Month January

  • 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    Bitter Fruit is a showcase of a collection of early photographs, many previously unpublished, focusing on Indigenous Australians.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.