In A Devious Mind, Dusty and Sean have teamed up again to work on another unsolved murder following their success in Murder in Murloo. This time they are lucky enough to be in Byron Bay, Australia’s famous alternative lifestyle beach town. The town’s welcome sign tells you all you need to know. It reads: Cheer Up, Slow Down, Chill Out...
Apart from the laid-back, low-key lifestyle, the Byron Bay area is renowned for its biological diversity, supporting a wide range of frogs, snakes, marsupials, birds and plants. It’s natural beauty includes spectacular beaches, world heritage rainforests, waterfalls, conservation parks and abundant marine life such as whales and dolphins.
I was lucky enough to go to Byron Bay too because, of course, I had to research the setting for the book. So, on Anzac weekend in 2015, I dragged some friends along for a short holiday at Ardem@Byron. Actually, dragged is the wrong word because they certainly weren’t protesting. After all, we were exchanging the chilly cold of Melbourne for the balmy warmth of Byron Bay.
On Anzac Day, we attended the Dawn Service in Byron where I met a young man who had previously made the trip to Gallipoli to pay homage to the thousands of young men who fought in the trenches in 1915. I was moved by his description of the trip and how after seeing the landscape for himself he developed empathy for the soldiers of the past. Later that day we had a little fun and lost a little money in the traditional Anzac game of Two-up.
The rest of our stay was spent exploring Byron and meeting the locals, including Daniel Green who ended up in A Devious Mind. Well, to be more accurate, his name did. He kindly offered me his name for a character when I met him at the pool table in the Beach Hotel.
We also dined on fine food at a variety of Byron’s excellent eating places. We cruised the shops, from boutiques, to stores with a difference, to markets showcasing local artisans and crafts people and local produce. And we walked. One of our beautiful walks took us to Cape Byron Lighthouse. On the way we passed through Wategos Beach where bottlenose dolphins love to surf. Another species of surfer swarms to Wategos in Kombi vans which are parked in a seamless line along the beach front against a backdrop of rows of multi-million dollar houses.
On our last morning we ventured out at the crack of dawn again – to experience the sunrise at Tallow Beach. That was the day I had to drag my friends back to Melbourne. This time they were protesting!
A Devious Mind available on Amazon. Read it now!
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.