An unsolved murder takes one of Australia’s foremost writers of non-fiction into the 1930s Bohemian demi-monde, exploring the fate of a talented young woman trying to make her way in that artistic, sexualised, ‘liberated’ world.
On the night of 21 November 1930, twenty-five-year-old school teacher Mollie Dean was beaten to death 50 metres from her home in Elwood. The public was shocked: brutal killing, beautiful young victim, no clear motive.
The shock deepened when the inquest revealed that Mollie was in bed, figuratively and literally, with Melbourne’s bohemian circle, in particular Australia’s leading conductor Fritz Hart and the rising star of Australian art Colin Colahan, both married; she had also been the mistress of Australia’s mightiest wrestler and body builder Clarence Weber. Mollie was herself an aspiring writer, and in turn was an inspiration. In life she was painted and described in diaries. Her death became part of numerous novels, most notably the classic My Brother Jack.
But who was Mollie other than a victim? Gideon Haigh listens to echoes of her voice in court documents, diaries and above all in the art and literature of the world that exploited and excluded her even as it celebrated her in its art, to reveal the dangerous life of a talented young woman without a room of her own.