A Novel entitled “Lake Beauty” by Rob George …. with hihlighting mpose d by The Editor, Thuppahi
It’s 1947 and in the remote farming town of Honiton on Yorke Peninsula a skeleton is discovered encrusted in salt in the middle of Lake Beauty,the dry salt lake that borders the town. Newly arrived sergeant, Sam, and his wife, ex-policewoman, Annie, have to battle local prejudices, post war domestic tensions, pressure from senior police and a lake that occasionally fills and then dries out, to solve the mystery. They discover the skeleton is of a female who has been murdered an indeterminate number of years ago. Three potential victims emerge; a former and maligned Mayor of the town, a union activist caught up in a protest that turned ugly and a backing singer in a touring country and western band. When a local woman who may have had incriminating evidence is killed in a suspicious car accident and Sam’s teenage daughter is seriously assaulted, clues emerge that identify the woman and her murderers.
The Genesis of the Story.
In researching a TV series I came across the statistic that a high percentage of able-bodied men in rural Australian towns enlisted in WW1 and it got me wondering about who filled the void?There are odd references to women taking over many previously male roles but what if a town had elected a woman as Mayor and what would have been her fate when the soldiers, angry and displaced, returned after the war? Similar situations arose during and after WW2 with many women badly treated when their damaged men returned or when a hasty war-time wedding became a failed marriage once peace was restored.
I grew up in the small town of Yorketown on Yorke Peninsula in South Australia, a decade or so after the setting of the novel, but I don’t think much had changed in the interim. It’s a drab, messy town sited next to a large salt lake where I often played and where I set rabbit traps to make money. There is a strong autobiographical element to the story. My father was a bank manager and we moved from town to town every few years. There were five children in our family and the accommodation provided by the bank was often cramped. Like the teachers and the police and various clergy we were outsiders despite being critical to the functioning of the community.
In Lake Beauty I have tried to recreate a world that no longer exists – where rural societies were independent and in many ways self-sustaining. Where people shared phone lines, printed their own newspapers, baked their own bread and where the GP and the local hospital was the only source of medical treatment. But it was also a world that was changing as newly arrived immigrants from Europe pushed out from the cities into the bush and where old attitudes were being challenged.