After spending Friday and Saturday hanging out with the Annerley Grand Final winners on their yearly "soccer camp" on the Sunshine Coast I headed back to Brisbane for a book launch. Bloody Brisbane – Murder in River City is an anthology of murders edited by well known Brisbanite Jack Sim which went on sale yesterday. I was expecting a few drinks at the Hotel Terminus near the Convention Centre and the chance to buy the book but was pleasantly surprised to find that it was so much more. A few of the attendees had dressed up in Classic Crime Clothing which looked great in the old pub (even if it was being renovated to the bland new yuppie style). The programme involved readings, a chance to purchase the book and get it signed and maybe even a murder walk.
The first reading was given by Alicia Bennett whom I know through a friend of a friend. She told us a little about Dr John Tonge who was a forensic pathologist who attended the murder in the Wallace Bishop building that Alicia wrote about. At first he didn’t understand why Alicia and Jack wanted to drag up the past but after some convincing they were able to extend the 5 minutes of chat that he originally offered in to a couple of hours. So respected is the Doctor that the Queensland forensic testing centre is named after him. Alicia read only a few paragraphs of her story which I was relieved about as reading the whole thing would have spoilt the chance to read it myself.
After Alicia came Jaqueline Craique – a school teacher that like to race to the State Library on the odd occasions when she could make it before it shut. Her story was about the murder of a little girl in Samford that resulted in the last hanging in Queensland – the first state in the British Empire to abolish the death penalty. She told of odd coincidences that happened while writing the story – the most interesting to me was while she was in the state library she was chasing a file to find out who the executioner was. She had spent about 10 minutes with the librarian at the counter trying to narrow down the search and was getting stressed because the place was about to shut. There was an old guy waiting patiently while she was freaking out and she turned and apologised to him. He told her he knew who the executioner was and so she said goodbye to the library and spent 30 mins pumping him for information. How is that for timing.
Jack also had some coincidences and spoke about how he has spent 8 years renovating an old Buick Hearse once owned by the KM Funeral Parlour in Brisbane that is one of only 3 left in existence. It was in the shop at Watt’s Bus and Coach Works in Woolloongabba nearing completition when some young punks decided that after drinking up at the Broadway pub that it would be funny to set fire to the shop. Horrified Jack went to the site to survey the damage. He walked past the melted balls of buses that had once been prides of the fleet, stepped over the rubble from the building and walked up to the tarp between two burnt mounds of steel that were other vehicles. Lifting the tarp he discovered that his beloved Lou-Lou was still intact – not even the wood inside had burned. He said it had been baked rather than burned and will live on. Spooky that the hearse was the only recoverable thing in the fire.
After a few more speeches we were able to purchase the book and get it signed by all the authors. As usual I was a bit worried about what to say to them but since Alicia was first she warmed me up so that by the end of it I was holding the line up because I was talking so much. We ate a few nibbles then waited for the finale. Jack was going to take us on a tour of the Hotel Terminus and show us the room where a murder took place.
The Hotel Terminus used to be the Sly Fox which was a backpackers before it was closed due to the laws brought in after the Childers fire. Before that people were able to live and have offices above the pub and it was in the office on the first floor in the corner where the murder occurred. Apparently the story was to be the 13th chapter of the book but was ditched because no one was actually convicted of murder even after the guy confessed. Basically one brother *alledgedly* shot the other brother because he was spending so much on heavy machinery that it was bleeding the company dry. I’d like to give more details but since the guy is alive and Jack didn’t want to publish the story in case of being sued than I don’t want to fall foul of the same thing.
After being spooked out in the dark halls of the pub we headed off for home. Just outside there was a car being directed by 2 people in to a small parking spot. As he bumped the BMW behind him we alighted from our free park on the pavement cackling like witches riding our scooters in to the sunset. I love my vespa.
P.S. I’ll save my comments about the book when I’ve finished it.