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Literature / Bony

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Bony — properly speaking, Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte — is the protagonist of a long-running Australian series of detective novels by Arthur Upfield. The first novel of the series, The Barakee Mystery, was published in 1929, and sequels continued to appear until the author's death in the 1960s.

A university-educated police officer, Bony is half-Aboriginal but was orphaned at a very early age and raised in the white man's society. He got his name at the orphanage after being found teething on a volume of Napoléon Bonaparte's memoirs. He is also familiar with Aboriginal culture, which often proves useful, and frequently works undercover, using his "half-caste" heritage to disguise his level of education.

The novels were adapted for radio early on, and for television in the 1970s under the title Boney. In the 1990s, there was a TV series called Bony starring Cameron Daddo as Detective David Bonaparte, supposedly a descendant of the novels' Bony.


Tony Hillerman was influenced by this series.

The novels provide examples of:

  • Damsel in Distress: If there is a sweet little girl beloved by all characters, she will be kidnapped and Bony will have to track her down. If a plucky young woman is present, she will be injured and require assistance. Even the tough policewoman is subject to this.
  • The Exotic Detective: A part-Aboriginal detective in remote Australia.
  • Glass Weapon: In one of the novels, the victims are killed with coloured glass daggers that were once used as props in a magic act to which characters are connected.
  • Magical Negro: Some Aboriginal shamans are depicted this way and are able to communicate telepathically to pass messages, wake unconscious characters, and the like.
  • Mixed Ancestry: Bony is one of the fortunate examples. Others are not so fortunate. Depicted in the series similarly to Harmony Versus Discipline, with (white) discipline being the preferred option.
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  • Running Gag: Bony's self-rolled cigarettes are regularly described as horrible, disgusting, or alleged.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Bony has his moments.
  • Suck Out the Poison: Happens occasionally due to copious Australian snakes.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Appear in a couple post-WWII novels.

The adaptations provide examples of:

  • Ascended Extra: Constable McGorr only appeared in two novels, Murder Must Wait and The Battling Prophet, but was made a regular character in the 1970s series so that Bony would have somebody to explain his thought processes to.
  • Everybody Is Single: In the novels, Bony is middle-aged and married; in the 1970s TV series, he's twenty years younger and single.
  • Setting Update: The 1970s TV series was set in the 1970s.
  • Spin-Offspring: The 1990s TV series.
  • The Watson: Constable McGorr in the 1970s series.


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