What Burlesque Shows and Mystery Writers Have in Common

Please help me welcome Dorothy Johnston as today’s Wednesday’s Guest. She is a mystery author who lives and works in Australia – one of the places I would really love to visit – and she is here to tell us a bit about some of the research she has done for her series, which concluded with The Fourth Season. I have only read the last book in the series and reviewed it last Sunday, but I will be checking out the others. I really liked the literary feel to her style of writing. 

 In researching what to offer as refreshments, I discovered that Aussies like a beer in the heat of the summer as do we here in Texas. So grab a local beer from the Ironbark Brewery and enjoy…

Hi, Dorothy here. First I want to thank Maryann for hosting me here on her blog, as well as for the

wonderful review on Sunday.

My mystery quartet is set in Canberra, Australia’s national capital, and, while I enjoyed researching the final book, The Fourth Season, the most fun I had was with the third book, Eden, which has as its setting Canberra’s sex industry.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT), in which Canberra is situated, was a pioneer in de-criminalising prostitution in Australia. The other pioneer was Victoria, but the ACT’s laws were more progressive and far-reaching, and the sale of sexual services has been legal there since the 1980s.

In Canberra, prostitution is zoned ‘light industrial’, which means that it’s legal in the light industrial zones of Fyshwick, Hume and Mitchell and illegal everywhere else. I sometimes think that is a kind of comment on the fact that, politics aside, Canberra has no heavy industry. At dusk on a Friday, when the used car yards and furniture shops of Fyshwick are closing up, the brothels come into their own.

One establishment, so discreet during the day that you would never notice it, is called Parliament House.
Parliament House Fyshwick is built above a sandwich bar and bottle shop, but at night the name becomes a great neon circle in the darkness. At sunset, customers, and potential customers, begin to gather. They buy six packs. They’ve parked their Monaros, and their utes and semi-trailers and they stand around them, cans and bottles in their hands, kidding one another while they work up enough courage to walk through Parliament House’s door. I very much enjoyed lurking around watching them!

Another busy time is Sunday morning, the husband’s excuse being, ‘I’m just off to take this load of rubbish to the tip, dear’. And the empty utes, with a branch or two of prunings left in the bottom of the tray, are once again lined up outside the brothel, no neon lights this time.

One of Canberra’s best known brothels used to be Club Goldfinger. It was situated on top of a discount tyre place in Mitchell. A large billboard at the front showed a beautiful young woman all dressed in gold holding onto the Parliament House flagmast. She stood there as proudly as our local statue of liberty. Underneath her, in big black letters, was an advertisement for the tyre place, which said: four new tyres plus alignment $49.50, lube $39.95.

Roland Barthes, the French philosopher, likens the reader of detective novels to ‘a schoolboy at a burlesque show; he is so aroused by his desire to see the stripper’s genitals that he is tempted to rush the stage in order to help her strip faster.’ The flirtation process is mimicked to great effect in the detective plot. Suspense, flirtation, concealment and disclosure follow one another, and a large part of the pleasure of concealment lies in knowing that what is concealed will ultimately be revealed.

However, and this is another insight I gained from my research, the mysteries of revelation can turn out to be greater, and more perplexing, than the mysteries of concealment.
Dorothy Johnston is an award-winning Australian author of literary and crime novels, and short stories. She is known for her interest in the subject of prostitution. Her first novel, ‘Tunnel Vision’ is set in a Melbourne massage parlour and she has returned to the subject in recent years, notably in her novels, ‘The House at Number 10’ and ‘Eden’ – the third book in her Sandra Mahoney mystery series – and in her short story collection, ‘Eight Pieces On Prostitution’. She lived in Canberra, Australia’s national capital for thirty years, and she has written widely about that experience as well.

1 thought on “What Burlesque Shows and Mystery Writers Have in Common”

  1. I’m looking forward to reading your books (based on Maryann’s review and the sample on Amazon), but I’ve decided that it will be better if I begin at the beginning, and take my time.

    The Fourth Season had a lovely start, but I didn’t see if there was a recap of what went before – personal and professional – for your detective.

    I apologize for my lack of time, but I am definitely intrigued.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top