Arthur William Upfield was born on September 1, 1888, in Gosport, England, to James Oliver Upfield and Annie Barmore Upfield, who ran a drapery business. The eldest of five sons, he was reared largely by his grandmother and her two sisters. Suffering from bronchitis, he was often confined to bed, where he learned to read voraciously, and at sixteen he had written the first of three novels.
Upfield’s father wanted his son to be a real estate surveyor, but when Arthur failed the test, he sent the boy to Australia. Though he started working on a farm, and then as a hotel cook, Upfield finally achieved his dream as a boundary rider along the fences of a huge sheep farm in Momba, Victoria, an experience that gave him firsthand knowledge of Australia’s bush country and its abundant wildlife.
Overcome by loneliness, the young man returned by bike with his dog to New South Wales, where he exchanged his bike for a boat to pursue an idyllic existence on the Darling River. His traveling, as well as his experiences as a cattle drover, rabbit trapper, and horse trainer, enabled him to meet many of the strange characters he would describe in his novels.
In 1915, Upfield was married to a nurse, Anne Douglas, and had a son, Arthur Douglas, though his marriage soon failed. He joined the Australian Imperial Force in 1924, serving for five years in Gallipoli, the Egyptian desert, and France. Again he returned to Australia to trap and mine,...
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