The Adventures of the Bushranger Captain Lightning And That Other Girl is planned as a series of short stories paying tribute to the nineteenth century traditions of the amateur detective serial.
Those stories, by writers such as Wilkie Collins, Grant Allen and Arthur Conan-Doyle, appeared in popular magazines such as Charles Dickens’ All the Year Round. While Sherlock Holmes is the most famous of the fictional sleuths, several of these important early crime stories featured female detectives such as nurse Hilda Wade and the young adventurer, Miss Cayley.
“I don’t know what girls are coming to nowadays.”
– Miss Cayley’s Adventures, Grant Allen, 1898.
These women, along with Conan-Doyle’s creation Irene Adler – one of the few people to outwit Holmes – and Marian Halcombe in Collins’s Sensation novel, The Woman in White, were among the first female characters in popular fiction with agency, fierce intelligence, and sometimes even a profession. They were central to the story, and in many cases solved the mystery at the centre of the plot. They are the ancestors of many of the fictional heroines of today.
The Adventures of the Bushranger Captain Lightning And That Other Girl (working title) features two young women, Jessie and Boots, who represent two of the classic female character types of nineteenth century fiction: the plucky heroine and the ‘female gentleman’ – a woman who is almost as good as a man. But, because I made them up, nothing is that simple.
On the run after committing their own highway robbery, Jessie and Boots become amateur detectives, solving or resolving a series of unrelated crimes and mysteries, while trying to evade capture themselves. Reading like light-hearted historical mystery adventures, the stories will subtly interrogate issues of exile, class, gender and sexuality in a rapidly changing world of colonial expansion, displacement and destruction of indigenous people and cultures, and the hardships and exhilaration of the Gold Rush. They also make me laugh.
The stories will be set on the Goldfields and in the High Country of the colony of Victoria in the late 1850s.
The first story, ‘Boots and the Bushranger’, was written for the Clandestine Press And Then… adventure anthology (2017).
And then … I decided I adored Boots and Jessie and wanted to write more.
The Adventures of the Bushranger Captain Lightning And That Other Girl is supported by the Artists in Residence program of the Falls Creek resort in the Victorian High Country.