In the summer of 2014 I was visiting Marlo (Victoria, Australia) soaking up the atmosphere while I put the finishing touches to Murder in Murloo. Another visitor to the area at the same time was Miss Ellie, a fat elephant seal. Miss Ellie visits each year to moult her skin before journeying back to the sub-Antarctic. On this occasion she not only made her way into the Snowy River Estuary but also into my manuscript.
It’s not hard to see why Miss Ellie and hundreds of human visitors love to spend time at the unspoilt beaches and natural waterways of Marlo where the famous Snowy River meets the Southern Ocean. It’s a place that has inspired many writers over the years and was my inspiration for the fictional town of Murloo.
The name of my fictional town is the Aboriginal word for the Marlo area. (Murloo is possibly a corruption of Murraloo). The Aboriginal tribal group which has lived in the area for at least 18 000 years is the Gunai (sometimes spelt Kurnai). The Dreamtime ancestors of the Gunai people, Borun the pelican and Tuk, the musk duck, still inhabit Marlo.
In fact, the environment in the area of Marlo remains so natural that wildlife is abundant. Playful seal pups can sometimes be seen frolicking near the jetty, closely observed by pelicans that swoop overhead and perch on tall posts. The calls of other birds, such as kookaburras, magpies, rosellas and whipbirds mingle with the sound of the surf as you stroll through the coastal rainforest.
I was walking along one of the bush tracks when I spotted a male lyrebird close enough to the track for me to observe him. Seeing a lyrebird in the wild is a rare joy, even for someone like me who roamed the bush every day as a child (we lived several kilometres out of town) and did not catch a glimpse of one. The next day, two female lyrebirds walked right cross the track in front of me. One of these lyrebirds even sang me a pretty song. Unlike Miss Ellie, the lyrebird with its magnificent tail did not make his way into the book – not this one anyway.
Murloo Mansion, the luxury hotel in Murder in Murloo is situated on the bluff where a bark hut was built in 1875. The bark hut eventually evolved into a hotel, but in my imagination it evolved much further into a magnificent heritage hotel reminiscent of the Australian Gold Rush Era.
A ten minute drive from Marlo is the township of Orbost where I was born and grew up. My hometown is the inspiration for the town in Murder in Murloo called Claigan. Since Orbost was named after a place on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, I decided to name my fictional town in the same way. Claigan is situated in north western Isle of Skye.
By the way, unlike Murloo, Marlo has never, to my knowledge, been host to a murder.