Saturday, October 31, 2009
An Australian Saga Continues
Today, I thought it was appropriate to review a novel written by a friend of mine. Why today, you ask? Well, today (November 1, 2009) is the official release of his most recent work, To Touch the Clouds. And the author’s name? Peter Watt.
As much as I would love to write about his latest novel, I can’t. I haven’t read it yet. I intend to…in fact, friend Peter has told me it is winging its way from Australia to me as I write this. And that has me very excited!
I hope you avid readers will keep watch here on GAG, for as soon as I have my grubby little mitts on To Touch the Clouds, I intend to read it from cover to cover. And then… I’ll tell you how much I like it! Or, knowing author Peter Watt… how much I LOVE it.
In the meantime, I’m going to do something that probably seems a little bass-ackwards. But if you’ll bear with me, you’ll see that there’s a method to my madness. (If I tell you that often enough, you’re bound to believe me! Ah, the power of suggestion...) What I’m going to do is tell you a bit about Cry of the Curlew.
Cry of the Curlew is the very first Peter Watt novel I ever read. It is also the first book in the Macintosh/Duffy series, and since To Touch the Clouds is the most recent chapter, I thought it was appropriate to write about the book where-in it all began. What a great way, I thought, to lead in to his new saga!
The backwards part comes from the fact that Cry of the Curlew is not a new novel, but rather, one that has been in publication for several years. I am sure that when it was originally released, COTC was reviewed over and over again by professionals--extraordinary journalists who knew what they are doing as they touted this epic adventure set in 19th century Australia. In contrast, I am NOT a literary commentator or a member of the press. I’m just a humble author of Young Adult fiction and a columnist who writes country tales from Maine.
However, I am a woman who is not afraid of a challenge! Let’s not forget…I have teenagers in the house. Nothing, but nothing, is as intimidating as that! If I can stand in the path of a constant barrage of adolescent hormones and pubescent attitude without flinching, then surely I can attempt to write a review of a book that, while not newly published, is a refreshing read, nonetheless.
A piece of cake!
I was pointed in Peter’s direction by my pal Jack. He knew that I was a fan of Wilbur Smith novels, and he suggested I try a tale by Mr. Watt, whose writing and talent has often been compared to that great author’s. And since I always do what my friend Jack tells me to (unless, of course, he’s WRONG) I went to Amazon.com and ordered Cry of the Curlew.
And boy, am I glad that I did!
Cry of the Curlew is a fictional account of two diverse families who are making their mark on a young country. A country as harsh and unforgiving as any on this planet. A land of great beauty and tremendous danger. Australia, a continent of extremes, was a siren for strong men who wanted a new start, or a chance at fame, or glory, or sometimes—anonymity.
Much like the wild west of American fame, the Australian frontier was a place where white settlers took it upon themselves to impose their own laws and ways of life on a land and a populace that did not need or want them. The natives of Australia were treated as second-class citizens by many of those who came to occupy their tribal lands. Worse, they were sometimes dealt with as if they were less than human. Without value. Even, sometimes… disposable.
Cry of the Curlew opens to just such a scene. Donald Macintosh, a wealthy landowner, has issued orders. The Nerambura tribe is to be ‘dispersed’. To some, that word means scattered or disbanded. But to Lt. Morrison Mort and his Native Mounted Police, it meant annihilated. When Patrick Duffy and his son Tom witness the slaughter, the father is murdered and the son goes on the run, an outcast from his own people. Disillusioned by the brutality of his own race, and accepted by a small band of aboriginals, he makes it his mission to even the score.
The conflict between the two families is not restricted to Donald Macintosh and Tom Duffy, however, as loyalty and devotion are strong sentiments in these immigrant families. Each family takes it upon themselves to see the other brought low. And for some, the depths to which they will go to achieve that end are unimaginable.
Cry of the Curlew is a novel--a fictitious tale--but the reader can glean much about the history of Queensland as Peter Watt weaves events from its past into the daily drama of his central characters. Not only does this saga have an authentic feel, but the individuals themselves are as mortal as can be. One of the qualities that most impressed me about the author’s writing is that he lets the reader see the humanity in each personality showcased between the book’s covers. Not one of them is perfect, not one—completely imperfect. Goodness and evil…all men have a dose of each.
And Peter Watt knows that.
In Cry of the Curlew, he shows us just what happens when individuals not only war with each other, but wage a battle within themselves.
The Pete Watt I know is a family man, a writer and a friend. But to do him justice, below is a bit of additional information pulled from his website. I didn’t ask permission to copy and paste this because I know that today, he’s busy launching To Touch the Clouds. But I’m going to chance it and include this blurb anyway. I’m brave, after all! Remember… I have TEENAGERS in the house!
Peter Watt has spent time as a soldier, articled clerk, prawn trawler deckhand, builder's labourer, pipe layer, real estate salesman, private investigator, police sergeant and advisor to the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. He speaks, reads and writes Vietnamese and Pidgin. He now lives at Maclean, on the Clarence River in northern New South Wales. Fishing and the vast open spaces of outback Queensland are his main interests in life.
To Touch the Clouds (Release November 2009)
'They had all forgotten the curse … except one ... until it touched them. I will tell you of those times when the whitefella touched the clouds and lightning came down on the earth for many years.’
In 1914, the storm clouds of war are gathering. Matthew Duffy and his cousin Alexander Macintosh are sent by Colonel Patrick Duffy to conduct reconnaissance in German-controlled New Guinea. At the same time, Alexander's sister, Fenella, is making a name for herself in the burgeoning Australian film industry.
But someone close to them has an agenda of his own - someone who would betray not only his family but his country to satisfy his greed and lust for power. As the world teeters on the brink of conflict, one family is plunged into a nightmare of murder, drugs, treachery and treason.
To Touch the Clouds is a powerful continuation of Peter Watt's much-loved saga of the Duffy and Macintosh clan, begun in The Cry of the Curlew.
The photo above is of three of Peter Watt’s novels, which he generously autographed and donated to my small, hometown library in New Portland, Maine. (No novels were set on fire in the taking of this photograph.)