made library close at hand. Part of her collection includes the entire set of Agatha Christie novels. It was not until Poirot and Miss Marple appeared on television almost simultaneously some months back that I decided to take a look. As a result, I ended up watching every single one and I’d get quite narky if I missed an episode! I love both these characters with their little idiosyncrasies – something I applaud the actors portraying them doing so vividly. I cannot imagine anyone other than David Suchet as Hercule Poirot (and yes, I did shed a tear at the final Poirot episode, it was very sad 😦 ).

I have watched all the Miss Marple, but my favourite actress in the role is Geraldine McEwan (may she rest in peace). She played the role of a sweet and ‘innocent’ older woman so well. She would sit and knit and every now and again, when she was excited she would make little squeals of delight. My Agatha Christie binge wasn’t just centred upon these two characters. I also watched And Then There Were None. The plot was very intriguing and I enjoyed the various twists and turns throughout, especially the ending.

After all these years, Agatha Christie is regarded as the best-selling novelist of all time and named the ‘Queen of Crime’. Now that I’ve seen the shows, I definitely think it’s long past time I began reading the books. I believe this could take me a few years!

When did you discover Agatha Christie? Have you read all her books? Who is your favourite actor as Poirot and/or Miss Marple? Have you yet to discover Agatha Christie?

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Books · Crime & Mystery · Movies/Television

A Visit to Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Exhibition.

Miss-Phryne-Fisher-miss-fishers-murder-mysteriesDuring a recent visit to Parramatta, a suburb of inner western Sydney, I visited Old Government House; Australia’s oldest surviving public building. It was here that the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Costume Exhibition was being held. This series, based on Kerry Greenwood’s novels and produced by the ABC, have run for two seasons, and there is currently debate on whether there will be a third season*. Fans, like myself, are hoping it will be given a green light, as it has proved popular both here and overseas. This particular period in history had never really held much interest for me, but since watching this show, it has changed my mind.

Set in Melbourne during the 1920s, the creators of the show have done a terrific job of displaying the time period. The costumes on the show, as demonstrated in the exhibition were amazing and I was captivated by the level of detail that went into each piece. Unfortunately, given the delicacy of the walls within Old Government House, flash photography could not be used. I tried to take a photo, but my camera insisted using the flash. It was around the time I also noticed that the battery in my camera was also out of charge, so I guess taking any photos were not meant to be. However, that didn’t stop me from inwardly doing my best Homer Simpson impersonation and cursing myself – ‘Not happy Jan!’Phryne Fisher

The exhibition mainly displayed the costumes worn by Essie Davis as Phryne Fisher, but also on display were some costumes worn by Jack, Dot and Aunt Prudence. As well as clothing, the exhibition featured accessories, including hats, shoes and handbags. There were some costumes that I fell in love with just by seeing them up so close.

If you enjoy the show or are interested in the 1920s or vintage fashion, I highly recommend seeing this exhibition. It has certainly made me appreciate the dedication that goes into making high quality television.

Are you a fan of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and would like to see a third season? Have you visited the exhibition – what are your thoughts? Have you watched or read something that changed your mind regarding a certain period in history? Do you have an appreciation for vintage fashion?

* A month after writing this post, it was announced that a third season of Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries will go into production. Filming is due to begin mid October, 2014. 🙂

Images via the ABC and Fanpop

Crime & Mystery

Alexander Pearce – Australia’s Cannibal Convict.

Imagine yourself in that scene in The Shining where Jack Nicholson is chasing you in the snow and wielding an axe.  Now picture that same scenario within the Australian bush and that the man with the axe is in fact a cannibal.  It may sound like the stuff of nightmares, but Alexander Pearce was Australia’s cannibal convict.

Alexander Pearce escaped from prison in Macquarie Harbour in Tasmania in 1822, along with half a dozen others.  About a week into their journey, three of them left the group. Due to starvation, it was not long afterwards that the remaining members of the group, including Pearce, began killing and eating their fellow inmates. Eventually only Pearce and one other, Greenhill, remained. This resulted in a cat and mouse game, as it was Greenhill who had the axe.  Having lulled Greenhill into a false sense of security, Pearce managed to get hold of the axe and murdered Greenhill.

Pearce had been on the run for 113 days before finally being captured. Despite telling authorities of these events (he was not believed), he was once again imprisoned, only to escape almost a year later. With him this time was another convict by the name of  Thomas Cox.  A few days later, Pearce was discovered alone, claiming that Cox had drowned.  In his pockets, however, were the remains of Thomas Cox, along with other sources of food.  Alexander Pearce was found guilty of murder and was hung on 19 July, 1824.

Not only was he a cannibal, but Alexander Pearce is also considered by some to be Australia’s first serial killer.  He has been immortalised in both film and song, including the award-winning drama The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce.  Somehow, I don’t think the line ‘Here’s Alex’ works quite so well as ‘Here’s Johnny’ don’t you think?

Does the idea of cannibalism frighten you?  Do you think Alexander Pearce was a serial killer? Do you think there should be more axe-wielding maniacs in horror? What’s your favourite scene from The Shining?

Free image by Boaz Yiftach courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Crime & Mystery · Movies/Television

Wolf Creek & Ivan Milat – A Backpacker’s Greatest Nightmare.

Wolf Creek undoubtedly has to be one of the scariest movies I’ve seen in a long time. John Jarrett did a brilliant job in the creepy role of Mick Taylor. If anything was to put off potential tourists to this country, one would only need to watch this movie.

Every summer, in my local caravan park, back-packers arrive to work as fruit pickers. Last summer, I watched as many of them stood by the side of the road and began hitch-hiking.  This became a daily routine of theirs.  I thought to myself ‘haven’t  these people heard of Ivan Milat and Wolf Creek? I don’t know about you, but it would certainly stop me in my tracks! I know for some it is their only means of traveling, and they were fortunate to have been given rides, yet one cannot always be too trusting.

The words ‘Ivan Milat’ and ‘backpackers’ have become synonymous in the Australian psyche. It was during the late 1980s that Ivan Milat began murdering backpackers in Belangalo State Forest in New South Wales. He abducted, sexually molested, tortured and murdered seven people and concealed their bodies, making him one of Australia’s worst serial killers of the 20thcentury. Fortunately his killing spree came to an end in the early 1990s, however his legacy still remains. Which is why it is so creepy watching Wolf Creek.

Now there is the prospect of John Jarrett reprising his role as Mick Taylor – a seriously spooky thought!

Have you ever done any hitch-hiking? Did watching this movie put you off visiting Australia? Are you looking forward to a Wolf Creek sequel?

Images copyright South Australian Film Corporation.

Crime & Mystery · Writing · Writing Treks

Crime Writing with Peter Doyle.

Over the weekend I attended a Crime Writing Workshop with award winning crime writer Peter Doyle.  He is the author of four books, including Crooks Like Us and City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs 1912-1948.  These books were based on extensive research in the forensic photography archive at the Justice and Police Museum in Sydney.

During the workshop, we got to view actual crime scene photos and were given a writing exercise based on a photograph of our choice.  It was great to hear so many different takes on these pictures, which highlighted the great potential for story ideas.  Peter also suggested another source for photographs included Picture Australia, which is part of the National Library of Australia.

Here is a snippet of my take on one particular photograph that aroused my curiosity:-

He walks into the bedroom, seeing the blood upon the sheets.  Large pools soak into both sides of the double bed as if two bodies had once lain there propped up against the pillows.  The light hanging from above ironically reveals the image of a cherub.  He begins to wonder if this is a simple domestic or something more sinister.

Admittedly, we only had about 15 minutes to write it, but it was fun.  Here are some more helpful tips from Peter on crime writing:-

  • Hook the reader in fast and slowly reel them in.
  • Keep it lean and keep it mean.
  • Remove adjectives – it kills visualisation.
  • Visit places like war memorials and cemeteries to find names – you get to see names you don’t really see anymore.
  • Australians haven’t written much about our own past in regards to everyday criminals and everyday people, so there is plenty of stories out there waiting to be told.

My thanks to Peter Doyle and Central West Libraries for a fun, informative workshop which left us all with plenty of scope for story ideas.

Image copyright Justice and Police Museum, Sydney.

Crime & Mystery

The ‘Real Life’ Underbelly & Femme Fatales.

‘Underbelly’, a popular mini-series on Australian television re-told a true gangland war in Melbourne.  However, it wasn’t just Melbourne that was well known for it’s reputation as having a high representation of a certain type of criminal.  Sydney during the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s also comprised of many thieves and con-men.  And the women were just as bad!

Recently I attended an exhibition titled ‘Femme Fatale: The Female Criminal’.  This exhibition is part of the Justice and Police Museum in Sydney, containing images from police files and records, including research from newspapers of the day.  Australia was also the world leader in crime photography during the 1930s and 40s.  You can find out why by visiting their blog, From the Loft, which I’ve since found to be handy for writing prompts.

Here are just some interesting facts I discovered from the exhibition:-

  • Women like Kate Leigh and Tilly Devine were prominent figures in Sydney during this time.  Both women were involved in the sly-grog trade; Kate Leigh was also known to be a cocaine dealer.  They were both brothel owners and therefore, bitter rivals.  They ultimately came to blows during the Sydney razor gang wars.  This episode of Australian history would later be portrayed in Underbelly: Razor.
  • Lillian Armfield became Australia’s first policewoman in 1915.  Having no uniform and carrying a gun in her handbag, her work mainly involved assisting women who were victims of domestic violence.  This type of work would also lead to other cases, including murder, rape, drug-running and the white slave trade.
  • Family friends of Yvonne Fletcher became suspicious after her second husband died in similar circumstances to those of her first husband.  His body was exhumed and traces of thallium, a popular rat poison at the time, was found in his body.  This was also found in the body of her second husband – both were enough to convict her of murder.
  • Perhaps the strangest case of all involved Harry Leo Crawford.  He married his first wife in 1914, only for her to disappear three years later.  He remarried in 1919 and was eventually convicted of murdering his first wife.  What was so unusual about this case was that he was in fact a woman.  Eugenia Falleni successfully managed to convince everyone, including both his wives that he was a man.  It was only after his arrest that his second wife admitted that she thought ‘he was a bit shy’.  The ‘object’ in question was also on display, yet it is believed it could also have been a baton.  Although no expert on these particular ‘objects’ and having seen the one in question I believe this may well be the case.

Delving into such fascinating cases opens many opportunities for crime writers.  The truth is indeed stranger than fiction!

Image copyright Justice and Police Museum, Sydney.