Good Reading : June 2016
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING JUNE 2016 32 BEHIND THE BOOK 1 the new novel was going to be very different, but there was still some research to be done. I’d driven past the police station in Gellibrand Street, Queenscliff, countless times, but still felt nervous when I knocked on the door with my notebook in my hand. I’m comfortable about taking a fair amount of poetic licence when creating characters, but I still needed to know what Queenscliff constables were likely to do in certain circumstances, and how far their responsibilities extended – or could be stretched. The police officer I spoke to on the day I anxiously knocked on the door was very helpful. If he treated some of my questions with wry amusement, he showed no more than a hint of this and politely set me on the right track. I was very recently able to thank him again for his help. Imagine my surprise when I found him running a vegan restaurant in Geelong’s CBD! As with all my works of fiction, Through a Camel’s Eye started from a real place, and also from a place in my imagination. Why did I choose the subtitle ‘A sea-change mystery’? I’ve always loved Ariel’s song from Shakespeare’s The Tempest: Full fathom five thy father lies Of his bones are coral made; Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange. Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell Hark! Now I hear them – ding-dong, bell. I like to think of sea change as a magical transformation, more than a change of lifestyle, which is what the expression has come to mean in recent times. I love the idea of the lost father’s bones turning into coral, and his eyes into jewels, the magic and mystery of this. An important witness in the story is fascinated by metamorphosis, and the vision of a strange, shadowy creature at the end of the story interrupts a killer and saves one life, at least. Chris Blackie, the police constable, lost his father to the sea. The body was never recovered, and there’s a bitter irony in this, because Chris works at a police station close to the Port Phillip heads, and can’t escape the sight and sounds of the ocean, which at times frighten him. His young offsider, Anthea Merritt, has come from Melbourne to her first job as a policewoman, leaving her boyfriend behind. She hates Queenscliff, for entirely different reasons. Chris doggedly pursues a murder on his soil, even though he’s not a detective, only a regular uniformed officer; he can’t bear for the death to remain unexplained. I don’t know where Chris came from. One day he was just there, talking to me; though the more I’ve got to know him, the more I’ve learned that he’s rather like my father. Anthea is much younger and in some ways a simpler character. She has to learn to leave the city and a hopeless love behind. She’s lucky in that she finds good friends and work that means something to her, no matter how much she disparaged it at first. Through a Camel’s Eye is a character-driven mystery. It’s also about a domestic violence murder; they are endemic in our society yet are often overlooked. There are so many domestic murders in Australia that researching them and then creating my fictional plot wasn’t hard, though at times I felt overwhelmed with sadness. As a friend and fellow writer Margaret Innes once said, ‘You don’t have to go to Africa to find the heart of darkness. It may be at the end of your street.’ Through a Camel’s Eye by Dorothy Johnston is published by For Pity Sake, rrp $24.99. Point Lonsdale ... became the place of my heart, where I retreated to in my imagination when the real world got too much.