Perhaps it’s not surprising that Fair Dinkum Crime was born in Adelaide because, as anyone knows who has lived here for more than five minutes, it has a national reputation as being the place where more horrible murders occur than anywhere else in the country. There have been many reminders of this recently.
Yesterday there was an article in an online newspaper with the headline “Is Adelaide our Cruellest City?” Although the article curiously doesn’t give the author’s name my deductive powers lead me to believe it’s a report from crime writer Michael Duffy about a panel he was on at the recent Sydney Writer’s Festival with Garry Disher (who was born near Adelaide but now lives in Melbourne) and Michael Connelly. The panel discussed ideal cities in which to set crime novels and Disher apparently reminded everyone of Adelaide’s suitability for the purpose.
I presume he raised a few of the high-profile cases that have captured the nation’s attention over the years. These cases are also the subject of a new book called The Cruel City by Stephen Orr which was published last month and include the 1966 disappearance of the Beaumont children (officially not a murder as the 3 children were never found) and the brutal kidnap and murder of numerous teenagers in the late 1970’s and early 80’s known locally as the Family murders.
Due to the release of the film Snowtown this month we’ve also seen a load of media re-hashing of a 1990’s series of local murders which the media initially referred to as the bodies in the barrel case (the name speaks for itself) but became known by the shorter Snowtown murders due to the location where most of the 11 bodies were discovered. Although Snowtown is a small town 145km north of Adelaide the case is associated with Adelaide as the perpetrators lived in the city’s outer suburbs and the murders took place in various locations around the area (and heck it’s a better story, right?).
Despite all this, or perhaps because of it, I think Garry Disher is wrong about Adelaide being the perfect setting for crime fiction. If it were wouldn’t someone have done it already (aside from Kirsty Brooks whose crime fiction is at the light end of the spectrum)? Even though he was born in South Australia Disher himself chose to set his books elsewhere. Perhaps it’s simply impossible to create any fiction that is darker or scarier than the reality of Adelaide’s true crimes?