John Lang (1816-1864) was the first Australian-born novelist, often lauded as the first known writer of detective fiction in the Anglophone world. He is best known for his collection of short stories in Botany Bay: True Tales of Early Australia (1859) and for his career as a barrister. His grandfather was transported to Australia in the First Fleet for stealing eight silver spoons. Lang spent most of his professional career in India. There, he launched an anti-government magazine called The Mofussilite, where he published his novels in serial form. These were often anonymous, and Lang is widely believed to be the author of Violet the Danseuse (1836), making him the first Australian to publish an international best-selling novel.
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 (1893).