In Murder in Murloo, Dusty Kent investigates her first cold case in the small town of Murloo. When Sean O’Kelly, her research assistant, meets Dusty for the first time she overpowers a drunken youth who is tormenting a gentle old sheep and threatening her with a length of timber. He looks on as Dusty uses her karate skills to tackle the youth. 'In an instant, she had grabbed his wrist with one hand and flicked his hand with the other, ejecting the piece of wood from his grasp and sending it plummeting to the ground.
Later when Dusty learns Sean is one of those 'unbelievably clever people who know the inside, backside and all sides of a computer', she invites him to assist her with her investigation into the murder of the young local woman, Gabby Peters.
Murloo is an Aboriginal (Kurnai) word meaning ‘clay or muddy banks’. The Murloo in the book is based on Marlo, except that I have taken poetic licence with some of the geography. The route to Giuseppe’s house mentioned in Chapter 10 which ‘offered spectacular views of the sand and ocean below’ is actually the Marlo-Conran Road which ends at Cape Conran; a surfing haven with outstanding surfing beaches attracting serious surfers from around the country.
Murloo Mansion is fictional. It’s actually Marlo pub that 'is situated on a bluff overlooking the Southern Ocean'. (Chapter 1). Marlo is a quiet seaside village at the mouth of the Snowy River in a region of Victoria called East Gippsland with a population of less than 500. It is largely unspoilt with excellent walking trails, and abundant wildlife such as kookaburras and lyrebirds. Anglers know they can catch the best perch and bream in Australia at Marlo – and so do the pelicans that frequent the area. The creation myth of the local Aboriginal people (Kurnai), who have occupied the area for at least 20,000 years, tells us the first man was Borun, the pelican. Even older than Aboriginal settlement are the magnificent old-growth forests forty kilometres north-east of Orbost.
The township of Claigan is based on Orbost a small town fifteen minutes drive from Marlo. Most of the road runs parallel with The Snowy River. The legendary river starts on the slopes of Mount Kosciuszko in New South Wales. It crosses the border into Victoria, flows through mountains and all the way down to Orbost where it runs adjacent to the town and concludes its almost 400 km journey at Marlo where it flows into the ocean.
I have taken the name Claigan from the Isle of Skye in Scotland in the same way that Orbost is named after a farm on the Isle of Skye. In the 1800s, many Scottish migrants settled in the East Gippsland area and established sheep runs.
Once a year at Christmas I return to my hometown where my sister Irene still lives. Here’s a photo she took of me at the town sign last year.
I hope to have Dusty Kent Mystery #6 on the shelves before I next visit Orbost. Murder on a Melbourne Tram is set in my current hometown of Melbourne.
Until next time... JB & BG :)
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.
Until next time... JB & BG
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