Month January

  • New Release: Valour and Violets

    cover of Valour and Violets by Robert Kearney and Sharon Cleary

    Cover of the book

    Valour and Violets, the latest release from Wakefield Press, is a meticulously researched catalogue of the stories of hundreds of South Australians who gave their country everything.

    Close to 35,000 South Australians enlisted for service overseas during the Great War. Around 5500 never came back. Countless more returned with physical and psychological injuries that would affect them for the rest of their lives.

    Valour and Violets brings together for the first time the stories of the campaigns and battles in which South Australians served, set against the backdrop of the South Australian home front. Here are the stories of Frederick Prentice, the first of three Indigenous South Australians to be awarded the Military Medal; Thomas Baker, the gunner who became an ace pilot; and Sister Margaret Graham, awarded the Royal Red Cross for her contribution to army nursing. Here too are lesser known stories, such as that of Alexandrina Seager, who formed the Cheer-Up Society back home and worked every single day during the war, despite losing her youngest son at Gallipoli. Or Clara Weaver of Rosewater, who not only lost five sons to the war but also her husband, George, who died at home before the war ended.

    Drawing on the work of the many who have written on the subject previously,Valour and Violets provides a wholly South Australian perspective on the impact of the Great War on individuals, on families and on our state’s coastal, regional, and outback communities.

    Read an Extract >>

    Copies are available online, and from our bookshop in Mile End.

    Special thanks to Veterans SA.

  • New Release: The Day They Shot Edward

    Front cover of The Day They Shot Edward

    Cover of the book

    Wendy Scarfe’s second novel, The Day They Shot Edward, tells a tale of a family in turmoil, set against the political mess of the First World War. Told from the perspective of a nine-year-old Matthew, the narration has an air of innocence, making the horrors of what is to come all the more confronting.

    About the book:

    It is 1916. The Australian community is riven over a referendum to conscript more troops for the killing fields of Europe. Nine-year-old Matthew’s family, divided politically and sinking into poverty, reflects the social conflict. Handsome, generous Edward is at the centre of the family friction. Gran hates the war as Edward does, Mother flirts with him to escape the misery of her marriage, and young Matthew adores him.

    As patriotic frenzy takes hold, police informers spy on Edward and track his anti-conscription activities. Sabotage and anarchism are meaningless words to Matthew. Absorbed in childhood fantasies, he is unaware that he too is helping draw the net around Edward. It is left to Matthew’s German headmaster to teach him that, like music, people grow with love.

    Praise for The Day They Shot Edward:

    The Day They Shot Edward is a beautiful and compassionate story. The deep sense of mystery and heightened awareness of emotion, which are the spiritual gifts of the child, become lenses for examining fundamental issues of life, death, peace, and what it means to love.’ – Di Bretherton

    Praise for Wendy Scarfe’s Hunger Town:

    ‘A powerful evocation of an era which is soon to lose the last of its witnesses … trust me, it is a compelling page-turner; it’s riveting reading.’ – Lisa Hill, ANZ Litlovers

    The Day They Shot Edward is being launched at Brightbird Espresso in Warrnambool on Tuesday 13 February. For more information, visit our website.

    Both The Day They Shot Edward and Hunger Town are available for purchase online, or at our bookshop in Mile End.

  • Mallee Boys Excerpt

    Mallee Boys front cover

    The cover of the book

    Life as a fifteen-year-old boy is difficult for Sandy Douglas, who’s not only facing the challenges of girls and friendship, but battling the gut-wrenching grief that came from losing his mother.

    With his brother Red, who is constantly filled to the brim with rage and his dad, who, despite his best efforts, struggles with their situation, Sandy endeavours to define himself in the Mallee.

     

    Below is the first chapter of Mallee Boys. To read more, or to purchase the book, follow the link to our website, or visit us at our Mile End bookshop.

     

    Chapter 1: Sandy
    New Year’s Day

    You know, when you walk into a murky river you could step on anything. I’ve never understood how easily some people will just leap on in when they can’t see a thing. I suppose it’s like life; maybe I could do with just stepping in more and looking less.

    We’re staying at Uncle Blakey’s shack. We’ve been coming up here every summer for years. The breeze is baking today but at least the air is moving. It’s too hot to even go for a walk, almost too hot to swim, but the lure of the river is tempting, so I’m thinking about it.

    ‘Sandy, get your arse in here. It’s fine!’ Dad’s yelling from way out in the water.

    He’s bright red. His big bald head bobbing on his big round body. A cheerful, bloody snowman. For a farmer he’s a surprisingly good swimmer. In fact he loves it. When we’re at the shack he gets up early and swims for hours against the flow and then drifts back with the current.

    I decide to go in.

    I wanna be part of the crowd.

    The river is a soft brown colour, a perfect mix of water and mud. There’s absolutely no possibility of seeing anything. The mud squelches between my toes as I inch away from the bank. I’ve deliberately chosen the least reedy stretch but even here I can still feel the slippery stalks stroking my legs. I launch off. I’m not out very deep so the slimy bottom skims my bare chest. Yuck. I kick faster and harder to get away.

    I swim like a dog, my neck stuck out as far from the water as I can manage.

    ‘Put your head in, Sandy!’ I can hear Dad heckling me before he fearlessly ducks down.

    No way. Walking and swimming in this is bad enough without getting my head in.

    I remember when I was learning to swim Dad used to hold me under and I never really got over it. ‘I’m gonna count to three. Here we go. One … two … three.’ His voice was all muffled as he pushed my head down. My body arched hard against his hand, pressing up, praying he wouldn’t mess up the count. So now that I can swim I never put my head in.

    The water is cool and it does feel good. I feel clean, washed free of the summer dust. I roll over onto my back. I’d forgotten, since last summer, how nice it is just to float. To let something else do the work.

    Dad’s shouting for me to swim over to him but I pretend I can’t hear him. I know if I go over he’ll start tossing me around and pulling my legs under. Then my head will be in for sure. I can hear laughing. Uncle Blakey and Big Joe Barrel have jumped in. They’re all splashing and carrying on, three old farmers acting younger than me.

    ‘That boy’s got an old head on young shoulders.’ If I had a dollar every time someone said that about me I’d be pretty cashed up by now. Apparently my mum, Ellie, even said it about me when I was baby. I didn’t have those weird rolling eyes that most babies had. I just looked hard and straight at her with my clear blue ones, which never did turn brown like the rest of them. So, why the bloody hell did they call me Sandy?

    Think of someone called Sandy and I bet they couldn’t look less me. For a start I’m a boy. I was told the name comes from some rellie back in Scotland but secretly I think it comes from Dad’s first dog. So do I have blond or red hair? No. Do I have a big friendly smile? Nah, not really. My eyes are still blue, my hair nearly black and I’m tall but not filled out yet. I do smile but it’s one of those shy, less-teeth-showy smiles. I’ve left that to my older brother Red. His real name is Josh. Imagine him: a big handsome redhead.

    So, un-sandy Sandy I am.

    ‘Get back over here, mate!’ Blakey calls.

    I’m not going over to them. They wanna duck me, for a laugh. I push the back of my head deeper into the water and scull away from them, cocooned in the muffled silence. I don’t really think of sculling as swimming. It’s keeping me up but it’s more like flying, using little flaps of my hands as I look at the sky.

    I’ll be sixteen in July, and Year Ten starts in a few weeks. I can’t believe it. This year is a big one, the last before things really change. Our country school is too small to offer much choice in Year Eleven and Twelve. We either have to leave, do some correspondence study – like that’ll ever happen – or go to boarding school in Adelaide or Melbourne.

    I decided long ago I wasn’t going to Melbourne: too many bad memories. I flap out a little further into the river. What the hell am I gonna do next year?

    I quite like school, not that I’d tell anyone, especially Red. He couldn’t wait to get out of the place and caused a lot of trouble on his way through too. But for me it’s been alright, once they realised I was nothing like my brother. I like looking at things, taking them apart, trying to figure out how everything works. It doesn’t seem hard. In a funny kind of way school makes more sense than a lot of outside stuff.

    ‘Sandy!’

    Dad’s yelling at me. Off they go again. I can hear them all

    through the heavy wet.

    ‘Sandy, shift your arse! Quick! Hurry up!’

    The tone is unusual, not the normal knockabout teasing. There’s a bit more urgency.

    I roll over onto my stomach and then I see it. What the hell?

    ‘Sandy, get out of the way!’ But the warning is too late. The big brown thing is gonna hit me.

    I launch into a pathetic dog paddle trying to get away. My legs kick in a frenzy beneath me and my neck stretches out like a llama. I feel a bash on the back on my head and it pushes me under. All the shouting from the bank softens. My heart is pounding as old memories of being ducked as a kid kick in. I can’t get the thing off me. I can’t see anything. I push up with my hands and they find something soft but really heavy. My head keeps butting up into it, trying to ram a way through. I panic. My brain doesn’t know what to do. My lungs are bursting. I’m desperate for a suck of clean, fresh air but don’t dare open my mouth. The burning is excruciating.

    I can’t believe I’m gonna drown. Not today, surely?

    There’s a jerk on the bottom of my legs. Something is yanking me under. This is too much. I can’t fight it anymore. I surrender with one last kick and then my mouth opens, hungrily gulping in water. My body wants it like air and it pours in.

    Everything pauses.

    There’s a bashing on my back, heavy and urgent, shaking me around. I’m floppy, with no resistance. My body stiffens. Rigid. Then the water comes splaying out of my throat and my chest heaves as it sucks in real air. Too desperate, I cough and splutter. I’ve got no control. My mouth sucking too hard competes against the spasms of my lungs spewing the water out. Eventually the craving and the coughing subsides enough and my heart settles.

    Exhausted, I take a calmer breath. As I open my eyes I see I’m still in the river.

    ‘Ya right? Ya right?’

    It’s Dad. He turns me round to face him, holding me afloat. I see how terrified he is. He hugs me so tight I start coughing again.

    ‘Bloody idiot, I had to bash the crap out of you.’

    But there are tears in his eyes. He just holds me safe and strong till I settle. As his panic and mine begin to subside, he pushes me away slightly. It seems a bit awkward now for a grown lad to be clinging to his wet Dad in the middle of the river. We both get it at the same time and grin.

    ‘You’ve always been a crap swimmer, Sandy. Sometimes you get so lost in your own bloody head you don’t know what’s going on around you.’

    True.

    ‘Was it a log or something?’ I ask. ‘I just didn’t see it coming.’

    ‘No, it was a bloody dead cow! Looks like it died upstream and got washed down.’

    I hear cheers and moos from the bank. Looking down the river I see the dead cow.

    Bloated, floating and limp from trying to kill me.

    Available as both a paperback and ebook, Mallee Boys is the winner of the 2016 Adelaide Festival Unpublished Manuscript Award. It is Charlie Archbold’s first publication inspired by her time living in the Murray Mallee region in Australia.

  • Close to the Flame: The Life of Stuart Challender

    The cover of the book

    Remembered for his contributions to music and his courage in being Australia’s first celebrity to reveal his struggle with HIV-AIDS, Close to the Flame is an homage to a humble and hardworking genius:

    Stuart Challender had already proved himself as the most talented conductor of his generation, with invitations beginning to flow in to conduct renowned international orchestras, when he was diagnosed with AIDS . Bravely, he chose to become Australia’s first celebrity to reveal his struggle with the disease to the public.

    A new definitive biography of Challender, Close to the Flame, explores his remarkable career, cut short when he was only forty-four years old.

    Challender joined Opera Australia after twelve years of study and work in European opera houses. He was then taken up by the ABC and appointed artistic director and chief conductor of Australia’s leading orchestra, the Sydney Symphony.

    Challender was a great champion of the music of contemporary Australian composers and responsible for the premieres of many important Australian works. In his final years, Challender struggled to continue to work while disease ravaged his body. His decision to go public about his condition brings the story to a moving conclusion.

    A review by Matthew Westwood of The Australian reveals the depth of the impact Challender had on music in Australia in his short-lived career:

    ‘Challender’s legacy lives on in a few cherished recordings, not least his performances of Voss, orchestral music by Peter Scul–thorpe and Carl Vine, and Mahler’s Resurrection symphony. And there’s a little bit of Challender on the hour at the head of ABC news bulletins. The Majestic Fanfare is the arrangement by Richard Mills, performed by the SSO in 1988, with Challender conducting.’

    Close to the Flame – Richards Davis’s fourth in a line of Australian classical music biographies – is not only a vital piece of Australian musical history, but an inspiring story of courage in adversity.

    Close to the Flame (RRP$45.00) is available for purchase online, or from our Mile End bookshop.

  • Bitter Fruit

    Bitter Fruit is a showcase of a collection of early photographs, many previously unpublished, focusing on Indigenous Australians. Presented in a beautiful hardcover, this is a breathtaking document of the Australian experience.

     

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are warned that this post, and the book associated with it, may contain images of people who are deceased.

    Bitter Fruit: Australian Photographs to 1963  reproduces a selection of photographic materials – most previously unpublished – collected by  Michael Graham-Stewart over a 15-year period. It unites orphan images recovered from all over the world, while also allowing little-known episodes in Australia’s fraught history to be told. The book takes as its starting point the year 1963, when the famed Aboriginal photographer Mervyn Bishop undertook a cadetship with the Sydney Morning Herald, and ends with an image of Tasmanian activist Lucy Beeton from the 1860s.

     

    Group with birds (1930s)

    Bitter Fruit focuses on specific information known about the people who took the photographs and, more importantly, those depicted in them, rather than offering a single, overarching narrative that is bound to oversimplify. The authors wanted the book to offer a counterpoint to behemoth surveys of Australian photography that have tended to downplay the interaction between Indigenous Australians and white settlers. Bitter Fruit deliberately eschews critical theoretical analyses and language in the hopes of creating a sourcebook that allows for multiple interpretations and does not claim to offer a ‘last word’.

     

    George Pantuni, standing right, Mrs and Captain Henson seated centre, and Ephraim McLean, seated at left. Other names unknown

     

    Graham-Stewart and McWhannell note, ‘We hope that the book will help other non-Aboriginal people to better understand and come to terms with the violent histories in which we are implicated, while also allowing descendants of the Aboriginal people in the images to access their ancestors. Our sincere hope is that more stories will emerge as Australians of all kinds continue to unearth information associated with these images – images that are often upsetting and difficult to look at, but that also represent truths about our past and present.’

    Children from the Roper River Mission, c. 1914, Ngukurr

    About the Authors
    Michael Graham-Stewart

    specialises in gathering up colonial photographs in order to reconstruct the complex stories that such materials encode. His particular interest is in exploring the ways in which photography operates not only as an instrument of oppression, but also as a means of connecting with people of the past. Michael has published several books on photography, including Surviving the Lens: Photographic Studies of South and East African People, 1870–1920 (2001), Out of Time: Māori & the Photographer (2006), Framing the Native: Constructed Portraits of Indigenous Peoples (2011), and Negative Kept: Māori and the Carte de Visite (2013). A Scot, raised in England, he currently lives between London and Auckland.

    Francis McWhannell

    is an independent writer and curator from Aotearoa New Zealand. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Museums and Cultural Heritage from the University of Auckland. He has contributed to various publications, including Painting: A Transitive Space (Auckland: ST PAUL St Gallery Three, AUT University, 2017) and Dynamo Hum: Denys Watkins: Selected Paintings 2004–2016 (Auckland: Rim Books, 2017).

     

    Bitter Fruit is available for purchase on our online store and at our Mile End bookshop.

  • New Release: All the Kings’ Men

    All the Kings’ Men records the story of the oldest continuously operating cricket club still in existence in South Australia – the Hindmarsh Cricket Club which now operates under the name of West Torrens – and the stories of the people who built it.

    SA Wicketkeeper ‘Alfie’ Jarvis on the cover

    This book also traces the evolution of Club cricket in the Adelaide metropolitan area from the birth of the colony until 1900. It highlights the development of cricket through significant and progressive changes in society, such as industrial relations, transport, education, the telegraph, the press, politics, class and the economy.

     

    All the Kings’ Men teases out the social impacts of cricket in the new colony of South Australia and, in particular, the western suburbs of Adelaide, providing insights into the hardships that the working class endured to play competitive sport. The text profiles many of these players, and the detailed statistical records highlight the talented cricketers of the nineteenth century, such as Arthur Harwood Jarvis, the first South Australian cricketer to represent Australia.

     

     

    About Denis Brien:

    Denis Brien has been a lover of cricket and its history since school. He is a former 1st-grade player, administrator and has coached state women’s and junior men’s teams. Denis worked as a teacher and student counsellor and became a cricket historian on retirement. His keen interest in South Australia’s first international representative inspired him to write this history. He has also written publications on counselling, environmental studies and cricket and education history.

     

    A perfect read for cricket enthusiasts, All the Kings’ Men is available on our online store or at our bookshop in Mile End.