Books are meant to be read.
As a writer, you have this great idea and for months and years it burns like a secret while you’re researching and writing and – agonizing! – waiting for editors and designers to be done with it. And then the thing is out there: your great idea is shared at last.
For ten years and five books, that worked just fine for me. Now, though, I find myself with two unpublishable books on my hands. That’s why I thought of this website: to give them a life outside of my filing cabinet and my head; to share the ‘great idea’ that each represents; to turn them from manuscripts into books. Books, after all, are meant to be read.
So welcome to my website. Here, you are invited to download and read my unpublishable works, explore the research behind some of my books, take a peep at my occasional writing, or get in touch with me via my literary agent-cum-muse, the bristly, enigmatic Mrs Bradley.
My published works, in brief…
Bearbrass: Imagining early Melbourne
Mandarin, 1995; Black Inc, 2005
‘When I lived there, I made Melbourne my village. I’m not talking about suburban Melbourne, where rusticity can be as close as the corner shop: a few Scotch thistles, a galvanised iron roof and a flickering Peter’s ice cream cone can work magic on your sense of time and place. I made my village of central Melbourne – and it’s a village that takes some finding. I think of it as Bearbrass…’
Bearbrass (one of the local names by which Melbourne was first known) is an attempt to resurrect the village that was early Melbourne – from the arrival of white settlers in 1835 until the first gold rushes shook the town – overlaid with my own impressions and experiences of the modern city.
Nothing But Gold: The diggers of 1852
Text Publishing, 1999
Within a year of gold’s discovery in 1851, the infant colony of Victoria was transformed from a sump for ex-convicts to a Land of Opportunity.
To be on the diggings in 1852 was to be in the thick of it. And in that astonishing year 75,000 adventurers learnt as much about housekeeping as they did gold-digging – the same shovel a digger used to fry up his breakfast might unearth him a fortune before lunch.
Australia became the talk of the world in 1852, a moment in our history when there was nothing but gold.
The Man Who Lost Himself: The unbelievable story of the Tichborne Claimant
Text Publishing, 2002
Tom Castro, the Wagga Wagga butcher, had a jowly face and carried himself like an uneven load, tipping the scales at twenty-one stone. Roger, the young Tichborne heir – before he was lost at sea in 1854 – was all narrowness: long neck, hock-bottle shoulders and hips that were hardly there. He walked ‘like a Frenchman’.
Not even Roger’s mother could tell them apart.
After all, a man might change his shape in a dozen years; and so it was that Tom Castro declared himself to be the long-lost Roger and headed for London to claim his inheritance. By 1871 there was no more notorious celebrity in the British Empire than the charismatic Claimant: the subject of songs, plays, cartoons, endless speculation and one of the longest-running court cases in British judicial history.
But who was he, really?
Fly a Rebel Flag: The Eureka stockade
black dog books, 2004
The diggers were fed up with being hounded by the police, forced to show their gold licences on demand, like common criminals. At last the diggers of Ballarat made a stand for justice. They took up arms, built a stockade, and swore to defend themselves and each other against the authorities.
When government troops stormed the Eureka stockade the battle lasted just twenty minutes, but it changed Australia forever.
Was it a blow for democracy? A glorious rebellion? Or just a bloody
massacre? You decide.
A City Lost and Found: Whelan the Wrecker’s Melbourne
Black Inc, 2005
The demolition firm of Whelan the Wrecker was a Melbourne institution for a hundred years (1892-1992). Its famous sign – ‘Whelan the Wrecker is Here’ on a pile of shifting rubble – was a laconic masterpiece and served as a vital sign of the city’s progress. It’s no stretch to say that over three generations, the Whelan family changed the face of Melbourne, demolishing hundreds of buildings in the central city alone.
In A City Lost and Found I use Whelan’s demolition sites as portals by which to explore layers of the city laid bare by their pick-axes and iron balls. From beneath the rubble I bring to light fantastic stories of Melbourne’s building sites and their many incarnations, in a book about the making – and remaking – of a city.
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