I found the second half not as enjoyable as the first half The reason being I felt the story was trying to be both a factual historical account and a novel, which became increasingly tiresome and appeared long winded with the added dialogue and repartee to enhance the story Toward the end it became a slog, as I felt that I was reading a novel, not history The book was very well researched Interesting to be reminded that even with a smaller population in all that vast space to hide, the long arm of the law and a long memory made the bushranger career invariably a short one.
The first half has a lot of interesting statistics about the early colony.
1828 It was the zenith of the convict era From that time onwards the percentage of came free and born frees steadily increased each year, but for the time being Governor Ralph Darling s policy was directed toward using the slave labour of nearly half the population for the benefit of the privileged few who had immigrated to NSW as free men, bringing capital with them Between the convicts and the came frees an unbridgeable gulf of class distinction was fixed The Governor of NSW Lieutenant General Darling was cruel and brutal.
1826 The laws of England at that time showed no sentimental sympathy with crimes against property The hangman, the flogger and the gaoler were kept busy repressing the community s acquisitive instinct More than a hundred and sixty offences were punishable by the death sentence These ranged from high treason and murder to arson, burglary, forgery, highway robbery, cattle stealing, sacrilege, mutiny, desertion, rioting, perjury, smuggling, deer stealing, cutting down trees, concealing the birth of a bastard child, counterfeiting money, and breaking down the head of a fishpond, whereby fish may be lost to name only some of the capital offences This is the staggering irony English law at the time of Settlement of Australia valued property over human life Yet this didn t apply to the Indigenous Aborigines The land was considered terra nullius This is brilliantly explained in detail in The Law of the Land by Henry Reynolds, which I recommend reading.
Although most of this work is based on historical facts, it reads like a fast paced novel Clune is right in saying that Australia s bushranging days werebrutal than the American West, but the period was never marketed as a film and literary goldmine as has been done in the US I still cannot fathom why many of the towns in regional NSW do not continue to take greater advantage of their history I remember driving past a sign indicating Ben Hall s grave in Forbes but there was no fanfare and little effort to make anythingof one of the most notorious Australians I suppose it has become unfashionable Yet Clune s work is an important piece of Australian literature and it is rather pleasant to discover an Australian literary tradition that somehow seems lost in the present time.
Finally finished reading this book What an epic with 657 pages It was well worth the effort Frank Clune is a talented writer with the ability to paint a very clear picture with words.