Anthony Hill’s Newsletter
Welcome to the Winter edition of my newsletter.
* Young Digger new edition on sale
*For Love of Country launched
* Anzac Day at Jandowae
* Productivity Commission report on IP
* Literary landmark photos from England: The Dodo
* Miles Franklin Award shortlist
* Back copies
Young Digger on sale
Well, the new edition of Young Digger published by Penguin/Viking for the adult market goes on sale from Monday (13 June) with its new cover and larger format. I must say the response at this early stage seems encouraging.
Almost all the first run has been ordered in, and there has already been some good publicity for it in Fairfax Media.
A nice article by Carolyn Webb and picture spread appeared in the Melbourne Age last weekend, together with a short online video made beside Digger's grave at Fawkner cemetery, which was also carried on the Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times news sites. The link is here.
Following on from that I did an interview with Audrey Bourget of the SBS radio French section, which will be broadcast soon and I hope relayed to France.
The principal point I made in the new Introduction to the book and also to SBS is the fact that Digger's story has not yet come to an end.
So many wonderful things have happened since the book first appeared – the new gravestone, David Daws’ photos, the Tovell family's reconciliation with the RAAF, the Tim Tovell shield given annually by 4 Squadron – by people hoping to bring closure to the tale. In fact they’ve ensured it has continued into another chapter.
Only when, and if, people in France and Belgium are able to find who Digger really was and where he came from ... to give back to the boy his true identity ... will we be able to say the last page of his story has been written.
The text is the same as the 2002 edition. For those who already have the original book, you can read the new Introduction here. Otherwise I have copies signed as you wish available through my website here. I hope you like it.
For Love of Country
My new book For Love of Country has had a strong start after it went on sale at the beginning of April. Penguin had to order a reprint even before the official publication date, such was the demand from the booksellers – though problems with the presses meant the extra copies were delayed. Even the author had to wait several weeks to get his retail copies.
Nevertheless the book seems to be doing well at this early stage in a difficult market. I've seen it at the airport bookshops and some of the bigger department stores ... always a good sign.
Book signing at the launch of For Love of Country
Rear Admiral Ken Doolan AO, national president of the Returned and Services League of Australia, officially launched the book, about the Eddison soldier-settler family, at Canberra Grammar School on 23 March.
There was a good crowd of over 130 people ... those who'd helped with the research and editing; Eddison neighbours, many of whom had attended the school with the three Eddison brothers in the 1930s; friends, and of course the burgeoning Eddison clan. In fact Pam Yonge, now nearly 95 and last surviving of the six Eddison siblings, was guest of honour and welcomed everyone to the launch.
Ken Doolan and I have known each other as friends for many years, and he spoke very nicely about the book. He even said he thought it was one of my best – a view that I know is shared by the editorial team.
Most gratifying to me was the fact that Ken got to the heart of the story in his speech.
The book opens with a gas attack in 1918, where Walter Eddison inhaled a whiff of gas through a faulty gas mask. I thought the incident was an interesting way to engage the reader: but as the story grew, the gas mask developed into an important metaphor for Eddison's physical and emotional wellbeing.
Admiral Doolan, who'd been trained to wear the horrible things as a young cadet, made the point that even when suffering agonies in the gas mask, Eddison didn’t rip it off, however much he may have wanted. Ken grasped at once the significance of that for the metaphor and Eddison’s instinct for survival after the Second World War. It took me four years to get there! But what a joy for the author to realise that somebody else also understood.
Anzac Day 2016
Anzac Day this year was one of the best we've attended for a long time, when Jill and I went to the small Queensland town of Jandowae, not far from Dalby on the Darling Downs. It was here that Tim and Ted Tovell brought home the mascot Young Digger when they returned from the Great War, and where the boy went to his first school.
And it was at a wayside war memorial called Trumpeters' Corner, in the bush out from Jandowae, that a plaque was unveiled by the Tovell family in honour of Tim and Digger at a fine ceremony on 24 April, the day before Anzac. Actually five plaques to district men and women who had served in both world wars and Vietnam were unveiled, together with a sheltered picnic table for travellers, at a ceremony honoured by the presence of former Governor-General, Dame Quentin Bryce.
Sally (left), Marilyn and Ric Elliot, with Digger’s plaque behind.
Digger's plaque was unveiled by members of the Elliot family, whose mother Nancy was Tim's eldest daughter. I then spoke briefly about what has happened since our book first came out 13 years ago.
Afterwards I did an interview on camera for fellow author, Vicki Bennett, who has also been touched by Digger's tale. She plans to incorporate it in a documentary she's making with a title drawn from the famous motto at the Villers-Bretonneux school in France: We will never forget Australia.
The next morning Jill and I attended the Anzac Day ceremony in Jandowae itself. We both found it extraordinarily moving. There are not many veterans still marching, but the parade was led by the local light horse troop, with district associations and school children.
As the names of the fallen were read out at the town war memorial, you knew that every one meant something special to the families of their descendants gathered there.
Every name means something…
The Tovell brothers on the Jandoawe memorial
The service that followed was held in the memorial hall, for the sun is very hot in Jandowae. Again it was a simple, genuine and utterly Australian occasion, and it was a privilege to be present. At the end of it I presented to the school a reading of Young Digger on CD by Francis Greenslade, to ensure his memory is kept alive there as well.
So many thanks to Lyn Taylor and Des Underwood who organised the event, and to our hosts Peter and Grace Ireland who gave us great hospitality during our two nights in the town. Truly, We will never forget Jandowae.
Productivity Commission report
You may have seen some controversy recently from publishers’ associations and writers’ organisations concerning the draft report of the Productivity Commission into the Intellectual Property regime. There are three main areas of contention:
* A proposal that copyright protection on published works be limited to 25 years after the date of publication – as opposed to the present rule of 70 years from the author’s death. If adopted, it would mean my early books, including Antique Furniture in Australia, would now be out of copyright and free for anyone to plagiarise. Fortunately, the Minister has ruled this out of consideration.
* A move to free up current restrictions on the parallel import of books from overseas. It would certainly make many more and cheaper books available quickly to Australian readers … though critics fear a flood of cheap books will put the Australian publishing industry under severe strain and seriously reduce the royalty incomes of local authors who sell internationally.
It doesn’t affect me particularly, as my market is mainly within Australia. But this is not the first time the idea has been put forward, and I can’t help thinking that the opposition is something of a rear-guard action. In these days of global markets, instant communications and rapid transport, I think the public will eventually tire of publishers, film companies, music producers and so on carving the world into discrete and exclusive segments in order to maximise profits and minimise the competition.
* A recommendation to liberalise the present fair dealing restrictions of the Copyright Act to bring it more into line with United States usage. Again it’s not a new idea, but despite the objections of the Australian Society of Authors among others, this is a reform I personally support.
At present the Act gives some protection to critics, academic researchers, newspaper reporters and – heaven help us! – satirists who use copyright material … but not authors of books. As an historical writer necessarily involved with much public and private archival research, I live under the constant guillotine of the Copyright Act. One disaffected family member, where the original author is deceased, can be enough to prevent publication in a book (or film) of material that I would otherwise be free to use as a journalist. In such cases, rather than encourage creativity, the Copyright Act too often serves to stifle it.
It’s a ridiculous situation, and I hope the present laws are liberalised. Provided the author and source are properly acknowledged, not more than say 10 per cent of the material is used in good faith, and a majority of copyright holders consent, the Act should give the same legal protection to all writers, irrespective of their genre.
Walking on a first visit through the Oxford Museum of Natural History recently, we were astonished to find ourselves face to face through a glass cabinet with a dodo.
This wasn’t any old, extinct, dead-as-a-dodo, mind you – but the very bones of the bird that inspired the stuttering Reverend Charles Do-do-Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), the Oxford don, to include it in the story he was telling his young friend Alice Liddell.
And at once our minds went back to the scene of the famous Caucus Race the Dodo organised to dry the creatures after swimming in Wonderland’s pool of tears – and of how, since everybody started and finished at the same time, everybody was entitled to a prize, including Alice.
They all crowded around her once more, while the Dodo solemnly presented the thimble, saying ‘We beg your acceptance of this elegant thimble’; and, when it had finished this short speech, they all cheered.
The flightless dodo went extinct in the late 17th century, having made apparently not-very-delicious meals for sailors landing on Mauritius. One of the last of them finished up in England, and eventually the Museum. Only the mummified head and a foot survive under lock and key, the skeleton in the case with the model immortalised by Dodgson having been made from various bones collected by Oxford scientists.
Alice thought the whole thing very absurd, but they all looked so grave that she did not dare to laugh…
We weren’t so inhibited, and laughed out loud. What delight it was to see this creature from our childhood stories so unexpectedly before us. It won’t surprise you to learn that a white rabbit with a watch shared the same case.
There’s another treasured literary landmark at the Museum as well. I’ll tell you about it next time.
Miles Franklin Award shortlist
Congratulations to the five authors whose books are on the shortlist for this year’s prestigious Miles Franklin Award.
They are Peggy Frew for Hope Farm (Scribe); Myfanwy Jones for Leap (Allen & Unwin); A S Patric for Black Rock White City (Transit Lounge); Lucy Treloar for Salt Creek (Pan Macmillan); Charlotte Wood for The Natural Way of Things (Allen & Unwin).
First presented in 1957, the winner of this year’s Miles Franklin Award of $60,000 for a work that best presents Australian life in any of its phases, will be announced at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival in August.
Animal Heroes back copies
I still have some copies of Animal Heroes remaining from the last print run. If you would like one inscribed as you wish please contact me at email@example.com. The price is $20 plus postage $8.25 for a small Australia Post satchel, until stock runs out.
Books in print
Books still in print can be ordered through the website here
• For Love of Country ($35 plus $13.40 postage in Australia)
* Young Digger ($30 plus $8.25 for small Australia Post satchel)
• The Burnt Stick ($17 plus $2 postage)
• The Story of Billy Young ($23 plus $8.50 postage)
•Soldier Boy ($20 plus postage $3)
Complimentary bookmark, signature and personal inscription are included. I will refund any excess postage if multiple books are purchased.
The Spring newsletter will come out in early September.
Until then, with every good wish