GEORGE OVERTON (RETIRED) - A Collection of short detective stories.

 When Detective Sergeant George Overton retires from the  Sydney Police Force at the end of World War II, he is looking forward to a quiet life away from crime. 

Lazy days with a good book sound good to George, but try as he might, fate decrees otherwise. George – who has a knack for remembering quotes from the many books he reads and slips them into any appropriate conversation – might say: ‘As Benjamin Franklin said, Nothing is certain but death and taxes.’ 

Police colleagues and criminals alike involve George in their problems.  

Although he can only work in an unofficial capacity, once he gets his teeth into a problem, he won’t let go until it is resolved. 

In Store Price: $AU25.95 
Online Price:   $AU24.95

ISBN: 978-1-921574-11-5      
Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages: 226
Genre: Fiction



Author: Roger Wood
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2009
Language: English


About the Author

Roger Wood’s background is in television and theatre. He worked for BBC Television for 23 years in the Design Department before returning to Australia in 1987 to live on the Sunshine Coast.

Roger has written many plays for the theatre but this is his first collection of short stories.


Read a sample:

The Case of Tit for Tat


Sydney, Australia. Summer 1949


t was a quiet, balmy, summer night in Rozelle Street with not even enough breeze to blow a piece of paper along the old stone gutter. Rozelle was the second suburb on the Balmain peninsula after Balmain itself; in fact, it used to be called West Balmain before the post office was built and a new suburb created. The cloudless sky meant the shops were bathed in moonlight, which made it all the more difficult for the two shady figures to conceal their intentions. Dressed in black, they moved from shadow to shadow until they stopped in the doorway with a painted wooden sign over it saying ‘Mundin & Skinner Estate Agents’. One of the men tried to pick the lock on the door but when it became obvious he wasn’t going to open it, the other man took a small tyre lever from his coat pocket.

‘Get out of the way,’ he said and jemmied the door, breaking the lock away from the frame.

‘I could have done that,’ whispered the smaller of the two ‘We could have been in and out without them knowing.’

‘Shut up and come inside,’ said the tall figure, trying to close the broken door.

Inside they quickly ascended the steep stairs to the offices above and pushed their way into one of the darkened rooms.

‘Pull those curtains open so we can see,’ whispered the taller of the men.

The younger man wrenched the brown curtains open and moonlight bathed the room. It was empty, except for a couple of broken chairs and some empty tea chests.

‘Check the other rooms.’

The young man was only gone seconds and when he returned he reported, ‘They’re all empty.’

‘Bloody hell!’ cursed the tall man and kicked a tea chest at the window, smashing one of the panes and showering glass into the street below.

‘Quiet! You’ll have the cops on us.’

‘I don’t care,’ he said, recklessly kicking another against the wall. ‘Where have the bastards gone?’

‘I don’t know, let’s get out of here.’

‘No, I wanna see for myself,’ the tall man said, going through to the other offices.

His young mate went gingerly to the window and peered down into the quiet street; everything still looked normal. He took a comb from the back pocket of his trousers and combed his long hair back over his ears as he listened to the sound of rubbish being thrown about in the other offices; his cousin always did have a short temper.

‘All right,’ said the tall man as he came back into the room.

‘I told you.’

‘I thought they might have left something.’

‘Can we go now?’

‘See if there’s anything in the tea chests,’ said the tall man hopefully.

‘Why? It’s just junk.’

‘Well look anyway, there might be something to tell us what they’ve done with my money.’

‘Eileen’s money,’ corrected the younger man.

‘All right! Eileen’s money, just look, will yer.’

They searched the half dozen tea chests but found nothing but screwed-up newspaper.

After kicking another against the wall, the tall man said, ‘Come on, let’s go,’ and they went back down the stairs. They wrenched open the broken door and the cool night air felt good on their faces that had been made clammy from the exertions above. They stepped into the moonlit street and straight into the arms of four men in dark blue uniforms that were waiting for them. The beat constable had heard the breaking glass and had quickly called for reinforcements.

* * 




he Darling Hotel was about halfway along Darling Street in East Balmain; it was the same as any other Sydney pub, brown tiles on the wall up to shoulder height and then red brick. It was in two sections, a large public bar that had frosted glass windows with ‘PUBLIC’ and ‘BAR’ engraved on them and a small lounge bar for the ladies.

It was late afternoon and the public bar had its usual clientele of regulars propped up against the polished mahogany counter. There was Wally Clifford, a retired engineer who had worked on the building of the bridge; to listen to him you would think he had built it single-handed. Wilf Meager and his mate Jimmy Sanders were still dressed in their brown bib and brace overalls; they worked on the harbour ferries and had just finished their shift. They usually stopped here to have one or two for the road before going home. Fred Tanner, the local starting price bookie, sat at a table with his moneybag on a chair and a newspaper open at the racing page. George Overton was a retired police detective who lived a few doors down from the pub and could be found at the same spot at the bar every afternoon, the same spot that had supported his father before him. Mickey Ross, the publican and bartender, had also been in the police force with Overton in the early days but when he lost his eye in a razor fight in the twenties he was pensioned off and had to find other employment. The one thing about coming from Balmain was you could always get a job on the water; it was in your blood. So he became the skipper of the Watson’s Bay ferry and had been called ‘the Cap’n’ ever since. Then there was Sid Triffett who rarely spoke and never took off his flat cap; he just read his newspaper and sipped a glass of old beer.

‘But will it work?’ asked Wilf.

‘Of course it will,’ replied Wally the engineer.

‘I don’t know why you’re asking him,’ said Overton as he struck a match and lit his pipe.

‘He was an engineer.’

‘I’m still an engineer,’ said Wally.

‘Yeah, on the roads,’ said Overton through a blue cloud of smoke. ‘What do you know about the Snowy River scheme?’

‘I know they wouldn’t be going ahead with it if it wasn’t going to work,’ said Wally.

‘There’ll be a lot of jobs for people,’ said Wilf.

‘The paper says three thousand workers would be needed, doesn’t it Sid?’ asked Jimmy.

‘Get stuffed,’ said Sid without looking up from his newspaper.

‘It’s worth thinking about though,’ continued Jimmy Sanders.

‘Would you go and work on it?’ asked Overton.

‘I don’t know if the wife would let me go,’ said Jimmy. ‘It’s a long way away, you’d need a passport to go down there.’

‘I reckon my wife’d be glad to get rid of me,’ said Wally, who was a smart man in his sixties with neat grey hair and a pencil-thin grey moustache. Wally’s only trouble was he thought he knew a bit about everything and tended to lecture the other drinkers.

‘I’m with her there,’ said Wilf.

‘I would have been head-hunted for my expertise when I was younger,’ said the engineer.’

‘Yeah, they reckon there’re still cannibals living in the wilds of the Snowy Mountains,’ said Overton.

‘You know what I’m talking about.’

‘Do you want any more drinks here?’ asked the Cap’n as he moved along to their end of the bar. ‘George?’

‘Yeah, I’ll have another,’ said Overton, pushing his empty glass forward.

‘And me,’ said Wilf, ‘and one for Jimmy.’

‘Why would he need a passport?’ asked the Cap’n as he poured the beer.

‘To go to Victoria,’ said Overton.

‘You don’t, do you?’ asked Wilf. He had been a commando during the war and was a good man to have in a stoush but he was a bit slow on the uptake.

‘I was just joking,’ said Jimmy. ‘Anyway, I wouldn’t want to leave Sydney.’

‘Even for big money?’ asked the Cap’n.

‘Who’s earning big money?’ asked a voice from the door. They turned to see a one-armed man approaching, with a stout man wearing a badly fitting suit following him.

‘G’day Lefty,’ said the Cap’n.

‘Look who I found lurking about outside.’ Lefty gestured with his thumb over his shoulder.

‘Watch out! It’s the long arm of the law,’ said the Cap’n.

‘How you going, Digger?’ said Overton and Fred Tanner took his moneybag from the chair and put it on the floor under his table.

Detective Sergeant Graves from the Leichhardt Police Station felt a bit out of place with all these men staring at him. He was a tired man approaching fifty; he wheezed as he got to the bar and undid the straining buttons on his jacket.

‘I’ll have a beer thanks, Cap’n,’ he said. ‘And less of the cheek.’

‘A bit quiet over on your patch, is it?’ asked Overton as he sipped his Irish whisky.

‘Nah, we’re flat out, they never seem to give us enough men.’

‘It was the same at George Street and we had a bigger area than you to cover,’ said Overton. He had been based at George Street North Police Station before he retired and that station covered part of the city and The Rocks area.

‘Actually, I came to see you, George,’ said Digger.

‘What have I done now?’

‘You? Nothing, do you know a kid called Ronnie Garfield?’

‘Everybody in Balmain knows Ronnie,’ said Overton.

‘Well, we’ve got him at the station,’ said Digger. ‘Him and his cousin got caught breaking into an office in Rozelle.’

‘It doesn’t sound like Ronnie,’ said Overton. ‘But who knows with kids these days.’

‘We’re just waiting for Juvenile to come and get them.’

‘What’s it got to do with me?’ asked Overton.

‘He’s been asking for you, going on about a con or something, I think he’s just trying to wheedle out of the burglary charge.’

‘Do you think I should see him?’

‘That’s up to you, George.’

‘What office was it?’ asked Overton.

‘It was an estate agent’s until a couple of days ago, now it’s empty.’

‘Strange.’ Overton could sense a mystery. ‘Which cousin was with him?’

‘Lenny Pierce.’

‘I thought he was getting married,’ said Overton.

‘Even villains get married,’ said the Cap’n.

‘But it doesn’t sound like them, why would they break into an empty office?’

‘I just thought you’d want to know,’ said Graves as he picked up his hat and made for the door ‘You can get back to business now Fred,’ he said loudly as he stepped into the street.

Fred Tanner smiled a nervous smile and then reached under the table for his moneybag. Overton relit his pipe and sat thinking for a few minutes.

‘Your glass is empty,’ said the Cap’n, breaking his mood.

‘Well fill it up then.’

‘What’s the matter George?’ asked the Cap’n as he topped the glass up with whisky.

‘It’s not like Ronnie to make a mistake,’ said Overton.

‘They’re kids,’ said Wilf Meager.

‘Ronnie Garfield knows everything that goes on around here; as the American’s say, he’s streetwise, so why would he break into an empty office?’

‘He helped you during the war, didn’t he?’ asked the Cap’n.

‘Yeah,’ said Overton. ‘He ran with a load of urchins, they called themselves Iggis and if ever I needed to know what was going on in Balmain I only had to ask them.’

‘What happened to them?’ asked Lefty.

‘Oh, grown up I suppose, some might still be about,’ said Overton.

‘Fred!’ called Jimmy Sanders from the bar. ‘Will you give me twenties on Delta in the cup?’

‘Shhh,’ said Fred Tanner. ‘D’you want the whole of Balmain to hear?’

‘Well, will you?’ he said, lowering his voice and walking across to Fred’s table.

‘It’s favourite,’ said the bookie. ‘Six to one is all I’ll go.’

‘Strike a light, I only want to put five bob on it,’ said Jimmy, spinning on his heel and heading back to his place at the bar.

‘You still can,’ said the Cap’n.

‘Not at sixes.’

‘Foxzami is the one I fancy,’ said Wally.

‘Bullshit,’ said Wilf. ‘Howe will walk it.’

‘Well don’t just talk about them,’ said Fred, sensing some business. ‘Put some money where your mouths are.’ Several drinkers from further down the bar walked over to look at Fred’s newspaper.

‘What about you, George, who do you think’s gonna win?’ asked Lefty.

‘My money’s staying in my pocket Melbourne Cup or no Melbourne Cup.’

‘I’ve got Hoyle in the sweep at the brewery,’ said the Cap’n.

‘That’s got a chance,’ said Wilf.

‘Well,’ said Overton, draining his glass and laying it on the bar. ‘I’ve got to be off.’

‘Where you going now?’ asked the Cap’n as Overton got off his stool.

‘I’m going to the boxing with Bill if it’s any of your business.’

‘I didn’t know there was any on tonight?’

‘Leichhardt Stadium.’

‘Who’s fighting?’ asked the Cap’n.

‘An Italian called Tony Magnifico,’ said Overton and then quoted, ‘The noblest Roman of them all.’ Overton could usually come up with an apt saying from one of the many books he loved to read in retirement. It had been one of his dreams that when he retired he would sit in his comfortable chair in the quiet of his living room and read to his heart’s content.

‘He wouldn’t have tickets on himself, would he?’ asked the Cap’n.

‘With a name like that he’d have to be able to handle himself,’ said Lefty.

‘Anyway,’ said Overton, ‘I want something to eat before we go so I’ll see you tomorrow.’

A crowd had gathered around Fred Tanner and Overton just shook his head as he closed the door behind him.

As he walked the short distance to his terraced house, he couldn’t help thinking about Ronnie Garfield. He’d had hopes for him above all the other kids in Balmain. The Iggis had been a wild bunch but they never got into any real trouble, not like breaking and entering. Yes, he would have to look into this tomorrow.

* *

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