Inspiration, This Writer's Life, Up Close & Personal

A Special Place.

A Special PlaceAs a child, my family and I would make regular trips down the south coast of New South Wales. I enjoyed being outside, and despite my fair skin, would spend many hours under the hot, Australian sun.

Back then, the caravan park in which we stayed was basic in its facilities. Toilets were little more than a hole in the ground. We were thankful for electricity, but we cooked on a gas stove until we eventually ‘upgraded’ and installed an old fashioned fuel stove outside. To have a hot shower, one needed to be quick; one needed to place a certain amount of money into a machine to get a hot shower that lasted five minutes. You needed to keep your eye on the clock and have a steady supply of loose change.

Campers could camp anywhere, and our caravan was perfectly situated directly opposite the beach. It was not uncommon to spend the morning at the beach, go back ‘home’ when you were hungry and then back to the beach again.

To break this monotony, my sisters and I would go for walks with our mother, either exploring rock pools or go on bush walks. It was here that I discovered the wonders of the Australian bush. One regular spot we would visit was a magical place for me. The trees were so tall and closely compacted, that it allowed very little sunlight to filter through. Images of Hansel and Gretel or strange beasts lurking further amongst the shadows entered my mind. We would always stop at one particular place and turn back, yet I always wondered what lay beyond in the distance, where the darkness seemed to go on indefinitely. The atmosphere and the silence fueled my imagination and I was always disappointed to turn back towards civilisation.

On the drive back to our true home in suburban Sydney, we would pass acres of farmland, and I could never decide where I wanted to live; country, bush or beach. I have since lived in the bush of the Blue Mountains and currently reside in the country (my last home the beach?), but there has always been the certainty that being out with nature is my special place. As a writer I enjoy the silence, being alone with my thoughts and my muse. Over the years I have discovered that setting and sense of place is important to my stories. These days, whenever I need to feel inspired, I just have to walk out my back door.

Do you have a special place? Do you enjoy the outdoors; maybe even ‘roughing it’? If you’re a writer, what do you do to find your ‘muse’? What do you prefer – the bush, the beach or the country?

Image by Debbie Johansson

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