Thursday, 10 July 2014

Published 1924

The Spell of the Inland,  by John Armour.

This book was published in 1924, this particular book was a second edition.


The Spell of the Inland,  by John Armour

     After 90 years and no special care, the book is still perfectly readable. Not many more modern paperbacks would still be readable after 90 years.
And if you prefer ebooks?  It was a surprise to me that ebooks that I buy are not really mine according to the provider, but somehow 'leased.'  They cannot be given to anyone else, they are not supposed to be passed on when you die, and if the provider chooses, they can somehow take back the book, though I presume only if you link back to them. I have heard of Amazon removing books from someone after they deemed them violating terms of contract, (I think be returning too many books.) And then there are upgrades to the software, maybe to the hardware. Is your Kindle going to last five years and still be usable?  Who knows? Technology moves so fast these days.
But your good old actual books in your good old actual library - you can pick them up after five years, or twenty years or even ninety years  - and start to read.
 Interesting things I noticed about this older book.
Firstly, a matter of style.  There were far more commas than we are accustomed to seeing these days. Phrases end with commas, especially before an 'and.'  These days, advice to writers is too frequently to reduce the number of commas, often at the expense of clarity.
Swear words were not shown.  d-------d, for instance,  or 'what the h-----'    And absolutely, no words like 'f--- '  or worse.
There was a comment about Aboriginals that would be condemned as racism these days - it was something like 'they knew about work; they knew they didn't like it.'  And yet, throughout the whole book, they were treated with some respect and understanding. It was 1924. They were not educated. It was hardly to be expected that they would be depicted as sophisticates.
As the book progressed, it became more and more moralistic, something that readers avoid these days, though it was once almost obligatory for a book to have a moral.
And lastly, I deemed the writing as frankly poor. Almost every book on the market these days is better written, and I do include the ones that are self-published and without the help of a professional editor. There were no mispellings in this old book, the grammar was impeccable, but the dialogue was slow and measured and so each time, when there was real action, it came as a surprise. The padre was in a fist fight early on, for instance, but there was no change in pace, and therefore no warning. This was a failure on the author's part in my opinion.
I did quite enjoy the book, but it was because of my interest in a very different place in a very different era - Outback Australia in the 1920s.  The story itself?  Mediocre. And yet when I remember that it would have been written probably in longhand and in notebooks - I think anyone who writes a book before the age of Word Processors are close to miracle workers.
It is far, far easier to write  a book these days - when one can scan for spelling mistakes and inconsistencies in spelling, when one can insert sections, and remove other sections, when one can renumber chapters with a quick scan through, when the word count is automatically calculated...
Authors these days have it easy. 


My books: 
'The Frost and the Sunshine'  is the concluding book of the Shuki series. Publication date 17th October, 2014.
Shuki has such a good life now - his new home, his wives and stepchildren, and becoming more important to him every day, young Zahu. It is hard to believe that Zahu could possibly want to stay with him when he is so much older. Surely one day, he will realise that a young woman has to suit him better than a middle-aged man.
And then Meriam comes into their lives - Meriam, his niece, who looks so much like a youthful Shuki. Meriam. She fascinates Zahu; she confuses him, and she tempts him. But she is not Shuki. 
There is scarcely a beauty to match the sight of a heavy frost with sunshine sparkling over it. Shuki puts photographs of the effect on his web-page, like a message - that there are times of bitter sadness, but in time, the ice melts and the sunshine returns. Sunshine on frost - it is a message of hope.

'Lionel's Wedding'  is the fourth of the Penwinnard Stories.' There will be six in all, with Bob's story being wrapped up in Book 6. Publication date 17th October, 2014.
In the third book, Barry is talking to Bob.

"My mates. They live in Newcastle and they’re in trouble. Steven, he’s fourteen and soft as anything. And the girls, Elspeth’s nineteen and has been on the game for years, but she says she never wanted to, and there’s two younger ones. So now the dad’s gone to prison, the mum’s useless, and they want

to do a runner so the pimp doesn’t get the girls, and the boys don’t wind up in gangs like Mike."
"Are these the ones you spoke of just turning up here?"
"Yeah, Steven and Jeremy, the little brothers. Mike’s a friend, though he’s a bit older than me. He can’t come because he has to look after the girls and the mum, and anyway, he’s been busted for selling drugs at least twice. The boss wouldn’t have him."
So what would happen if two brothers just turned up? Steven and Jeremy Vikkers arrive in the night.


Sunday, 6 July 2014

"But Sir" - some relevant photographs.

"But Sir"  The Autobiography of a Twentieth Century Australian

Most of the photographs that were in the original paperback have been lost. 

Others have survived and a few are shown below, along with excerpts from the book.

A family of 14 children -

Mum would have been a sweet girl, always one to get her "stubborn" up. Dad promised her she "would never have to soil her hands." She told Dad she wasn’t going to have any children; she had a sense of humour, and so did mother nature; it was she that landed Mum with fourteen healthy kids, and not one of them planned. I don’t think she ever regretted having any one of us after we were born. She used to say "babies bring their own love."


Dad used to have a theory that it was worthwhile to take his vast family on a holiday once a year, because it would save on doctor’s bills.

Leaving home for a farm of his own. 
  With Dad’s help we planned our assault on the Mallee. He gave us six draught horses, a hack, and a wagon load of chaff, as well as sundries such as beds and bedding. We had already bought a plough while we had been in Manangatang. The girls saw that we were stocked up with food.


Volunteering for the army.

I had always felt there would be a war when I reached the right age. The bigger nations had used Spain to try out their new equipment, and I believed Spain was just the training ground for the big stoush. We all remember how Hitler would hold forth about protecting German minority groups, then over-run the country in question. He even let the world know his intentions in his book, "Mein Kampf." One of his theories was that people are gullible, and if a point is hammered hard enough, and for long enough, people will eventually believe it. I have seen that tactic used successfully by political groups time and time again ever since.
At Albury, while in training


Curly Kirk was my mate from Ballarat. We were roughly the same build, and I wrestled him to a standstill at Olympic Park, Melbourne, raced with him on the ship and deadheated, and now in the pool we would see who could swim underwater and push an object furthest along the bottom. I suppose that was the beginning of something we all found to be our most valuable asset; mateship. It was just that support from a mate who was one hundred per cent trustworthy and loyal which got a lot of us through what was to come. I think everyone was able to get a mate, no matter how many times he was put in with strangers. It was a must to have a mate when the going got hard, as on the Burmese railway or other places. I have never had that sort of mate before the army, nor since, and after leaving the army the lack of such a mate left a big gap which took me some time to come to grips with.
One day after I returned to Albury the order was given for everyone who held a driver’s license to fall out. Nearly all the men who fell out were from the country, including Dunc and I, and some of our special mates who would be together with us until the finish. We were then transferred to Sturt St., Melbourne, where we formed a unit called the 2/2nd Motor Ambulance Convoy.
Not long later, the unit left on the Queen Mary, which was serving as a troopship, and wound up in Kajang, Malaya.

A Prisoner of War

The Allied forces were ordered to surrender, and Singapore was defeated. The Japanese were now in charge.  Their culture was very different from that of those who were now their prisoners.

‘I will never forget the utter despair of the young men of F Force, nor the way they died quietly and without fuss. Neither will I ever forget the cruelty of the Japs, nor will I ever forgive them for their total disregard for the lives of the P.O.W.s and the dark races who also worked on the railway.’

One of the few letter-cards that made it home.  Any mention of what was really happening, of course, would have ensured that the card would never have been sent on.
The war is ending

We wondered how the actual change-over from the Japs to the Allies would take place, as it soon must. Finally, on 27th August 1945 British planes flew over Changi and dropped leaflets. I still have one of these, dropped that day from a plane flying low over the jail. The pamphlet contained (1) a warning to the guards to respect the prisoners and look after them, (2) part of a re-script issued by the Emperor on unconditional surrender of the Japanese, (3) a statement that soon an Allied staff officer would be dropped with a radio transmitter, that he would be in contact with, and under the guidance of the Occupation Forces, and was not to be interfered with, (4) supplies dropped (medical etc.) would be gathered and handed to the P.O.W.s and the guards were then to return to their quarters, after warning civilians not to loot these supplies. On 30th August four officers and two other ranks were dropped by parachute, with medical equipment and a transmitter. Other planes brought more medical gear.
Back to civilian life
I met the girl I was to marry, one day at tennis. She showed courage to take on a returned soldier eleven years older than herself. And so I became engaged to Alison Davies, whom I married six months later, and she has been my backstop ever since.



I was born in rural Victoria at a time when conditions had not really altered since the late nineteenth century, and now seventy years on we are almost in the final decade of the twentieth. In my lifetime I have fought in a major war, started two farms virtually from scratch, and travelled over much of my own country and the world. Alison and I have raised four children and given them all a good start, so I think I can say with all modesty I have lived a full and varied life. Now, although hopefully I have not reached the end of that life, I have reached the end of this book, a book in which I have tried to catalogue my life and times as I saw them.
Buy "But Sir" from online booksellers such as Smashwords and Amazon,
the paperback from The Book Depository (free delivery even to Australia)
or other sellers such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Meet my character - Meriam Kanduracai


Jacqueline Watts has suggested I write about one of the characters of my books as part of 'a blog tour.'  I don’t usually participate in these things, but Jacqui gave me a great deal of help with my first book, ‘Not a Man.’  It was needed - my prospective publisher objected to some inaccuracies in how I described an Oxford education. As an Oxford graduate herself,  Jacqui was able to give me the help I needed. I will always be grateful.


J. S. Watts (Jacqui) is the author of ‘A Darker Moon’ and of several short stories and a poetry sequence - Songs of Steelyard Sue. 

Her author page on Amazon can be found at

So – my character:

What is the name of a character in an upcoming book? Is this character fictional?

The book I will soon publish is the fourth and final book of the Shuki series. The first book of the series was Not a Man.   ('From child of the slums to Oxford graduate, this is the story of Shuki Bolkiah - modern-day eunuch.') 
In the second book, I speak of Shuki's years as a king's advisor, and in the third, he becomes very much respected as an author and consultant.

But this time, I am not speaking about Shuki, but his niece, daughter of his sister. Her name is Meriam Kanduracai, and she is sixteen years old when the novel begins.   She is, of course, fictional.

When and where is it set?

The novel is set in Australia. Shuki now lives on a property that I've set between Uralla and Armidale on the New England Tablelands of NSW. 

(Uralla is now called Bellerusse, and Armidale is now Leverson.) 

What should we know about her?
Meriam has grown up in a strongly Islamic family in Arabia. But she yearns for the freedoms of the west. She and her friend pore over western magazines, they want to wear pretty clothing, not the grey or black cover-all makrebi, and they want to shop in  a western style shopping centre. They want to see shows and go to western style restaurants. Meriam's friend has an older brother who indulges their desires. He takes them to places that their parents would never have allowed, and they wear clothing that would have shocked their parents.  

What is the main conflict?   What messes up her life?

But after one of these excursions, Meriam wakes up in a seedy hotel. She doesn't know what has happened and she feels awful. She is bullied into her robe with the addition of a face-cover, then taken by car to an area close to her home, where she is dropped off.  She doesn't know what happened to her, but she is sure it was something bad. Her friend has gone to live with the family of her fiancĂ©, she is told, though she had not previously heard anything of a fiancĂ©. It would be improper to ask to see her friend's brother. She does not confide in her parents.
There is no such thing as sex education for the good Muslim girls of Elbarada, and Meriam does not know she is pregnant. But she worries that she could be impure. A girl is never supposed to be alone with a man, and she thought she was alone with a man. She drops her attempts to live a more free life, and acquiesces when her father looks for a husband for her. She tries to be a better Muslim; she no longer neglects her prayers, and for the first time, she adheres strictly to the daytime fasting of Ramadan.

But word has spread, and even though Meriam doesn't know what happened to her, others can guess. Her prospective husband demands a purity test. 
When Shuki meets her, she can scarcely walk for the beating dealt out by her father. It is not the worst of it. There is no place for an impure girl in Elbarada, and certainly not one who is pregnant. No neighbour or relative would ask tactless questions if Meriam vanishes; they understand that it is sometimes very difficult for a man to do his duty for the honour of his family.

But Meriam is luckier than some. Shuki takes her back to Australia to live with himself, his four wives, and his love, young Zahu Daoud.
Meriam is filled with her shame. She tries very hard to do exactly as Allah would want. She becomes attached to her new family, but she worries for them. They are not good Muslims, and again and again, as she reads the Quran her father gave her, she takes in those threats of burning, everlasting hell. 

The baby comes. She'd thought it a sinful thing she must get rid of, but instead, she finds joy, a delightful girl child she can love.
Her pleasure in life lasts for more than two years, but then there is a loss. Could it be Allah's punishment for her? It was a good woman who died - but she was not a good Muslim. Was she now in dreadful torment? It tears Meriam apart to think that Sanyar could be in hell.

Meriam leaves the family who care for her, she leaves the tiny daughter she loves, and she seeks a different life, one where it was easier to live life as a good Muslim.

What is the personal goal of the character?
Meriam wants to do good in the world. Her uncle does good in the world, and she wants to do the same.

What is the title of the book?
The fourth and final book of the Shuki series is called 'The Frost and The Sunshine.'

When is it to be published?
The likely publication date of this book is the 17th October, 2014.


  An excerpt from one of the last chapters:
Shuki had nothing particular to say on his web-page, but Karen's images of the sunshine on the frost - it was like a message. That the ice would melt and the warmth would come. It was a message of hope. The world had been through some very bad times, but it appeared that the bad times were over. He'd never put pictures on his web-page before, and he made no commentary, just 'Photographs by Karen Carmichael.'

 I am supposed to tag several people to continue this 'blog tour.'

I am tagging, therefore, any of my author acquaintances who want to do it.  

Look for my books on any online booksellers such as:


Finishing with a 'sunshine' pic.
 This is Heathcote, Victoria,