Continent of Mystery: A Thematic History of Australian Crime Fiction
MUP, $24.95 pb, 226 pp
Continent of Mystery, subtitled ‘A thematic history of Australian crime fiction’ is, in the most simplistic terms, a daunting and inspiring book. My Australian crime fiction, mystery and detective fiction magazine, Mean Streets, was launched by Knight towards the end of 1990, not long before his move to the United Kingdom. For better or worse upon Knight’s departure I assumed, or at least so I was told, the mantle of Australia’s expert on crime fiction. I always perceived that observation as a compliment but having read Continent of Mystery with a sense of awe I can only say that I’m not sure I’m even fit to sit at Knight’s feet when it comes to local fiction with criminality at its core.
Sure, I possibly know more than he does about American hard-boiled writing, which is my passion, but Continent of Mystery is so breathtaking in its grasp of the localised genre, so full of insight, connections and understanding that I read most pages feeling like a pretender to the crown.