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Peter Wise, author of The Mt Mee Murders – Page 2

Peter Wise, author of The Mt Mee Murders, talks about structuring his novel, his background in law, and his interest in movie biographies and autobiographies...

Peter Wise’s book rips along at a good pace, too, and he told me how he planned his plots, on a white board on wheels at his house. He was in the process of putting another novel together, and he gave a general overview of how he constructed The Mount Mee Murders.

“With the chart I’ll have a central idea; in this case it was the revenge killing…I’ll have the tempo, which is the pace. There’ll be the setting; in this case I had the Gold Coast, then up to the forests, the mountain forests.”

He’d have “the crime” written on the board: then, the Mt Mee murders. Then he’d go to “the plot”. He’d start with plot one, plant a clue, then another clue, then bring the reader to a little climax where the story then might change direction: here he might give you some information that makes you want to turn the page, some law, or even some exposition about a memory of the main character about his life.

Then he’d start again with a clue, another clue, a climax, a clue, a clue, a climax, with a denouement at the end. Easier said than done.

As for his reading, Peter Wise said he only started reading when he started to write. “The funny thing about me is, I was never a reader,” Peter Wise said. “People say to me, ‘When did you start to write?’ And I got the urge about 10 years ago, to have a go.

“But I was a law man so I read a lot of law books. I love law. Right? So I’m still pretty accurate in my knowledge of what I understand about criminal law, because I did it throughout Australia, in a lot of states like the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia, and I was the sergeant in charge at Norfolk Island.

“And then I was a Queensland police officer so I understood the difference between common law [law decided on by courts while hearing cases], Commonwealth Law and Statute Law: some states of Australia are statute. New South Wales is still common law. It uses precedent of cases…

“In points of law, when it’s statute law it’s pretty direct. You know, it’ll tell you what stealing is, what murder is. Although the Crimes Act of New South Wales has got its own sections as well. I won’t bore you with that, but that was mainly my life. I never read many books up until the point when I decided I wanted to write.

“Of course, I’m a very slow reader. It sometimes takes me weeks to read a book.”

He was very fond of movie biographies and autobiographies. “I like to read autobiographies…I’m currently reading Jane Fonda, her story [My Life So Far]. And I’ve read Marlon Brando. His life. [Songs My Mother Taught Me]… There’s a section in her story [Jane Fonda] where she’s targeted by J. Edgar Hoover, and they tried to fit her up with sedition.

“I grew up with the big blonde syndrome, right? Jane Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe. I still love Marilyn Monroe; I collect photographic books on Marilyn Monroe. Incidentally, when I was reading Brando, listen to this, he was having an affair with her about the time that she died…The night that she died.

“He rang her up a couple of days prior to this, knowing that he had a commitment dropped on him, where he had to go. So he cancelled the date. In his autobiography he says that there was nothing mentally wrong with Marilyn Monroe, and she was in great shape in her mind and body, and she was looking forward to having a great life. And he says in his book that she was murdered. Straight out says it. You know how much has been written about her. So, that was his take on it. Of course he’s now gone himself.

“And with Fonda, I’ll get back to the blondes, err, there was a great actress– there was Marilyn Monroe, there was Kim Novak, Jane Mansfield. There was another blonde called Jean Seberg. She starred with Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood in Paint Your Wagon. She made a lot of good movies.

“She was married to a Frenchman. Vadim who directed Fonda in Barbarella . Fonda met her and they became great friends.

“She fell pregnant during this period of time Fonda was out on the road going to universities talking about why the Vietnam War should, you know, cease, and Seberg was involved with it. The FBI put out in the paper that Seberg was having an affair with a negro. Back in those days it was still considered pretty bloody heavy stuff. With a boss of the Black Panthers. But it was bullshit.

“Well, it ruined her life. She was pregnant, all right. But she was pregnant with her husband, who was a Frenchman. Now I never knew this. I knew she committed suicide but I never knew why. What happened was, I was reading the book and I found out why she committed suicide.

“She miscarried and took the baby back to France, to Paris, and had the funeral of the foetus which was white, to prove the baby was white and the Frenchman she was married to was the father. And then every year for about seven years she tried to commit suicide on the day she miscarried. And she … finally came a year when she did commit suicide and six months later her husband committed suicide. Shot himself.

“And that is what false planting of evidence by authorities can do to you. She never recovered from that. I got a hell of a shock. I knew she committed suicide, I was a fan of hers as a young bloke growing up, as you were, that’s one thing I liked, movies. And I never could understand why she knocked herself off. And that was the reason.

“So that blew me away, when Jane Fonda wrote that. So maybe I’ll shut up about that (laughs) but it’s marvellous what you can pick up on a true story. Getting off the track a bit aren’t we.”

Maybe, but it’s interesting, and that’s what I liked about The Mt Mee Murders. And while it’s packed with interesting details, it still stays on track, and at a fast pace.

-For copies of The Mt Mee Murders by Peter Wise, contact Zeus Publications, www.zeus-publications.com.