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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid


Kev (Ric) Richardson, who lives in Chiang Mai, sent over his latest book, Brogan (Life in Australia’s far outback) ISBN1-59705-885-8, Wings Press May 2007. Richardson describes himself as having an obsessive interest in Australia’s founding history, and is himself a sixth generation descendant of Australia’s First Fleeters, and this is the background for what is really a historical novel.
It is the tale of the young half-caste boy Brogan, beginning from when he was a 10 year old in 1914, the son of a drover in the harsh center of Australia, just known as ‘the outback’. Author Richardson has a keen eye for detail, and having met people like the characters he describes from Central Australia and in Queensland, Australia, their speech is indeed punctuated with “bloodies” and worse. Advanced linguistics are not taught in the back of beyond! The description of the outback town as being comprised of “a pub, a police station, and a bottle dump bigger than the pub” gives an immediate picture of life in the sun-burnt scrubland at the turn of the last century. And some places are not much different today.
The book follows young Brogan as his natural father (a white Australian) is killed during WW I in Europe, and he is then cared for by his maternal grandfather, an Arab camel herder. It is his grandfather who instills foresight into the young untrained mind of Brogan, and has him sent to school.
As Brogan grows up, the life experienced by the dwellers in the outback is described, and many other players are introduced, who in one way or another impinge upon the life of the orphaned half-caste. In those days, you could not lead a private life - you were part of a community. Even when the pedal radio became the method to keep the communities in contact with each other, your business was everyone’s business.
Brogan continues to mature, making both friends and enemies on the way, while falling in love with aviation. Flying was becoming the way to traverse the huge distances that Australia has between centers. (Even today it takes around six hours to fly across Australia from the west coast to the east.) With today’s aviation problems really only the fear of losing one’s luggage, author Richardson introduces the reader to what happens if for any reason, the plane had to land away from civilization. A burning tyre to give a column of black smoke, and a two day wait in the sun for spares to be dropped.
At B. 395, this is an excellent and thought provoking yarn, and one that anyone with a feeling or interest in the differences in societies, religions and cultures will enjoy. The human emotions demonstrated by the white Australians, the black Australians and the half-castes are brought out, and will evince outrage at times. Man’s inhumanity to man so ably demonstrated by the words of Ric Richardson. Whilst much of the history, including the famous aviator Charles Kingsford-Smith, will be of great interest to Australians, the story itself has a much greater and wider appeal. A very powerful book, written by a great story-teller.