Ocean Grove resident and award winning author, Dorothy Johnston, is set to release ‘The Lodeman’ this month. It is the fourth novel in her sea-change mystery fiction series and is set in Queenscliff, cleverly juxtaposing its peaceful environment with the gravity of murder.
Mrs Johnston was fifteen when her father built their Pt Lonsdale family home. From this setting she formed a strong connection with both Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale.
“Queenscliff is a rich setting for fiction. In my novels I have used the training base on Swan Island, and historic buildings such as Hotel Q and the house where Henry Handel Richardson lived as a child. The peaceful, beautiful landscape is also important, and the strong contrast this provides to the plot of a murder mystery” she said.
In research for ‘The Lodeman’ Mrs Johnston had to begin an investigation into the rich history of Queenscliff. This included specific details on certain buildings where important scenes take place in the novel.
“I had to learn about the history of the pilot service, and the dangers of piloting ships in and out of Melbourne. I researched the controversies over channel dredging and where to build a new container port. One scene is set inside Pt Lonsdale lighthouse, where my main character, police constable Chris Blackie, questions the lighthouse keeper about a boat sneaking through the heads at night without lights and with its radio switched off.”
This novel takes pride in exploring the points of view of people not usually celebrated, due to their low ‘ranking’ within the institutions they belong to.
“I am interested in telling stories ‘from below’, rather than from the points of view of the people in charge. My protagonist, Chris Blackie, is low down in the police hierarchy and would not normally be involved in a murder investigation. But the death of a pilot – the body is found by an old friend of Chris’s – allows him to become involved and then he starts asking questions of his own”, Mrs Johnston said.
Unlike some fiction writers Mrs Johnston prefers to use real names and real places as the settings for her stories, breathing imaginative life into them as she goes. In June she ran a literary tour showcasing some of the places in her novels.
“As a fiction writer, Queenscliff is for me both a real place, and the place of my imagination. I have to thank Hilary Stennett of the Queenscliff library for making the tour a success” she said.
“People were amused when I pointed out where Chris Blackie lived, and told them about the body in the basement of the Hotel Q.”
‘The Lodeman’ is a stand alone novel and therefore doesn’t require readers to have already read earlier books in the series. So if you enjoy a murder mystery while showcasing some of the iconic scenery in which you live, ‘The Lodeman’ is a must have.