Jon Cleary Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Jon Cleary is a writer of several genres of fiction, which share a high standard of craftsmanship. Whether adventures, mysteries, or popular novels, Cleary’s works feature well-paced narratives, a strong sense of atmosphere, and realistic dialogue. His work reflects an awareness of social problems and his sympathy for suffering, even misguided, humanity. His mystery fiction is marked by such compelling characterizations that it consistently rises above the level of the formulaic.

Cleary began his writing career with a collection of short fiction about his military service in the Middle East during World War II. In 1966, he published the first in a long string of mystery novels featuring Scobie Malone, a rugged but sympathetic Australian detective. Through the voice of his intrepid detective, Cleary has produced a series that reflects the changing focus of mystery and crime narratives over several decades, as well as major social and cultural shifts in Australian society.

In a writing career that has spanned more than five decades, Cleary has produced short and long fiction, plays, radio plays, teleplays, and screenplays, in addition to his substantial contributions in the mystery and detective genre. His works have appeared in numerous foreign language translations. Cleary received the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers Association for his 1974 novel Peter’s Pence. Other awards include the Australian Broadcasting Commission prize for radio drama in 1944, the Australian Literary Society’s Crouch Medal for the best Australian novel in 1950, and the Australian Crime Writers’ Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Dickinson, Jane. Review of Dilemma, by Jon Cleary. Denver Rocky Mountain News, June 18, 2000, p. 8E. Favorable review of this Scobie Malone novel about the kidnap and murder of a five-year-old child. Praises Cleary’s solid psychological insights and writing.

Kelly, Ed. Review of Dark Summer, by Jon Cleary. Buffalo News, September 5, 1993, p. Book. Review of this Scobie Malone book calls Cleary a “standout” among contemporary crime-fiction writers. Notes the brisk interactions between Malone and his partner, Russ Clements, and the details about Malone’s family. Also identifies a resemblance to J. J. Marric’s novels about George Gideon.

Knight, Stephen. Continent of Mystery: A Thematic History of Australian Crime Fiction. Vic., Australia: Melbourne University Press, 1997. A chronicle of nearly two centuries of Australian crime fiction that covers hundreds of authors, including Cleary, and evaluates their contributions to the country’s unique slant on crime and mystery fiction.

Knight, Stephen. Crime Fiction, 1800-2000: Detection, Death, Diversity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Knight provides a useful overview of the crime genre in the last two centuries, with discussions of various authors, works, and influences. Helps place Cleary in the mystery genre.

Pitt, David. Review of Morning’s Gone, by Jon Cleary. Booklist 103, no. 17 (May 1, 2007): 41. Review of this novel about how a politician’s past comes to haunt him is called “a revealing character study” about a politician and his wife.