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Patricia Mary (Pat) Flower (1914–1977)

by Susan Lever

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Patricia Mary Bryson Flower (1914-1977), crime novelist and television playwright, was born on 23 February 1914 at Ramsgate, Kent, England, one of four children of James Bullen, hotel porter, and his wife Jessie Sarah, née Bryson. Pat left Worthing County High School in 1928 when the family emigrated to New South Wales. They lived at Kyogle, and then in Sydney. At the district registrar's office, Paddington, on 22 December 1937 she married Bruce Douglas Jiffkins, a messenger, they had one son. In the 1940s she worked as secretary for the New Theatre League, writing radio plays and revue sketches in her spare time.

Six weeks after she divorced Jiffkins, Pat married Cedric Arthur Flower, a painter, on 4 March 1949 at the registrar general's office, Sydney. While they were in England from 1950 to 1955, she began to write crime novels, the first of which, Wax Flowers for Gloria, appeared in 1958. She published at least one crime novel every two years until 1975, moving from detective stories such as Goodbye Sweet William (1959)—featuring Inspector Swinton, her Australian 'Maigret' character—to psychological thrillers, among them Cobweb (1972), Slyboots (1974) and Crisscross (1976). Some of her books were translated into French and German.

Back in Sydney, Pat Flower worked as an advertising copywriter until 1963 when she began to write full time. By 1961 she was also writing film and television scripts, including (with Cedric) From the Tropics to the Snow, produced by the Commonwealth Film Unit in 1965. Her play, The Tape Recorder, a Pinteresque piece for an actress and tape recorder, was televised by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1966 and produced in colour by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1967. She won the 1967 (Dame) Mary Gilmore award for 'Tilley Landed on our Shores', a comic version of Governor Phillip's 1788 expedition. An adaptation of her novel, Fiends of the Family (London, 1966), for A.B.C. television won an 'Awgie' award in 1969 from the Australian Writers' Guild. In the late 1960s some of her television plays were screened in the A.B.C.'s 'Australian Playhouse' series. She also wrote scripts for commercial television. In 1971 the Flowers again visited Europe where Pat gathered further material for her suspense novels. Returning to Sydney in 1972, they took separate flats at Paddington, so that she could concentrate on her writing.

Pat Flower was an amusing companion with a dry wit. Her husky voice retained a slight English accent, and she was attractive in an angular, understated way. From early childhood she wore glasses. She suffered from insomnia and arthritis for many years and was increasingly isolated as her health deteriorated. The two sides of her writing—comedy and horror—reflected aspects of her personality, with her novels becoming progressively darker. On the night of 1/2 September 1977 she died from the effects of poisoning by pentobarbitone, intentionally taken. Her husband survived her.

Scholarly interest in crime writing led to the republication of Vanishing Point (1993) and several critics have championed Flower's later novels as among the best of the genre in Australia. At the time of her death, however, she was remembered as one of the first Australian writers able to make the transition from the novel and radio play to the formal requirements of television writing.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Latta (ed), Sand on the Gumshoe (Syd, 1989)
  • P. Flower, Vanishing Point (Adel, 1993)
  • Australian Women's Weekly, 1 July 1958, p 29
  • Australian Author, 10, no 1, Jan 1978, p 43
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 28 Aug 1958, 27 Jan 1968, Bulletin, 21 Oct 1972
  • Age (Melbourne), 17 May 1975
  • Flower papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

Susan Lever, 'Flower, Patricia Mary (Pat) (1914–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 14 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Bullen, Patricia Mary
  • Jiffkins, Patricia Mary

23 February, 1914
Ramsgate, Kent, England


1 September, 1977 (aged 63)
New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.