Bony (character)

Detective Inspector Napoleon "Bony" Bonaparte is a fictional character created by Australian novelist Arthur Upfield (1890–1964).[1] Bony is a biracial Aboriginal Australian detective with a reputation for solving difficult cases by finding subtle clues. Upfield introduced the character in his 1929 novel The Barrakee Mystery. 29 novels featuring the character were published.

Napoleon "Bony" Bonaparte
First appearanceThe Barrakee Mystery
Last appearanceThe Lake Frome Monster
Created byArthur Upfield
Portrayed byJames Laurenson
Cameron Daddo
In-universe information
TitleDetective inspector

Upfield said that he based the character on Tracker Leon, a biracial Aboriginal Australian man who worked for the Queensland Police.


Napoleon "Bony" Bonaparte is the son of an Aboriginal Australian mother and a white father. He was born during a time when an interracial relationship between an Aboriginal and a white person was forbidden. Bony was found in his dead mother's arms, where he was taken in by a Catholic mission; there he was named Napoleon Bonaparte, after the French military leader who lived from 1769 to 1821.

Bonaparte (nicknamed "Bony") holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Queensland University.[2] He is a detective inspector with the Queensland Police. He applies his astounding tracking skills to crime investigation, and has earned a peerless reputation for solving cases. Occasionally, Queensland's criminal investigation department sends him on assignment to another jurisdiction in Australia, if a murder case there stymies the local authorities.[3] Some of his assignments require him to work undercover. During an undercover operation, he may pose as a station hand or labourer, with only a few senior police aware of his secret identity. He sometimes uses an alias, such as Nat Bonnar or (as in Death of a Swagman) Robert Burns. When he gives his real name, he often adds "My friends call me Bony".

Bony says that he has been sacked several times for disobeying direct orders from his superiors, but adds that he is always reinstated almost immediately. He and his wife, Marie, live in Banyo, a suburb of Brisbane.[4][5] They have three adult sons; the eldest, Charles, is studying to be a doctor.



Title Publication date Reissue title
1 The Barrakee Mystery 1929 N/A
2 The Sands of Windee 1931 N/A
3 Wings Above the Diamantina 1936 N/A
4 Mr. Jelly's Business 1937 Murder Down Under
5 Winds of Evil 1937 N/A
6 The Bone is Pointed 1938 N/A
7 The Mystery of Swordfish Reef 1939 N/A
8 Bushranger of the Skies 1940 No Footprints in the Bush
9 Death of a Swagman 1945 N/A
10 The Devil's Steps 1946 N/A
11 An Author Bites the Dust 1948 N/A
12 The Mountains Have a Secret 1948 N/A
13 The Widows of Broome 1950 N/A
14 The Bachelors of Broken Hill 1950 N/A
15 The New Shoe 1951 N/A
16 Venom House 1952 N/A
17 Murder Must Wait 1953 N/A
18 Death of a Lake 1954 N/A
19 Sinister Stones 1954 Cake in the Hat Box
20 The Battling Prophet 1956 N/A
21 The Man of Two Tribes 1956 N/A
22 The Bushman Who Came Back 1957 Bony Buys a Woman
23 Bony and the Black Virgin 1959 The Torn Branch
24 Journey to the Hangman 1959 Bony and the Mouse
25 Valley of Smugglers 1960 Bony and the Kelly Gang
26 The White Savage 1961 Bony and the White Savage
27 The Will of the Tribe 1962 N/A
28 Madman's Bend 1963 The Body at Madman's Bend
29 The Lake Frome Monster 1966 N/A

The Sands of WindeeEdit

While working on the second Bony novel, 1931's The Sands of Windee, Arthur Upfield discussed plot ideas with his outback companions. One of these companions was Snowy Rowles, a man who had previously committed three murders using methods similar to those described in Upfield's novel. When Rowles was caught, Upfield was forced to testify at his trial. The ensuing publicity surrounding the Murchison Murders—as they came to be called—greatly improved the sales of the novel. The ensuing notoriety helped to catalyze Upfield's rise to fame.


Boney was an Australian television series made in 1972, featuring James Laurenson in the title role. The name was spelt 'Boney' for the series, and some editions of the novels kept this spelling for later editions.

Bony was also a 1990 telemovie and later a 1992 spin-off TV series (using the original 'Bony' spelling). However, the series was criticised for casting Bony as a white man (played by Cameron Daddo), under the tutelage of "Uncle Albert", an elderly Aborigine played by Burnum Burnum.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Rosemary, Herbert (2003-01-01). Whodunit? : a who's who in crime & mystery writing. Oxford University Press. pp. 21. ISBN 0195157613. OCLC 252700230.
  2. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Arthur Upfield". Books and Writers ( Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 5 January 2008.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-07-25. Retrieved 2008-04-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Australian Natural History and Human Ecology Page, Just For fans of Arthur Upfield's "Bony" Mysteries
  4. ^ The Cake in the Hat Box. 1955.[page needed][edition needed]
  5. ^ Murder Must Wait. 1953.[page needed][edition needed]

External linksEdit