Book & Publishing News
- Arrived recently: two great Christmas buys for the ageing Rockers….Brian Cadd’s “From This Side of the Fence”, lots of gossip and memoir’s from this legendary singer/songwriter, rrp $35. Also out now is “The 100 Best Australian Albums” a beautifully-presented coffee-table style souvenir, rrp $60.
- What did you think of the TV adaptation of Andrea Levi’s “The Small Island”? Our regular reviewer, John, found it all too rushed
- The latest “Quarterly Essay” is by “The Australian’s” George Megalogenis, [who also appears on “True Believers”.] Of the 2010 poll, George says wisely “…Gillard and Abbott, and behind them their poll-obsessed teams, were so terrified of offending the disengaged that they forgot to inspire the voters who were paying attention.” Excellent reading, as always. Available from Paton Books and your library, rrp $19-95.
* Geelong Library representatives will be on “The Blurb” monthly in 2011.
-What better Christmas gift than a new book? Support our station sponsors – PATON BOOKS and Angus and Robertson!
- Commencing this Monday , November 29th at 3 pm , I will be hosting a new hour-long program – “MY BLOOD”S COUNTRY”- which will present how writers, of all kinds have viewed Australia over the years. Be prepared for short stories, poems, diary extracts, interviews, etc from 1788 till now.
* Keep listening to “The Blurb” for my TOP TEN BOOKS of 2010!
This Weeks Review: A collection of Reviews from recently released books about Aussies and War
Did you watch “Sisters at War” on ABC1 the other Sunday? An excellent film about the trials of two remarkable Australian’s. It seems we still like to read about and watch the stories of our fellow countrymen/women in the throes of conflict. We want to applaud, perhaps, or maybe it just does us good to be humbled in the face of such blatant heroism. The bookstores keep a regular stock of new titles and this year has been no exception. I have already reviewed a number of ‘weightier’
books on various wars [which you might like to scroll back and find], I will make these comments briefer as there are so many books to talk about.
The quality of the story-telling in these books varies significantly, but would-readers will probably select according to their innate interest. I felt “On Radji Beach” was the standout of the current crop along with “The Changi Brownlow”. Ian Shaw tells again the truly heroic story of the survival of a group of Australian nurses in the aftermath of that most unforgivable of blunders, the “Fall of Singapore”. Having nearly escaped capture once, the original group- numbering in the hundreds – were sunk in their escape vessel, captured by the Japanese and subjected to three and a half years of humiliation…and, mostly, murdered. It is a heart-wrenching read, but superbly written.
"On Radji Beach",Macmillan,pb,rrp $35,pp 358
Though “Beersheba” came out last year, I’m not sure I gave it suitable mention at the time. This is the story of “the last great cavalry charge’, but it is more than that. Daley takes us to the site and has managed to source a lot of new material about the events. He effectively challenges some of the prevailing myths that surround our involvement in World War One, particularly the Middle East campaigns. As with the previous book, sound index and footnotes.
"Beersheba", MUP 2009,rrp 35, pb, pp 337
Roland Perry takes us into the lives of others who were in Singapore at the time of the infamous surrender – the men who suffered through imprisonment in Changi and the slaver labour camps on the Thai-Burma railway, have we forgotten that 23000 Australian and other Allied POWs died in that awful time? Gain it is a story of survival – and tenacious good humour, a product of basic humanitarianism by these amazing ‘blokes”, to this day in our district, only a handful of these soldiers still survive.
What does a group of Aussie men do when there’s nothing else to do? They grab a footy, and have a kick! Bizarre as it seems, this is what happened among the Australians in Changi – they organised an Aussie Rules comp. A very lively and uplifting tale.
“The Changi Brownlow”, Hatchette, pb, rrp $35,pb pp 376
Patrick Lindsay’s book “The Coast Watchers” brings us closer to home – to the islands of our north where, it was felt at the time, the very survival of Australia was in the balance as the Japanese war machine relentlessly thundered south. As have several of these authors, Lindsay has worked in journalism so the story moves swiftly and authoritatively. Not unlike the heroes of the next book, the Coast Watchers were ‘left behind’ to keep an eye out for the Japanese advancing across the Pacific after Pearl Harbour. When all hope of defending their particular space had been abandoned. Again, the persistence and practicality of these men and women is beyond belief to most of us today. More than thirty were captured and executed, in fact.
“The Coast Watchers” Random House, pb, rrp $34-95,pp 416
“The Men Who Came Out Of The Ground” were ‘Sparrow Force’, a Special Forces Unit set up to fight behind enemy lines on the island of Timor [sic]. It was a guerrilla war, relying on the support of the locals ,of whom many thousands died during the Japanese invasion, “avoiding pitched battles, instead picking the right time to strike…..They tied down thousands of the enemy, not just matching them, but beating them”.
“The Men Who Came Out Of The Ground”, Hatchette, pb, rrp $35,pp 382
Moving closer to our times, “Bomber” tells the story of a remarkable man, Tony Bower-Miles, who served his hour in Vietnam as a sapper and who since 2001 has devoted much of his time to the daunting job of removing landmines in Cambodia.
We’re still only slowly learning about illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as we continue to ‘debrief’ as a community the aftermath of war, for example. Tony confronted his post-Vietnam demons and turned them on their head, as it were- by enlisting fellow vets for those days to help the war-damaged people of Cambodia, The story is not always very well-written, but deserves to be heard.
“Bomber”, Macmillan, pb, rrp $35,pp 292
New Zealand-born Rob Maylor served as a soldier in various guises and in different theatres. His story ranges from his homeland to Northern Ireland through East Timor [sic] to Iraq and Afghanistan. As the cover blurb says, his was “the world of an elite Australian marksman”. Established author, Robert Macklin, worked on Rob’s memoirs with him…fortunately because this book narrowly avoids being a smoke-social, boys-own-adventure rave. I have little doubt that people like Rob are necessary tools in our defence apparatus, but I wondered at times abut his motivation and thought processes in the field, and his evaluation the events he recalls.
“SAS Sniper”, Hatchette, pb, rrp $35,pp 330
Just when I had completed these jottings, onto my desk came Craig Stockings’ weirdly-titled “Zombie Myths of Australian Military History”. The book sets out to tackle ten myths – eg the ‘heroism’ of “Breaker Morant” [not even his real name!] – most of us have entertained unquestioningly forever. Perhaps, Stockings argues, Australians have a need “to commemorate and venerate the deeds of past servicemen, conceptions of national identity wrapped in the imagery of war, and the all-encompassing social implications of our central national legends – Anzac and the ‘Digger’…challenging stuff? Indeed. I hasten to add that nowhere in this lively book is the authentic bravery of our military doubted, it is the myths that are under fire. Heartily recommended.
“Zombie Myths of Australian Military History”, Newsouth Books, pb, rrp $35, pp 275