Fremantle’s historic West End is the setting for a new fiction novel about a modern day killer by author Dr Leigh Straw.
Limestone is the first in a series of three books by School of Communications and Arts history lecturer and author Dr Straw, which focuses on crime in the port city.
This book is a departure from her previous non-fiction works which include Drunks, Pests and Harlots’, a factual book which shed light on the female criminals that stalked the seedy streets of Perth and Fremantle in the early years of the twentieth century.
Dr Straw said reading crime fiction in recent years has better informed her non-fiction writing in terms of looking for ways to make it more interesting.
“Telling a good story has now become part of what I do in both my fiction and non-fiction writing,” she said.
“I also started writing fiction for the pure enjoyment of it and wanted to share what I thought were some interesting stories.”
A history of crime
Dr Straw has a long connection with Fremantle, which she describes as one of her favourite places in the world.
“I used to live in Marmion Street in an old cottage built in 1895 and have always enjoyed the history that makes up Fremantle’s character,” Dr Straw said.
“There are so many interesting Fremantle crime stories and it doesn’t take a stretch of imagination to see the stories all around you there.
“From the Round House to the old convict buildings and Fremantle Prison, Fremantle’s crime history inspires attention. Dark alleyways, old limestone buildings and the criminal deals made in various cafes and pubs are perfect material for fiction and non-fiction,” she said.
Researching the characters
The research for Dr Straw’s historical book Drunks, Pests and Harlots focused on the early twentieth century while Limestone is fiction set in the current day. However, both books feature prostitutes and lonely women, pointing to a crime theme running through her work.
“My last fiction book Sophia Lane set in Sydney in the 1930’s also featured a policewoman as a central character, and I’m also currently writing a true crime biography of Sydney underworld figure, Kate Leigh,” Dr Straw said.
Dr Straw originally wrote the Limestone story based on her knowledge of police work through professional engagements, conversations with members of the police over the years, and historical research.
“However, I knew my knowledge of police work was limited by the fact I am not a police officer and have not experienced the reality of this kind of work on a regular basis.
“Former and current members of the WA Police read the manuscript and offered insights into operational procedure, investigative methods and delighted in telling me some interesting police stories that I was able to draw on,” she said.