The Land Down Under: Books, Film, and a Geography Lesson

I’ve been on an Australian kick.

In the past year I’ve read Bittersweet by the late Colleen McCullough  (I read The Thorn Birds decades ago); The Lake House by Kate Morton; and the wonderful mysteries of indy mystery authors Christina Larmer and Morgana Best.

And now I’m enjoying The Doctor Blake Mysteries, a TV series set in 1950s Victoria.

I never realized how spotty my knowledge was of Australian geography. Before Doctor Blake, I had heard of Victoria (I think), but I couldn’t have told you anything about the place—was it a city, state, territory? I didn’t know. My trusty atlas showed me that Victoria is a small state in the southeastern part of the continent.

Here’s a map that I appropriated from Wikipedia. Victoria stands out in red:

I found Ballarat, the city where Dr. Blake lives, practices medicine, and solves murders. I realized that I had often heard of Melbourne, the state capital. If pressed, I would have put it New South Wales.

Honestly, I took Geography in school. Really, I did. Of course, that was eons ago, but still. In my mind’s eye I could place New South Wales, Sydney, and Canberra in their correct spots on a map—although I had NSW much larger than it in fact is, eclipsing Queensland. And I knew of Perth from the movie Shine and because I had a boss who came from there. But that was it.

So my Australian kick has been quite educational. And now I’m hankering to visit. Maybe I’ll get to meet some of the great people I’m friends with on Facebook. Of course, there’s the daunting idea of the air travel … but I know the day is coming when I’ll arrive in the land Down Under.

Map in hand.

I always like to read up on my destination in fiction:

The Aussies wield a mighty pen. Here’s a long, long list of Down Under novelists.

A list of Australian mystery authors from Stop! You’re Killing Me.

Patricia Carlon. I read her suspenseful novel, Whispering Wall, years ago.

A couple of extras:

Everything about Victoria, and then some.

Sydney Chic Blog: I follow this guide to restaurants and lifestyle on Instagram.

Suggestions are welcome.









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Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries. Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of Cabernet, Deadly Southern Charm, Death by Cupcake, and Murder by the Glass. Maggie is a member of James River Writers, International Thriller Writers, Short Mystery Fiction Society, and is a founding member of Sisters in Crime Central Virginia, where she manages the chapter’s Instagram account. In addition, she serves Sisters in Crime on the national level as a member of the Social Media team. Maggie graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a B.S. degree in Business Administration, and has worked as a software developer, customer service supervisor, and retail sales manager. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive.


The Land Down Under: Books, Film, and a Geography Lesson — 15 Comments

  1. I love Kerry Greenwood’s two mystery series, both terrific.
    BTW, you should consider joining and posting on Dorothy L.

  2. Yes, I haven’t read them yet, but know of the. In fact you and I discussed her at one point. As for DorothyL I joined and see their posts, but they won’t let me post because I have a Yahoo and a Gmail address!

  3. I had the opportunity to visit Australia in the late 80s, and we stayed with relatives of a friend there, no matter where we went. I’m sure it’s changed a lot since then, but I think you’ll love it. There was also an Australian TV mystery series titled “The Miss Fisher Mysteries” that I loved, but it’s gone now. I’ll have to work on the published mysteries.

    • The Miss Fisher Mysteries are based on the Phyrne Fisher books by Kerry Greenwood. I think there are second and third seasons of the tv series but they may not be on Australian tv.

  4. Marja, how lucky you were to take such a trip. And in the 80s the air travel was still long but much more comfortable.

    Shelly, you probably remember my asking Kerry if she was planning any more books, and she said she was trying. Probably the TV series was taking up a lot of her time.

  5. Great post! You’ve given me some ideas for my TBR, but unfortunately I don’t have any suggestions to add to your list right now. Maybe someday!

  6. Yes, come visit us Down Under, Maggie! You’ll love it! Most Aussies live in the cities, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, but I think the best parts are regional, where I live, near Byron Bay, Northern NSW, and where Dr Blake is set in country Victoria. We’re laidback, a little cheeky, swear far too much and love our mysteries! xo

  7. You think you’re well read until you look at a list like your first one. Of that number, I’ve read only a handful–the great Louis (George Lewis) Becke, James Clavell, Jon Cleary, Thomas Kenealy and a few others and saw the film version of Rabbit-Proof Fence. Thanks, Maggie. Now I have to add more to the TBR list.

  8. I’ve never been to Australia, but felt I’d lived there after reading The Thornbirds and watching the mini-series that came from the book. Enjoyed your post.

  9. I really enjoyed your post! I loved the Jon Cleary books, have loved the Miss Fisher books and shows, just discovered Dr. Blake recently and am putting off watching the last two episodes, because I don’t want it to end. (I am going to rewatch like I have w/Phryne.) Dr. Blake has really made me want to learn more about the geography! Of course the Thorn Birds and the books by Conway? (teacher who went from outback farm to city?–it’s been awhile,but loved those) A lot of reminders of books and films I want to see here in this post and comments! Thank you everyone!

  10. Andrea, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I know just what you mean about not wanting a series to end. I’ll have to check out Jon Cleary. Thanks for stopping by.