Imagining the Past: Episode 12: History and Mystery: Weaving a Web of Truth and Lies in Detective Fiction

Writing historical crime fiction is like a treasure hunt for authors who dig up nuggets from the past to recreate old crimes and mysteries, both real and imaginary. How do authors lay down clues to keep readers (and the central characters) guessing whodunit? How do you balance the interlacing stories of detective, murderer and victim? What sources do authors use to set the scene and solve the crime using old-fashioned methods of crime detection?

In this week’s episode of the Imagining the Past podcast, Felicity Pulman tracks down the answers to these questions and more with Malla NunnKatherine Kovacic and Tessa Lunney in History and Mystery: Weaving a web of truth and lies in detective fiction.

This episode of Imagining the Past was recorded at the 2019 HNSA Conference.

Our Speakers

Felicity Pulman is the award-winning author of numerous novels for children, YA and adults. Many of her stories reflect her love of both Medieval and Australian history, combined with crime (The Janna Chronicles), time-slip fantasy (Ghost Boy and A Ring Through Time) and Arthurian legend (I, Morgana, The Once & Future Camelot and the Shalott trilogy.) She is an experienced presenter, speaking about researching and writing her novels to students in schools, and also to adults at many different venues (clubs, libraries, conferences, etc.) She also conducts creative writing workshops for adults and children in a variety of genres.

Malla Nunn is the author of four internationally published Detective Emmanuel Cooper novels set at the beginning of the Apartheid era in 1950s South Africa. A Beautiful Place to DieLet the Dead LieBlessed Are the Dead and Present Darkness have, between them, received two Edgar Award nominations, a RUSA Award for Best Mystery Novel, and a Davitt Award for best crime novel by an Australian author. Born and raised in Eswatini in Southern Africa, Malla now lives and works in Sydney, Australia.

Tessa Lunney is a novelist, poet, and academic. In 2013, she graduated from the Western Sydney University with a Doctorate of Creative Arts that explored silence in Australian war fiction. Tessa has been awarded the Griffith University Josephine Ulrick Prize for Literature, the A Room Of Her Own Foundation Orlando Prize, a Varuna Fellowship and Australia Council ArtStart grant for literature. Her poetry, short fiction, and reviews have been widely published, including in Southerly, Cordite, Mascara Review and Contrapasso. Her novel April in Paris, 1921 was published in 2018 by HarperCollins in Australia and in the US by Pegasus Books.

Katherine Kovacic is a former veterinarian turned art historian who lives in Melbourne with a Borzoi and a Scottish Deerhound. Her first novel, The Portrait of Molly Dean, was based on the true story of an unsolved murder in 1930s Melbourne.

G.S. Johnston is the author of three historical novels – Sweet Bitter Cane (2019), The Cast of a Hand (2015), and The Skin of Water (2012), and a fourth novel set in contemporary Hong Kong, Consumption (2011). The novels are noted for their complex characters and well-researched settings. After completing a degree in pharmacy, a year in Italy re-ignited his passion for writing and he completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. Feeling the need for a broader canvas, he started writing short stories and novels. Originally from Hobart, Tasmania, Johnston currently lives in Canberra, Australia.

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