|Born||1 September 1890|
Gosport, Hampshire, England
|Died||12 February 1964 (aged 73)|
Bowral, New South Wales
|Notable works||The Sands of Windee (1931)|
Arthur William Upfield (1 September 1890 – 12 February 1964) was an English-Australian writer, best known for his works of detective fiction featuring Detective Inspector Napoleon "Bony" Bonaparte of the Queensland Police Force, a mixed-race Indigenous Australian. His books were the basis for a 1970s Australian television series entitled Boney, as well as a 1990 telemovie and a 1992 spin-off TV series.
Born in England, Upfield moved to Australia in 1911 and fought with the Australian military during the First World War. Following his war service, he travelled extensively throughout Australia, obtaining a knowledge of Australian Aboriginal culture that he would later use in his written works. In addition to writing detective fiction, Upfield was a member of the Australian Geological Society and was involved in numerous scientific expeditions.
In The Sands of Windee, a story about a "perfect murder", Upfield invented a method to destroy carefully all evidence of the crime. Upfield's "Windee method" was used in the Murchison Murders, and because Upfield had discussed the plot with friends, including the man accused of the murders, he was called to give evidence in court. The episode is dramatised in the film 3 Acts of Murder starring Robert Menzies.
Upfield was born in Gosport, Hampshire, England, on 1 September 1890. His father was a draper. In 1911, after he did poorly in examinations towards becoming a real estate agent, Upfield's father sent him to Australia.
With the outbreak of World War I, he joined the First Australian Imperial Force on 23 August 1914. He sailed from Brisbane on 24 September 1914 to Melbourne. At the time of sailing he had the rank of Driver and was with the 1st Light horse Brigade Train (5 Company ASC [Army Service Corps]). In Melbourne he was at a camp for several weeks before sailing to Egypt. He fought at Gallipoli and in France and married an Australian nurse, Ann Douglass, in Egypt in 1915. He was discharged in England on 15 October 1919. Before returning to Australia, Ann gave birth to their only child, James Arthur, born 8 February 1920.
For most of the next 20 years he travelled throughout the outback, working at a number of jobs and learning about Aboriginal cultures. A contributor of an article 'Coming Down with Cattle' to the first edition of Walkabout magazine, he later used the knowledge and material he had gathered in his books. His Bony books were translated into German for the Goldmanns Taschenkrimi Series in the late 50s and early 60s. They were widely read and quite successful.
Upfield created the character of Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte, based on a man known as "Tracker Leon", whom he said he had met in his travels. Leon was supposedly a half-caste employed as a tracker by the Queensland Police. He was also said to have read Shakespeare and a biography of Napoleon, and to have received a university education. However, there is no evidence that any such person ever existed. The novels featuring Bony, as the detective was also known, were far more successful than any other writings by Upfield.
Late in life Upfield became a member of the Australian Geological Society, involved in scientific expeditions. He led a major expedition in 1948 to northern and western parts of Australia, including the Wolfe Creek Crater, which was a setting for his novel The Will of the Tribe published in 1962.
After living at Bermagui, New South Wales, Upfield moved to Bowral. Upfield died at Bowral on 12 February 1964. His last work, The Lake Frome Monster, published in 1966, was completed by J.L. Price and Dorothy Stange.
In 1957, Jessica Hawke published a biography of the author entitled Follow My Dust!. It is generally held, however, that this was written by Upfield himself.
Upfield's novels were held in high regard by some fellow writers. In 1987, H.R.F. Keating included The Sands of Windee in his list of the 100 best crime and mystery books ever published. J.B. Priestley wrote of Upfield: "If you like detective stories that are something more than puzzles, that have solid characters and backgrounds, that avoid familiar patterns of crime and detection, then Mr Upfield is your man." Others have found Upfield's prose stilted. Much of the appeal of Upfield's stories lies in the depiction of outback Australian life in the 1930s through into the 1950s. His grandson, William Arthur Upfield holds his grandfather's copyright, and the trademark 'Bony', keeping the works in print.
The American mystery novelist Tony Hillerman praised Upfield's works. In his introduction to the posthumous 1984 reprint of Upfield's A Royal Abduction, he described the seduction in his youth of Upfield's descriptions of both the harsh outback areas, and "the people who somehow survived upon them ... . When my own Jim Chee of the Navaho Tribal Police unravels a mystery because he understands the ways of his people, when he reads the signs in the sandy bottom of a reservation arroyo, he is walking in the tracks Bony made 50 years ago."
|Title of book||Setting||Publication |
|The House of Cain||Melbourne and NE of South Australia||Serialised: Perth Sunday Times (1928)
Hutchinson, London, n.d. ; 1st US Edition: Dorrance, Philadelphia, 1929; 2nd US Edition: (pirated) Dennis McMillan, San Francisco, 1983.
|The Barrakee Mystery||Near Wilcannia, New South Wales
First book to feature Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte
|Serialised: Melbourne Herald (1932)
Hutchinson, London, n.d. ; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1965; 1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1965 – as The Lure of the Bush.
|The Beach of Atonement||Dongara, Western Australia||Hutchinson, London, n.d. .|
|The Sands of Windee||'Windee' is a fictional sheep station near Milparinka_, a 150 miles (240 km) north of Broken Hill. Windee covered 1,300,000 acres (5,300 km2) of land and ran 70 000 sheep.||Hutchinson, London, n.d. ;
1st Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1958; 2nd UK Edition: Angus & Robertson, London, 1959.
|A Royal Abduction||Cook and Eucla, on the Nullarbor Plain||Hutchinson, London, ;
1st US Edition: (pirated) Dennis McMillan, Miami Beach, 1984. 1st Australian Edition: Serialized in The Advocate newspaper of Tasmania. Serialised in other Australian newspapers as Royal Abduction.
|Gripped by Drought||Near Pooncarie, NSW||Hutchinson, London, n.d. |
|The Murchison Murders||Upfield's own account of the murders in the Murchison region||Midget Masterpiece Publishing, Sydney, n.d. ;
1st US Edition: (pirated) Dennis McMillan, Miami Beach, 1987.
|Wings Above the Diamantina||In the region of the Diamantina River, which flows from Western Queensland into northern South Australia||Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1936; 2nd Australian edition Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1940
1st UK Edition: Hamilton, London, n.d.  – as Winged Mystery 1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1943 – as Wings Above the Claypan. Serialised in Australian newspapers as When Wings are Clipped (1935).
|Mr. Jelly's Business||Takes place at Burracoppin and Merredin east of Perth in the Wheat Belt of Western Australia along the rabbit-proof fence. The railway station in the story map and the water pipe have changed little since Upfield's day (he worked clearing brush in Burracoppin).||Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1937; 2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1964
1st UK Edition: Hamilton, London, 1938 1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1943 – as Murder Down Under.
|Winds of Evil||Silverton, New South Wales and the nearby Barrier Range which is north and east of Broken Hill||Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1937; 2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1961
1st UK Edition Hutchinson, London, n.d.  1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1944
|The Bone is Pointed||"Opal Town" or Opalton, Queensland in the Channel Country of the Diamantina River||Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1938; 2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1966
1st UK Edition: Hamilton, London, 1939 1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1947; US Book Club Edition: Unicorn Mystery Book Club, New York, 1946. Serialised in Australian newspapers as Murder on the Station (1938).
|The Mystery of Swordfish Reef||Takes place from Bermagui, New South Wales; the reef extends from Montague Island. The plot is based on the 1880 disappearance of the geologist Lamont Young near Mystery Bay, New South Wales.||Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1939; Aust. Book Club Edition:Readers Book Club, Melbourne, 1963
1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1960; UK Book Club Edition: The Companion Book Club, London, 1963; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1971 1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1943
|Bushranger of the Skies||"McPherson's Station", 80 miles northwest of Shaw's Lagoon, South Australia.||Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1940; 2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1963
1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Book Club, New York, 1944 – as No Footprints in the Bush
|Death of a Swagman||Walls of China now in Mungo National Park, north-east of Buronga, western NSW||1st Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1947; 2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1962
1st UK Edition: Aldor, London, 1946 Doubleday/Crime Book Club, New York, 1945; US Book Club Edition: Unicorn Mystery Book Club, New York, 1946
|The Devil's Steps||Set in a fictional mountain resort called Mount Chalmers, similar to the Dandenong Ranges on the eastern edge of Melbourne, Victoria (most probably in the vicinity of Mt Dandenong, but with some similarities to One Tree Hill in Ferny Creek), and also in Melbourne City and its suburbs South Yarra and Coburg.||1st Australian Edition: Invincible Press, Sydney, n.d. [1950–1953]; 2nd Australian Edition: Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1965
1st UK Edition: Aldor, London, 1948 Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1946; US Book Club Edition: Unicorn Mystery Book Club, New York, 1946
|An Author Bites the Dust||Set in the fictional town of Yarrabo, in the valley of the real Yarra River.||Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1948
1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1948; US Book Club Edition: Unicorn Mystery Book Club, New York, 1948
|The Mountains Have a Secret||Set mostly in the Grampians mountain range in western Victoria.||1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1952; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1948; US Book Club Edition: Unicorn Mystery Book Club, New York, 1948
|The Widows of Broome||Set in Broome, Western Australia||1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1951; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1967
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1950; US Book Club Edition: Dollar Mystery Guild, New York, 1950
|The Bachelors of Broken Hill||Broken Hill, New South Wales||1st Australian Edition: Invincible Press, Sydney, between 1950 and 1953
1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1958; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified); Large Print Edition: Ulverscroft, Leicester, 1974 Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1950; US Book Club Edition: Detective Book Club, New York, 1951
|The New Shoe||Aireys Inlet; The Split Point Lighthouse and Broken Rock||1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1952; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1968
Doubleday/Crime Book Club, New York, 1951
|Venom House||Set in and around "Edison", the real-life Elston, on the swampy coast south of Brisbane.(The name was later changed as Surfers Paradise) long before it became a tourist resort.||1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1953; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1970
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1952; US Book Club Edition: Unicorn Mystery Club, New York, 1952
|Murder Must Wait||"Mitford", New South Wales, which is approximately where real-life Wentworth is located. Various references indicate far west of New South Wales.||1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1953; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1953; US Book Club Edition: Detective Book Club, New York, 1953
|Death of a Lake||East of Menindee. Said to be Victoria Lake (not Lake Victoria), an ephemeral lake that fills occasionally in River Darling floods.||Heinemann, London, 1954
1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1954
|Cake in the Hat Box; also published as Sinister Stones||Kimberley region of Western Australia "Agar's Lagoon" is Hall's Creek.||1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1955 ; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1954 as Sinister Stones
|The Battling Prophet||The Cowdry River, a fictional river south of Mount Gambier.||Heinemann, London, 1956; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)|
|The Man of Two Tribes||Nullarbor Plain||1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1956 – as Man of Two Tribes; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1956
|Bony Buys a Woman; also published as The Bushman Who Came Back||Lake Eyre region||1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1957
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1957 - as The Bushman Who Came Back
|Follow My Dust!||Heinemann, London, 1957|
|Bony and the Black Virgin; also published as The Torn Branch||"Lake Jane", a fictional lake in the Murray-Darling Basin||1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1959; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)|
|Bony and the Mouse; also published as Journey to the Hangman||"Daybreak", a fictional mining town 150 miles (240 km) from Laverton, Western Australia||1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1959 – as Bony and the Mouse; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York. 1959 as Journey to the Hangman
|Bony and the Kelly Gang; also published as Valley of Smugglers||Possibly set in a town and valley similar to Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales not far from Bowral where Upfield lived for the last years of his life. However, Robertson on the top of the escarpment, which is known for its potatoes, is also possible.
Narrates some episodes of the Ned Kelly true history.
|1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1960; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1960; US Book Club Edition: Detective Book Club, New York, n.d.  – as Valley of the Smugglers
|The White Savage||Timbertown is a light disguise of Pemberton, a timber town in the south-west of Western Australia.||1st UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1961 – as Bony and the White Savage; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1961
|The Will of the Tribe||Wolfe Creek Crater||First UK Edition: Heinemann, London, 1962
Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1962
|Madman's Bend||Hard to tell along which stretch of the Darling River this was. Upfield spent time around Menindee where the river forests fit the bill. A section of river near here is ironically called Lunatic Bend just south of the township. Kinchega National Park has large forested bends as referred to in the novel.||Heinemann, London, 1963
1st US Edition: Doubleday/Crime Club, New York, 1963 – as The Body at Madman's Bend
|The Lake Frome Monster
[Note: This posthumously published work was based on an unfinished manuscript and detailed notes left by Upfield. It was completed by J L Price and Mrs Dorothy Strange.]
|Lake Frome, South Australia||Heinemann, London, 1966; 2nd UK Edition: Heinemann, London, (date not identified)|
|Breakaway House||Serialised: Perth Daily News (1932)
Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1987
|The Great Melbourne Cup Mystery||Serialised: Melbourne Herald (1933)|
ETT Imprint, Watson's Bay, Sydney, 1996
|The Gifts of Frank Cobbold||The Cobbold Family History Trust, written in 1935, the manuscript was edited and revised by Sandra Berry in 2008|
From 1972 to 1973, Fauna Productions (also responsible for Skippy the Bush Kangaroo) produced a 26-episode television series. After a long search for a half-white, half-Aborigine actor, the producers chose English actor Jon Finch for the role of Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte. When he suddenly became unavailable, Fauna's John McCallum flew to London in panic and was lucky enough to audition New Zealand actor James Laurenson on his last day there. Offered the lead role, Laurenson hurriedly flew to Australia, reading "Bony" books all the way over.
The series was called Boney, partly to make the pronunciation of the name obvious, and partly because that had been Upfield's original intention – a publisher's misprint on the first novel had renamed the character. Most of the episodes were based directly on one of the novels, but there were some adaptations. Two original scripts were not directly based on any novel; five novels were not adapted for television, effectively "reserving" them in case a third series was produced. At the time, many of the books were reprinted with the spelling altered to "Boney" on the covers (although retaining the original in the text), and featuring a photo from the relevant episode.
Bony was also a 1990 telemovie and later a 1992 spin-off TV series (using the original "Bony" spelling). However, the series was criticised for casting Bony as a white man (played by Cameron Daddo), under the tutelage of "Uncle Albert", an elderly Aborigine played by Burnum Burnum.
- His Last Holiday. Brisbane Daily Standard, 14 January 1916
- The Man Who Liked Work. Life, January 1928
- Laffer's Gold. Western Mail, 22 December 1932
- Rainbow Gold. Perth Sunday Times, 29 January 1933
- [Title Unknown]. Jarrah Leaves, 30 November 1933
- [Title Unknown]. Australian Journal, January 1934
- [Title Unknown]. Australian Journal, October 1935
- Henry's Last Job. Melbourne Herald, 14 February 1939
- A Mover of Mountains. Melbourne Herald, 14 October 1939
- Henry's Little Lamb. Melbourne Herald, 5 December 1939
- Joseph Henry's Christmas Party. Melbourne Herald, 23 December 1939
- Pinky Dick's Elixir. Melbourne Herald, 18 January 1940
- Vital Clue. Melbourne Herald, 19 January 1940
- Why Did the Devil Shoot a Pig?. Melbourne Herald, 29 January 1940
- That Cow Maggie!! Melbourne Herald, 11 April 1940
- The Great Rabbit Lure. Melbourne Herald, 19 April 1940
- The Colonel's Horse. ABC Weekly, 5 January 1941
- The Cairo Spy. ABC Weekly, 5 July 1941
- Through Flood and Desert for Twopence. ABC Weekly, 26 October 1941
- White Quartz. Adelaide Chronicle, 21 November 1946
- M-U-R-D-E-R at Split Point. Melbourne Argus, 27 December 1952 to 2 January 1953. (Heavily edited version of The New Shoe)
- All Must Pay: Reflections on Outpost. Melbourne Argus, 8 January 1916
- Little Stories of Gallipoli. Melbourne Argus, 10, 14, 19 and 21 January 1916
- The Blight. Barrier Miner, 4, 11, 18 and 25 October 1924
- Reynard the Killer: A Growing Menace to Pastoralists: Bush Life Becoming Extinct. Perth Sunday Times, 31 August 1930
- Aboriginal Philosophy. West Australian, 20 September 1930
- Face and Clothes. West Australian, 22 November 1930
- Sep-Ah-Rate. West Australian, 17 October 1931
- Some Reflections on a Hilltop: The Charm of the Ranges: A Nomad's Heart Responds. Perth Daily News, 9 July 1932
- Lords of the Track: Sundowners I Have Met: Nicknames and Fads. Perth Daily News, 30 July 1932
- After Rain: Charms of Hill and Gully: The Song of the Brook Perth Daily News, 6 August 1932
- Street Mysteries: Sidelights in the Study of Humanity. Perth Sunday Times, 18 September 1932
- The Hunted Emu: A Rural Pest Which Is a Pest Destroyer. Perth Sunday Times, 13 November 1932
- Kangaroo Coursing: The Thrill of a Blind Chase. West Australian, 19 November 1932
- Christmas Memories. Perth Daily News, 24 December 1932
- Plagues of Australia: Wonders of Animal Migration. West Australian, 31 December 1932
- Literary Illusions: Some Experiences of an Author - and Others. Perth Sunday Times, 1 January 1933
- Way for the Pioneers! Migration Needs a New Deal. Melbourne Herald, 3 January 1933
- Australia. West Australian, 14 January 1933
- Let Us Go Beachcombing: The Perfect Dream for Hot Weather Days. Perth Daily News, 9 February 1933
- The Man Who Thought He Was Dead. Melbourne Herald, 28 October 1933
- Future of the Aborigines: New Protective Laws Required. Perth Daily News, 2 November 1933
- Found - An Old Tyre! A Problem of the Bush. Melbourne Herald, 11 November 1933
- Lonely Terrors of the Bush! The Man Who Lost Count! Melbourne Herald, 25 November 1933
- Untitled article. Brisbane Sunday Mail, 26 November 1933
- Justice for the Black. Try New Treatment! Melbourne Herald, 1 December 1933
- Land of Illusions: Do We Expect Too Much from the Northern Territory: Dangers of Boosting. Melbourne Herald, 19 December 1933
- My Life Outback: Surveyor, Cook and Raw Boundary Rider: The Breaking-in Begins. Melbourne Herald, 12 January 1934
- Poison! Tales of the Nonchalant Bush. Melbourne Herald, 13 January 1934
- Outback Adventures of a 'New Chum': A Dream and the Sad Awakening. Adelaide Advertiser, 13 January 1934
- My Life Outback, No. 2: Mule Driver's Outsider: On the Track with One-Spur Dick. Melbourne Herald, 13 January 1934
- My Life Outback No. 3: Opal Gouging with Big Jack - and His Cat: How Joke on New Chums Became Good Turn. Melbourne Herald, 15 January 1934
- My Life Outback, No. 7: When Crabby Tom Ran Amok. Melbourne Herald, 19 January 1934
- Up and Down Australia, No. 1: Going Bush. West Australian, 26 January 1934
- Kangaroo Coursing. Melbourne Herald, 27 January 1934
- My Life Outback, No. 8: Sand-storm Terror in Sturts County, No. 8. Melbourne Herald, 29 January 1934
- My Life Outback, No. 11: The Murchison Bones Murder Case. Melbourne Herald, 24 January 1934
- Up and Down Ausrealia, No. 2: Mule Driver's Offsider. West Australian, 2 February 1934
- My Life Outback, No. 5: Tramping by the Darling. Adelaide Advertiser, 10 February 1934
- My Old Pal Buller: Two Camels and - a Scorpion. Melbourne Herald, 10 March 1934
- Plot for a Murder Mystery: Planning a Perfect Crime. Adelaide Advertiser, 17 March 1934
- The Real Australia: The Sheep They Couldn't Kill. Melbourne Herald, 17 March 1934
- The Real Australia: How They Waited for the Rain: The Courage of One Woman. Melbourne Herald, 31 March 1934
- Challenging America! How the Yacht Endeavour was Built. Melbourne Herald, 9 June 1934
- Work of the Bird gatherer. Adelaide Chronicle, 11 July 1934
- Fun For The Afternoon! The Tale of an Intelligent Bull in the Outback. Melbourne Herald, 28 July 1934
- A Tale of Two Worlds. Melbourne Herald, 9 August 1934
- Ringers of the Bells: Secrets of an Ancient Art. Melbourne Herald, 17 November 1934
- Black Man's Eldorado: Rich Reefs of the Imagination. Adelaide Chronicle, 16 May 1935
- The Real Australia. Adelaide Chronicle, 13 June 1935
- Walls of China. Melbourne Herald, 6 November 1937
- His Majesty - The Swordfish. Melbourne Herald, 24 March 1938
- The Art of Writing Mystery Stories. Adelaide Advertiser, 20 July 1940
- The Impossible Perfect Crime. Adelaide Chronicle, 8 December 1949
- de Hoog, Kees & Hetherington, Carol (editors) (2012). Investigating Arthur Upfield: A Centenary Collection of Critical Essays. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4438-3452-0. These critical essays mark the centenary of Upfield's arrival in Australia from England on 4 November 1911.
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