"There was a Breaker Morant - he was executed at Pietersburg on February 27, 1901. His crime? Wilful murder of civilians. yet to this day his guilt remains in doubt.
"Kit Denton's novel The Breaker does more than recount the facts and mystery surrounding Morant's death sentence. With action stretched across three continents, it covers the entire range of the Breaker's career. We see him as a champion horseman, a lovable larrikin, a popular balladist. We see him in love and in war. Then we see him face the firing squad that will end his life.
"Kit Denton's novel was first published in 1973, and it was inspired by a conversation with a Boer War veteran who had actually known Harry "Breaker" Morant - horseman, poet, soldier, and, perhaps, murderer of civilians. The tale the old man told was so extraordinary that Denton followed it up with two-and-a half years of research, even going to London to try to obtain the documents of Morant's court martial. The screen version of Breaker Morant's story, presented by the South Australina Film Corporation, centers on the court martial proceedings which led to Morant's execution in 1902 - proceedings which are still shrouded in mystery by the British government despite the eighty years which have since passed."
First Paragraph from the Foreword:
Before you begin . . .
There was a Breaker Morant. He lived his life in the times and company of many of the people mentioned in this story, and he went through much of the action in these pages. I had hoped to write a true history of the events and the people concerned, but the obduracy of the British Government in refusing to release a number of essential documents has made this impossible. Nonetheless, this book has in it many of the historical facts and I've departed from history only when the facts weren't discoverable or when I felt it was necessary in the interest of a good story. Morant lived, wrote, fought and died pretty much the way I've pictured it.
The corner of the small paddock collected the bars of sunlight sliding through the sapling fence, stretching them in white-gold lines across the green shadows which were almost black. Paddy leaned on the gate, looking into the corner, squinting against the clean hurt of the morning sun, seeing only the light and shadow contrasts. The whistle was sharp and brief, his tongue hard against the back of his teeth, and then more teeth showing as his mouth widened in a grin. There, in there in the barred darkness, Harlequin lifted his head to the sound, his ears pricking forward and his lip lifting in a quiet answering whicker. Then he stepped out, the movement showing him for the first time, a graceful zebra for a moment, for a moment a pale green unicorn, touched with gold, then a golden horse walking dainty-hooved onto the plate of gold that was the short grass between the trees and gate.
Whenever it happened, as often as it happened, Paddy sucked in a breath, shaking his head a little in admiration, thinking, No wonder Harry wanted him.
Harlequin saw the man at the gate and flicked his head to one side, the mane sliding like black silk across the golden arch of his neck, the black tail moving with it, and he came out easily in a trot, half circling, playing his morning game.
"Hey, there, Harlequin." It wasn't a call, just a low-voiced greeting, part of the whole ritual, part of the months behind them both, alone on the property.
"Hey, horse. Come on over here then."
From the St Martin's Press hardback edition, 1981.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2002 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to 'Breaker' Morant page.
Last modified: April 29, 2002.