The Apostle Bird
"The year is 1934, the time of the Great Depression. The place is a settlement of miners' dugouts far from the nearest town. Fifteen-year-old Neil and his parents have come from Adelaide, Hoping to strike it lucky, but the gold is elusive, the other miners intolerant, and Neil's only friend is a bully.
"Then the American Ivan and his daughter Kitty arrive. They are mysterious, aloof. Soon rumours spread: Ivan killed a man; Kitty helped him rob banks. Neil is drawn to them despite the rumours. But Kitty saw him shoot the apostle bird. How can he convince her it was an accident?
"Tensions come to a head when a digger is found dead, his gold missing. Angry miners form a mob to hunt the Americans down. Neil knows the nearby creeks and scrubland. He can lead Ivan and Kitty to safety - if they let him.
"The Apostle Bird is an evocatively written and compelling study of prejudice, honour and courage."
We have come here to scratch for gold. Once we had a house, a business and a Packard sedan, but they are gone now, seized by the bank. We had a workshop, tools and a showroom of painted rowboats, sold to the highest bidder on the final day. Now we are reduced to this: a hut on a lean in the far mallee scrub, a grubby claim on Noltenius Creek, and a life indebted to a man called Bartle Allen as we scratch for the gold that will overturn our rotten luck.
I could make a ballad out of it, a moody lament to match our bewilderment and pain. The melody first, or the words? Perched near the edge of the mineshaft, upon a mound of silt borne down by ancient floods, I try to find a way into the song. A simple one, two, three, four beat. Perhaps-
'Neil. Wake up, son. Get a move on.'
From the Hodder paperback edition, 1997.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2001 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Garry Disher Page.
Last modified: November 26, 2001.