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From Convicts to Contemporary Convictions: Two Hundred Years of Australian Crime Fiction

Stephen Knight


European Australia began in 1788 as an English jail, and from 1818 novels and stories appeared locally and in London about escaped convicts acting against free settlers, and sometimes Indigenous people resisting the taking of their land. Gold, discovered in 1851, brought new stories and locations, including suddenly rich Melbourne, and past convicts and bushrangers were recreated sympathetically as a tough, independent national image. Twentieth-century fiction continued to feature the crime novel and the bush detective; police remained unpopular, but some mid-century women writers used them before moving on to strong psychothrillers, while American war-time presence led to popular private-eye fiction. Both the imperial weight of London publishing and local literary prejudice made Australian crime fiction little known at home, but this changed by 1980, and well-recognised local crime writing and publishing has strongly developed. Private eyes, both men and women and even police detectives are well-known, crime novels and psychothrillers are flourishing, many contemporary issues are debated in the genre, including Indigenous writers and their concerns.


Australian literature; Australian crime fiction; National socio-cultural analysis ; Popular literature and its contemporary contexts

Full Text:



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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/ling-2017-002-knig

Copyright (©) 2018 Stephen Knight – Editorial format and Graphical layout: copyright (©) LED Edizioni Universitarie


Linguæ & - Rivista di lingue e culture moderne
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (06/04/2012 n. 185)
Online ISSN 1724-8698 - Print ISSN 2281-8952

Dipartimento di Scienze della Comunicazione, Studi Umanistici e Internazionali: Storia, Culture, Lingue, Letterature, Arti, Media
Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo

Editor-in-Chief: Roberta Mullini
Editorial Board: Maurizio Ascari - Stefano Beretta - Antonio Bertacca- Tania Collani - Chiara Elefante - Marina Guglielmi - Maryline Heck - Richard Hillman - Reinhard Johler - Stephen Knight - Cesare Mascitelli - Sonia Massai - Aurélie Moioli - Maria de Fátima Silva - Bart Van Den Bossche 

Editorial Staff: Margaret Amatulli - Alessandra Calanchi - Riccardo Donati - Ivo Klaver  - Massimiliano Morini - Antonella Negri - Luca Renzi

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