In the nineteenth century European colonisers went to the most isolated parts of the planet, often but not always with predatory intentions. How could they communicate with Stone Age people, whose ways of thinking and languages were utterly different?
That is just one of the elements in my novel Fatal Empires, a sweeping story of exploration, racism, and anti-racism set in that decisive stage of history.
Imagine you were an Australian Aborigine living in the 19th century on territory occupied by your tribe for perhaps millennia. Suddenly people of a totally different culture appear and aim to expel you, kill you, or “tame” you and take over your land. What would you have done? Could you do anything but become an “outlaw” according to the invaders?
Read about the decisions made by a charismatic young man named Yungaburra. It’s in the novel Soaring With Cockatoos.
What prepared Jesus for his mission (if you do not believe he was God)? Was he a confident young man who knew early in life what his mission was? Or was he an itinerant searcher who was looking for something, though he was not sure what? The gospels tell us next to nothing about his development.
Read an imaginative reconstruction of his early years — and his activities before his death — in Reluctant Messiah.
The story of the extermination of the Tasmanian aborigines is almost unbearably sad. Its telling can be relieved only by a certain ironic attitude. The hero-villain of the book, George Augustus Robinson, is partly a resourceful knave, partly an admirable adventurer, partly even a figure of fun. The doomed Tasmanians are not all tarred with the same brush either: Trukanini has to decide whether to cooperate in the capture of her fellow Aborigines and be spared the worst herself. Other blacks are persuaded that a short removal from their ancestral land will save them from slaughter by the whites; they do not suspect the fate that awaits them.
Much more is to be found in the story Paradise Stolen.
For a few days in August 1991 the fate not just of the Soviet Union but potentially of the whole world hung in the balance. For the second time in Russian history — the first was not the Bolshevik putsch but the spontaneous popular uprising earlier in 1917 — the mass of the people opposed state pressure and won. But even then there were ominous signs of how things might go wrong under Boris Yeltsin.
That too is portrayed in Love Amid The Ruins.
Who remembers what life in the Soviet Union was like in 1990-91, as Gorbaĉov struggled to hold on to power while threatened by pressure groups on all sides? Everybody felt that something had to change, but in what direction?
That is the background to the novel Love Amid the Ruins, a love story based on real events.
This 2-volume work presents the lives of the members of an Australian family, starting at the beginning of World War 11 and continuing to the present. The novel has an abundance of styles, and the characters, though they grow up in the same setting, are vastly different and mirror different lifestyles and political and religious attitudes of the period. Humour, pathos, tragedy, irony — it’s all; there in “The Photo Album” (available only as an e-book).
Is it still possible for a (small) population to preserve its old way of life against the wasteful and destructive ways of “modern” civilisation? But if that population is afflicted by a natural disaster (e.g., a tsunami), isn’t that a good opportunity to force “modernity” on it?
“God Has No Church” — the title only appears to be ironic — tells of a small Polynesian island where the harmonious lifestyle is subjected to just that pressure by a corporation that sees a chance to “develop” the island to attract rich international tourists and at the same time destroy the old way of life.
A photo journalist, a specialist in warzones and catastrophes, goes to the island merely to take photos, but does not realise he is heading for a collapse himself. He becomes entangled in the fate of the island in a way he could never have suspected.
We have only scraps of reliable information about Jesus. What was he like as a child and an adolescent? What was his relationship with the Essenes? Was he Mary Magdalene’s lover? What was the role of Judas? Did Jesus think he was a Messiah – or God? Was he a freedom fighter for Jewish independence? How did he relate to the Roman colonisers and the Jewish priestly caste and the Pharisees?
These are all interesting questions, whatever your own opinion of the theology that grew up around his life. Read an imaginative reconstruction of all of this in my “Reluctant Messiah”.
Are we seeing a resurgence of fascism or a similar rigid nationalism and xenophobia in today’s world? The classic example is of course Germany’s slide into barbarity in the early 1930’s. But there were far-sighted people who knew what was coming, even if they had no idea of the horrific scale of Nazi crimes. Read about those far-sighted people in my novel “As Though Everything Depended on Me” (the guiding principle of the hero). A lesson very relevant today.
Kurt Lenz, having survived the horrors of the First World War, made it his mission to oppose all forms of national chauvinism. He became one of the leading journalists in the interwar period in Germany, which made him an obvious target for the Nazis as soon as they took over in January 1933. We need more brave , incorruptible and talented journalists like him today. Read his story in “As Though EVerything Depended on Me” (his slogan).