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Peter Wise, author of The Mt Mee Murders

The author of The Mt Mee Murders, Peter Wise, talks about working as a P.I., and mentions an inspirational author...

Peter Wise has also worked as a private investigator, and some of the tactics he used in the job appear in the novel. The main character Peter Sage (Peter Sage/ Peter Wise; ok, I get it) is a private investigator, and the way he handles people in his investigations is one of the most interesting parts of the novel; he knows of what he writes.

There’s a nice bit of humor in one section where Sage is interviewing an old lady in a Gold Coast high rise about whether she’d seen anything suspicious recently. She goes off on a couple of tangents and Sage’s diplomatic humoring of her side-tracks is a nice bit of subtle comedy.

“I did 10 years in security and private investigation. A lot of the cases of course — I’ll never write about the cases I was involved in, because it’s a bit like your doctor-patient relationship. Anything I did in that area is stored away in my brain and will probably never be, you know, activated (laughter).”

Peter Wise also worked for state and federal police in Australia and this shows in his knowledge of police procedure. “I had to run operations, undercover surveillance operations, so if I was looking at you I’d have a team of seven or eight guys who looked like bikies, you know, your average bloke on the street with jeans and beard and chains, you know whatever. They were special teams, you’d fly them up from Sydney.

“They would track you, if you were the target, they’d track you for several weeks until we obtained enough evidence to move on you. You would bring in unknown faces.

“Federal Police in my day ran special squads of blokes like that; they still do. They’re called undercover operatives. You wouldn’t know there was one sitting next to you in the bloody bus or across the road from where you live now, they would come to your neighbour, for example. I would, as their operational man, and say, ‘Would you mind…We’re looking at a target. Would you mind if we took over the front bedroom or the lounge of your house for a couple of weeks..?’

“And they would make up their minds as to whether they’d let you use the room in the house, and a camera was set up through which they could monitor into your house, through your windows.”

There are other bits and pieces of local knowledge and history from Peter Wise’s life that appear in the novel. The novel is structured well, so exposition about local color doesn’t intrude on the novel at all. There are nice snippets of Peter Wise’s memories of the Gold Coast, a surf city an hours drive south of Brisbane. “Well, it gave you … the reason I did that, I wanted the reader to look at what the Gold Coast looked like through the eyes of Sage back when he was a young teenager back in the fifties. Because not a lot’s been written about the Coast of that period.

“For example the conversation about, Well, it’s all Nippers now. Well, there was no Nippers back then. You look at where he was talking about when he was a cadet. Well, there were no Nippers back then; there were what you call Cadet Life Savers and he was one of them.”

There are also descriptions of landmarks Brisbane locals would have fun trying to recognise. For example, I think an unnamed café where cops used to hang out alludes to the Ohio Café in Clayfield.

Peter Wise said that a lot of characters in the book were semi-based on people he’d come into contact with, too.

“Well, they tell me as a first writer there’s some of you thrown in. It’s true. There are parts in there you could say that I know about.”

On the topic of reading, Peter Wise was a big fan of Frederick Forsyth. He started reading Frederick Forsyth when he decided to write. Forsythe is a master of the page-turner. “I remember reading his first book The Day of the Jackal, which he wrote when he was a young man in the ‘60s, in the early 1960s, and it got knocked back many times, about eight or nine times before someone took it up and the rest is history for him, because it put him on the world stage…The Day of the Jackal, the attempted assassination of de Gaulle. A great read. I’m a fan of his, you know.” In one scene in The Mt Mee Murders, a cabbie is reading The Avenger by Frederick Forsyth.

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