Flower, Pat 1914-1977
FLOWER, Pat 1914-1977
PERSONAL: Born Patricia Mary Bryson, 1914, in Kent, England; immigrated to Australia c. 1928; died by suicide, 1977, in Australia; married Cedric Flower (a painter and writer).
CAREER: Novelist, copywriter, dramatist, and poet. Worked for New Theatre League, Sydney, Australia.
AWARDS, HONORS: Mary Gilmore Award, Association for the Study of Australian Literature, 1967, for television play Tilley Landed on Our Shore.
Wax Flowers for Gloria, Ure Smith (Sydney, Australia), 1958.
Goodbye, Sweet William, Angus and Robertson (London, England), 1959.
A Wreath of Water-Lilies, Ure Smith (Sydney, Australia), 1960.
One Rose Less, Angus and Robertson (London, England), 1961.
Hell for Heather, Hale (London, England), 1962.
Term of Terror, Hale (London, England),1963.
Fiends of the Family, Hale (London, England), 1966.
Hunt the Body, Hale (London, England), 1968.
Cobweb, Collins (London, England), 1972, Stein and Day (New York, NY), 1978.
Cat's Cradle, Collins (London, England), 1973, Stein and Day (New York, NY), 1977.
Slyboots, Collins (London, England), 1974, Stein and Day (New York, NY), 1977.
Odd Job, Collins (London, England), 1974, Stein and Day (New York, NY), 1978.
Vanishing Point, Collins (London, England), 1975, Stein and Day (New York, NY), 1977.
Crisscross, Collins (London, England), 1976, Stein and Day (New York, NY), 1977.
Shadow Show, Collins (London, England), 1976, Stein and Day (New York, NY), 1978.
Pistils for Two, Wattle Grove Press (Newnham, Tasmania), 1963.
plays for radio and television
This Seems as Good a Time as Any, 1948.
(With Cedric Flower) Love Returns to Umbrizi, 1949.
(With Cedric Flower) From the Tropics to the Snow, 1965.
The Tape Recorder, 1966.
The Lace Counter, 1966.
The V.I.P.P., 1966.
Easy Terms, 1966.
The Prowler, 1966.
The Empty Day, 1966.
Done away With, 1966.
Tilley Landed on Our Shore, 1968.
SIDELIGHTS: Although she was most successful at play writing, English-born Australian author Pat Flower also penned fifteen mystery novels and one book of poetry. Nearly half of Flower's novels were part of the "Detective-Inspector Swinton" series, which begins with Wax Flowers for Gloria. The principal character of the series is detective Bert Swinton, who solves crimes for the Sydney police with his intuitive powers. Literary critics have said Flower's novels fall either within the police procedural or psychological suspense novel traditions. In the 1970s she concentrated on the latter category, producing eight psychological suspense novels in an eight-year span. Those works include Cat's Cradle, Odd Job, Vanishing Point, and Shadow Show, the last of which appeared in 1976, a year before Flower took her own life. Flower was better known for the many plays she wrote for radio and television, including The Tape Recorder, which appeared in the anthology Best Short Plays, 1969, and was the first play to be produced in color on British television. Flower also earned the Mary Gilmore Award in 1967 for her television play Tilley Landed on Our Shore. Flower often played on her own surname when naming characters and even the titles of her books, such as with Wax Flowers for Gloria and One Rose Less. "Flower is not well-known in the mystery field and her books received few reviews, but certainly her novels of psychological suspense deserve more attention than they have yet received," Casey Schmitt wrote in Critical Survey of Mystery and Detective Fiction. Flower also published one book of poetry, Pistils for Two.
Born Patricia Mary Bryson in Kent, England, in 1914, Flower moved to Australia at age fourteen. She later married writer Cedric Flower, who co-wrote two screenplays with her, including the award-winning From the Tropics to the Snow. Flower established herself in the Australian entertainment industry in the late 1940s with her television and radio plays, which she continued to write for more than two decades. By the late 1950s, Flower began to focus on writing mystery novels, beginning with Wax Flowers for Gloria, in which Detective-Inspector Swinton made his debut. According to Virginia Macdonald, a contributor to the St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, Flower wrote "highly competent mysteries," which hinged on "character study, ironic twists of plot, and credible surprise endings."
A typical Flower story included pathological liars, wealthy characters who were mean-spirited, and especially neurotic criminals. "Flower's view of the world is a dark one filled with self-deceiving characters and psychological as well as physical violence," Schmitt wrote. Critics mostly equate Flowers with her "Swinton" series, which consisted of seven novels. Swinton is somewhat of an Everyman detective. Heavy set and in his forties, Swinton lives in the Sydney suburbs with his wife and family. His love of Australian meat pies is surpassed only by his ability to solve crimes in a flash of intuition. Swinton succeeds mostly by understanding how human nature affects criminal motive. In fact, commentators have said one of Flower's writing strengths was her ability to describe her characters' psyches. "Flower's emphasis is not on detection but on the revelation of character," Schmitt wrote. In each volume of the series, Swinton figures out an important piece of the puzzle near the end of the book, which makes sense out of everything and leads him to solve the crime. To get to that point, however, Swinton has to dig deep below the surface of both characters and situations. "Once the surface gave way anywhere that part of the wall would collapse in chaos. Just as in this situation there were cracks in the surface . . . now the smooth civilized top layer was unreliable," Flower wrote in A Wreath of Water-Lilies, the third book of the series. After Fiends of the Family, the last of the "Swinton" series, she continued to write novels, publishing seven between 1972 and 1976. Ironically, her last effort, Shadow Show, concludes with a sense that the story has not really ended.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Critical Survey of Mystery and Detective Fiction, Salem (Pasadena, CA), 1988.
Oxford Companion to Australian Literature, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994.*