MYSTERY: Experiences of living in the Central Highlands region was the inspiration behind Tom Osborne's first novel Sapphire Dark.
MYSTERY: Experiences of living in the Central Highlands region was the inspiration behind Tom Osborne's first novel Sapphire Dark. Contributed

Digging up a mystery in the Gemfields

THE Central Highland Gemfields are on show in a story of mystery and adventure.

Sapphire Dark is the story of a semi-retired school teacher, Bruce, whose friend goes missing in the Gemfields, leaving behind nothing but a blood-soaked hut.

With the help of a detective and the mining community, Bruce is left to solve the mystery.

The thought-provoking novel was based on the life experiences of author Tom Osborne, a retired school teacher who spends four months a year in the Central Highlands with his wife Cheryl.

"We come out here for four months because it's cold down south, just like all the thousands of grey nomads that come to the area,” he said. "I love it - the weather, the solitude, the quirky people and searching for gems.”

They first travelled to the area from their home in South Australia in 1980 to camp with some friends and have been back ever since.

"I have always been thinking about writing novels, and this setting seemed to be ideal for it,” Mr Osborne said.

"The story came from personal experience. I've experienced all those sorts of things.

"I thought all the time it would make a good story. There are a lot of opportunities for good stories here. It's based on true events and facts, but it's a novel so it's written with a certain technique.”

Mr Osborne found the story writing process easy and interesting. He said it wasn't a chore or a job; he enjoyed writing it, which he thinks is the most important part of story writing.

Sapphire Dark is his first novel, although the sequel is already in the works, also set in the Central Highland region with a wildlife smuggling plot.

"It seemed to be a good topic to work into it and the sequel is on its way,” he said.

"It has some of the same characters and partly based off personal experiences in the region.

"All novels are partly your own experience.

"Through life you learn certain things and have certain experiences. I only write about things I know about.”

Mr Osborne said the story was a "quirky and thought-provoking novel, easy to read and good fun”.

The Gemfields based novel is available from

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