Browne was an international banker--he racked up 37 years with NAB [National Australia Bank]--and one of his forebears was a founder of Australia’s first bank. But the former paratrooper who once hankered for a spell in the French foreign legion loved writing and had three books published in Britain in the early ’80s when writing was still “an occasional Sunday activity”. Then came a couple of historical novels about Melbourne in the late 19th century, The Gilded Cage and The Burnt City. It was with The Wooden Leg of Inspector Anders, published in 1999 and featuring his one-legged policeman investigating the murder of a magistrate who was himself investigating the killing of an anti-Mafia judge, that he really struck a chord with readers. It won the Ned Kelly award for a first crime novel and was shortlisted in the 2002 Los Angeles Times book awards. Browne then turned his attention to Nazi Germany, writing three novels starring Franz Schmidt, an auditor, as their hero. Schmidt has only one eye, and Browne told “Bookmarks” he was interested in damaged heroes. He included Hideo Aoki, the hero of his 2006 novel, Rendezvous at Kamakura Inn, a disgraced Japanese policeman intact physically but not psychologically. Browne wrote three novels about Anders, and Australian Scholarly Press, which published The Gilded Cage in 1996, will bring out the fourth later this year. The book was at the editing stage when Browne died. But only 10 days earlier he had a bookshop signing for The Sabre and the Shawl, the novella published by ASP last month that The Age review described as “a romantic evocation of the historical time and place, with great characterisation and an exploration of the creative process”. Publisher Nick Walker said Browne was delighted by the queue of people who bought books but exhausted by the time he got home. When people assembled for a celebratory drink he told them in his characteristic self-deprecating way, with a smile on his face, that they were looking at the ghost of Marshall Browne.Steele Curry, a Rap Sheet reader from Calgary, Alberta (and author of the Citizen of the World Guides), who had recently been in e-mail contact with Browne, forwarded a note to me that he’d received from the Melburnian this last January 7. It reads in part:
Unfortunately, my health has deteriorated. Now pretty much house-bound. My cancer in progress for 4 years has now reached the last phase & medicos expect me to bow-out later in 2014. No pain, just intense fatigue.In another note to Curry, sent to him just yesterday by ASP publisher Nick Walker, Walker wrote:
However, I have a book just out--not a mystery or crime thriller--a novella titled The Sabre and the Shawl published by Arcadia imprint of Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne.
I’ve finished the 4th Inspector Anders novel: Inspector Anders & the Prague Dossier which, hopefully, will come out about June with the same publisher.
At the pace of a snail! I'm working on a sequel to Rendezvous at Kamakura Inn--titled Black Ice--Inspector Aoki is back! & I hope to get it done.
I have sad news--Marshall passed away just over a week ago. He had a book launching ([The] Sabre and the Shawl) just a few days before, and it was a great success. We shall look after his books and shall release the new Inspector Anders mid-year--it’s now with an editor.So we can at least look forward to one additional Browne work of fiction The status of the aforementioned Black Ice is less clear. I shall update this post when I hear back from Nick Walker, to whom I have just sent an inquiry regarding that work.
Our best wishes go out to Marshall Browne’s wife, Merell, and the remainder of their family at this time of sorrow.
READ MORE: “The Book You Have to Read: Who Killed Palomino Molero? by Mario Vargas Llosa,” by Marshall Browne (The Rap Sheet); “Australian Crime Fiction Snaphot: Marshall Browne,” by Perry Middlemiss (Matilda).