About eight years ago, after the Mt Mee fire, a cattleman named Rod Eaton and author Peter Wise drove to the Mt Mee forest, got out and walked through the scrub. Mr Eaton was taking Peter Wise to an unusual campsite deep in the forest. The cattleman had been there before the fire, when he was running cattle on Mt Mee. And from the campsite’s contents, it had had an unusual occupant. “From what I can gather, he was dead-set worshipping the Devil,” Mr Wise said.
Rod Eaton had reported his find to police and a ranger, who later verified the contents of the tent for Peter Wise. The Satanist’s camp was the starting point for Peter Wise’s novel, The Mt Mee Murders.
A similar campsite, at the same location, found its way into The Mt Mee Murders – the bush camp of a psychopath. The site was one of many elements from author Peter Wise’s life that went into his crime novel.
The Mt Mee Murders is set around Brisbane, Mt Mee (where the author has a property) and the Gold Coast, in South-East Queensland, Australia. Two adult Japanese sisters are kidnapped on the Gold Coast, a surf and tourism city. Their father was an officer in WW2, who stood by while an Australian prisoner-of-war was executed in a Singapore hospital. Now a psycho is hell-bent on revenge, and a P.I. named Peter Sage, and his assistant, Bella Paise, are on the case.
While Peter Wise was at the burnt-out campsite with Rod Eaton, he found some aluminium barbed wire that had been used to tie posts together. The cattleman said he hadn’t noticed the barbed wire before. Peter Wise knew the barbed wire, which appears on the cover of The Mt Mee Murders, would be something he could use as a writer.
He said it intrigued him partly because it was unusual, being made of aluminium. It sent him off on an extensive phase of research into barbed wire, and there wasn’t a lot known about aluminium barbed wire. Then he heard about an academic giving a talk on barbed wire, in Stanthorpe.
“And I drove on Easter, 2005, my wife said I was crazy, and I left on Wednesday and I drove to Stanthorpe, because I’d found out a university graduate, a university professor, from the University of New South Wales was giving a lecture, now listen to this, at the Stanthorpe Museum, on barbed wire.
“So I got out there and I attended a meeting which I thought was going to be over in an hour. I drove up all the way to Stanthorpe, and booked into a motel and I thought, you know, ‘I’ll be back for a beer. What time to you shut?’ You know, …’close the bar?’ And he said, ‘About half past nine.’ And I said, ‘I’ll be back by then.’
“I told him what I was doing, and I never left the meeting till half past eleven. This bloke gave a Powerpoint lecture on barbed wire, every barbed wire fence there’s ever been. He’s done it all around Australia. Every barbed wire fence. He didn’t know much about aluminium barbed wire and he didn’t have much of it at the museum at Stanthorpe. He said, ‘When I go back to Sydney I’ve got an academic friend who’s written a book on the history of barbed wire and I’ll send it up to you.’
“So I’ve gone just on a chance with a couple of bits of wire that I’d found, and guess what, he sent me up the book Devil’s Rope…” [The Devil's Rope: A Cultural History of Barbed Wire, by Alan Krell].
The barbed wire plays a gruesome part in the novel.
Another element of Peter Wise’s life that was thrown into the mix of the novel were documents he had relating to his father’s prisoner of war experiences in WW2. Fictionalised versions of these play a part in the novel. “Yeah. Just to give you some background, my father was a prisoner-of-war in Changi. You’ll see I mention the name Wise there as a witness to the statement [about an atrocity by a Japanese officer in Changi Hospital, Singapore].
“And that’s fiction of course, but the camps that I mention, Rajubri and Camp Wampo on the Burma-Thai railway, they were in fact where my father spent (his time) after the fall of Singapore in 1942, February whatever date it happened; he spent the rest of the war from Changi to Camp Wampo to Camp Rajubri, and I’ve got his original signed statements that he gave to the War Crimes Tribunal in Rabaul, in 1945, ’46, when he came home from the war.
“Originals signed by a Justice of the Peace in Brisbane. Also, unbeknown to me, he had kept…Mother never gave me these things till she was very sick. This is funny why secrets are kept. I don’t know why he wanted to keep these from me, I was a policeman. But he had kept, arr, the criminal history sheets, which I possess, of every Japanese officer and soldier tried for war crimes in Darwin and in Rabaul. Their full name, their rank, the criminal offences that they committed, and the days that they were either imprisoned or executed.”
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