Bony at Home and Abroad: The Arthur Upfield Phenomenon

Carol Hetherington


Upfield published thirty-four novels, twenty-nine of them in a crime fiction series featuring the part-Aboriginal detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte. His books were widely read in Australia but his financial success came principally through the publication of his work in the United States and Europe, establishing a world-wide reputation through translations into at least fifteen languages. Upfield’s following overseas, particularly in America, continued to grow after his death, reaching almost cult proportions and spawning websites, newsletters and new publications as recently as this year (2008). Upfield’s mysteries have commonly been categorised as ‘cultural tourism’, depending for their appeal on an exotic setting and sensational events. This paper contests such a view and examines Upfield’s publication, reception and reputation overseas – compared to his comparative neglect in Australia –  including issues of cultural translation, the nature of his readership, his relationship with his American editor and publisher, his German translator and the legacy preserved by his fans.


Arthur Upfield; publishing; popular fiction; crime foction

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