The Reflexive Carter Brown, or the Prescience of Last Note for a Lovely



Despite Carter Brown’s status as the least known of Australia’s most successful authors, research has been done on his productions, his style, and his bibliography. This work, by its very nature, often precludes close reading of a traditional kind. A certain amount is known for example, of the purchase of the international rights to the Carter Brown mystery series by American publisher Signet in 1958, but no work has been done on the effects that this shift may have had on the novels themselves. This article proposes to read Last Note For a Lovely, a novel published the year before the deal with Signet was signed, in order to lay the foundations for future analyses of subsequent Carter Brown novels published after 1958. The reflexivity of this novel is such that the characters appear at times to be voicing the concerns of Alan Yates, the writer behind Carter Brown.

Carter Brown is very likely the most successful Australian author that most Australians have never heard of. Initially styled Peter Carter Brown, he hit the ground running: his first novel, The Lady Is Murder appeared in 1951, and by 1955, by some estimations, he already had over seventy novels to his name and, if their covers are to be believed sales figures of some ten million copies (Johnson-Woods, ‘Promiscuous’ 164). By the end of the Carter Brown series in the mid-1980s, the number of novels totalled at least two hundred and seventy-three, and given his success overseas, Toni Johnson-Woods appears justified in referring to Brown as a ‘literary pandemic’ (‘Promiscuous’ 164). To return to his status today, we can certainly suggest that his is the most dramatic case of an Australian author who has entered a kind of parallel literary canon overseas, especially in France where he features prominently…

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Published 28 October 2021 in Volume 36 No. 3. Subjects: Australian literature - Overseas publishing, Australian publishers, Detective fiction, Identity, Narrative voice, Popular culture, Culture wars, Carter Brown, Jazz critic, Doubling, French translation.

Cite as: Rolls, Alistair and Clara Sitbon. ‘The Reflexive Carter Brown, or the Prescience of Last Note for a Lovely.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 36, no. 3, 2021, doi: 10.20314/als.9fd4ba4892.