The Australian mystery novelist, Arthur Upfield, never wrote a book that was any less than very good. But No Footprints in the Bush was a high achievement even for him.
First published in 1940 as The Bushranger of the Skies, used copies of this masterpiece are still available sometimes on amazon.com. I’m reading it now, and I’m in awe of it.
Not only does Upfield tell a fast-paced, exciting story; not only does he bring to life an exotic Australian landscape, and put you there; not only does he populate it with characters who live and breathe and get you emotionally involved with them–besides all that, Upfield probes his country’s history of racial strife and breaks through the polemics and the stereotypes to connect with the rock-bottom humanity of white settlers and black aborigines.
He doesn’t get all misty-eyed and sappy about the aborigines and their ancient way of life. He has too much respect for them, for that. Nor does he even try to sidestep the realities of prejudice, hatred, and mutual misunderstanding. Beyond that, he’s passionate about the subject.
It’s a far cry from what we’re used to in America, these days–whites can do no right, blacks can do no wrong, and because there was slavery here 150 years ago, black teens are entitled to play knockout and a black president can only be opposed or criticized by “racists.”
But then no issue in our time is shielded from the impact of massive foolishness.
We could use someone like Upfield to talk sense to us.