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The Forger’s Wife

Regarded as Australia's first detective novel, John Lang's The Forger's Wife (1856) is a lively adventure, set in an unruly colonial Sydney where everyone is on the make.

Edited and with an introduction by Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver

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Sold by: Faculty of Arts
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John Lang was Australia's first locally born novelist, publishing early work in Sydney in the 1840s and going on to write several bestsellers. The Forger's Wife (1856) is a lively adventure novel, set in an unruly colonial Sydney where everyone is on the make.

The forger's wife is a young woman who follows her rakish husband out to Australia and struggles to survive as her marriage falls apart. She soon meets detective George Flower, a powerful man with a cavalier sense of justice and retribution. Flower literally controls the fortunes of the colony: taking on the local bushrangers, instructing colonial authorities, and helping himself to the spoils along the way.

First serialised in Fraser's Magazine in 1853, The Forger's Wife was popular in its day and was reprinted many times over. It is Australia's first detective novel – and most likely, the first detective novel in the Anglophone world.

'It is a powerful, if occasionally painful, book. It sells even now in all the colonies and in England by the thousand...' Rolf Boldrewood on Australian Literature, The Advocate (Melbourne), 20 May 1893

The Forger's Wife is published as part of the Colonial Australian Popular Fiction series: an ongoing collaboration between the Grattan Street Press and the Australian Centre, both based within the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. For more information on the collaboration and to see the other books in the series, go to

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