Anthony Hill’s Newsletter
Welcome to my Spring newsletter. In this edition:
* Young Digger film rights sold
* James Martin (‘Soldier Boy’) Scholarship
* ANZAC Day editions * Gunner
* Literary Landscape: The Yorkshire Dales
* Literary Awards
* Books in Print
Young Digger film rights sold
It is with much pleasure that I'm able to advise you that we have recently sold an option to the film rights for my book Young Digger.
The option has been taken up by the noted Australian author, Di Morrissey, through her company Lady Byron Pty Ltd.
There is, of course, no guarantee that the film will eventually be made. As everyone knows, it's an uncertain business, and the option allows a period to develop the project.
But I’m very happy that the first steps have been taken to bring to the big screen this wonderful story of the little French war orphan smuggled back home in 1919 by No. 4 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps.
I've long thought that this story of hope and love emerging from the ashes of the Great War would be ideal for the cinema.
It takes us from the outbreak of war to the Armistice and the first years of peace. And as the story journeys from Cologne in Occupied Germany, through Belgium, France, England, the voyage home to Sydney and eventually the Queensland outback township of Jandowae, it has a truly international dimension as well.
As readers will be aware, Di Morrissey is one of the best-known and most successful authors in our country, having published twenty-four novels and four children’s books.
In May this year she was inducted into the Australian Book Industry Awards Hall of Fame, and presented with the Lloyd O’Neil Award for service to the book industry.
It’s therefore a particular honour that Di responded so enthusiastically when she heard an early-morning interview I gave about the story to Trevor Chappell on ABC radio late last year. The second edition of the book had not long come out (see my Winter 2016 Newsletter).
I thought nobody listened to radio at five o’clock in the morning. On the contrary, within a matter of hours Di had been in contact with me and the process was set in train which led to our successful agreement with Penguin Random House on the option to the film rights.
There’s a long way to go yet. But it’s exciting and encouraging news, and I’ll keep you informed on progress in the months – years – ahead.
James Martin (Soldier Boy) scholarship
In another development of significance for a character from one of my books, Swinburne University is to launch a James Martin Scholarship in November for a Year Nine student in the Hawthorn/Kew suburbs of Melbourne.
The $1000 annual scholarship is part of the ‘My School Remembers’ programme, currently being developed to encourage every Australian Year Nine student, as part of their history course, to research a serviceman or woman from their postcode who served in one of Australia’s overseas conflicts – from South Africa to Afghanistan.
At a time when the generation of the Second World War is fading, as that of the First has already gone, it is a way of keeping their memories and service alive in the local communities from which they came.
The plan is supported by Swinburne University, whose campus off Glenferrie Road is only a few blocks from Mary Street Hawthorn, where Jim Martin grew up, and Manningtree Road where the young Anzac went to school.
As readers will know, Jim enlisted in April 1915, and died of enteric fever (typhoid) on a hospital ship off Gallipoli on 25 October that same year, aged only fourteen years and nine months. He is believed to be the youngest of the Anzacs, and is almost certainly the youngest Australian soldier to die in war.
Swinburne University already funds a ‘Weary Dunlop Scholarship’, named after perhaps Australia’s most famous army doctor, for undergraduate students. The James Martin Scholarship is in keeping with that tradition.
The founder of the ‘My School Remembers’ project, Brenton Pettit, hopes the programme will be taken up in every state and territory.
He says: ‘It is a Year Nine educational programme being built for secondary schools – their students, teachers and local communities – with the goal of providing a “memory” for future adult Australians when contemplating the words “Lest We Forget”.’
I will be speaking about Jim Martin at the scholarship launch at Swinburne on 2 November, during which a painting of the young soldier by George Petrou will be auctioned to raise funds for the My School Remembers programme.
A video of the project and James Martin can be seen at www.myschoolremembers.org
Anzac Day editions of Soldier Boy and Animal Heroes
In keeping with its practice over recent years, Australia Post is to publish special editions of two of my military books for Anzac Day next year.
Both Soldier Boy and Animal Heroes will be available at a reduced price from Australia Post shops.
The adult edition of Young Digger, together with The Story of Billy Young and For Love of Country, are still currently in print and are available from all good bookshops or myself, if readers would like a signed copy.
In another entertaining development for one of my Animal Heroes, a stuffed toy dog called ‘Gunner’ has just gone on sale at the Darwin Military Museum shop.
It’s named after the black-and-white kelpie cross, whose barking at the approach of enemy aircraft during WW2 played a not unimportant part in the defence of Darwin in 1942-43. Gunner’s minder, Percy Westcott, was even allowed to carry a portable air-raid siren on the airbase.
The acquisition of the toy souvenir owes much to a Canadian visitor, Dr Lynn Wells, who was so taken with Gunner’s story that she worked hard to have the dog recognised by the museum authorities.
I’m grateful for Lynn’s interest – and happy for the Museum Director Norman Cramp, who advises that many of the Gunner dogs have sold already, and they're waiting new stock!
I spoke to Percy recently to pass on the news. At ninety-seven he’s happily yet with us, living in Melbourne, and he finds it very nice that Gunner should be remembered in this way.
Percy still thinks of the dog with much affection, although it’s a constant regret he never made it back to Darwin after the war, to find out what happened to Gunner. Of course, as he was put in the care of the butcher, who was also a dog-lover, Percy’s in no doubt that the story had a happy ending.
Warm congratulations to the winners and short-listed authors in this year’s Miles Franklin Award and the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards. The winners were:
Miles Franklin Award.Extinctions, by Josephine Wilson (UWA Publishing). The novel was described by the judging panel as ‘compassionate and unapologetically intelligent.’
CBCA Book of the Year.Older readers: One Would Think the Deep by Claire Zorn, (UQP). Younger Readers: Rockhopping by Trace Balla (Allen & Unwin). Early Childhood: Go Home, Cheeky Animals! By Johanna Bell (Allen & Unwin).
Picture Book: Home in the Rain by Bob Graham (Walker Books). Eve Pownall Award for Information Books: Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks by Gina M Newton (NLA Publishing). Crichton Award: The Patchwork Bike illustrations by Van T Rudd, text by Maxine Beneba Clarke.
Literary Landscapes: The Yorkshire Dales
We’ve recently been watching the political drama House of Cards with Kevin Spacey, the lengthy American version of the original British television series.
It’s pretty strong stuff – art imitating life rather too closely. And as a kind of antidote after each viewing, we put on another episode of that wonderful BBC programme All Creatures Great and Small.
Based on the books by James Herriot of a vet’s life in the Yorkshire Dales during the pre- and post-war years, the series is a splendid affirmation of the enduring virtues. Of human love, and decency, and compassion, and humour: everything that the House of Cards is not.
Above all, it’s a celebration of the wonder and recuperative powers of nature for the human spirit – and in particular of the Yorkshire Dales, which Herriot did so much to glorify in his books.
…the peace which I always found in the silence and emptiness of the moors filled me utterly.
I was there ten years ago, and the beauty of the place has remained evergreen with me … as every good literary landscape should, of course.
Readers who use Facebook might care to visit my site at anthonyhillbooks. I usually post about once a week, generally on Friday afternoon. For the past few months I’ve been putting up a series of short articles titled Seven Sensible Steps to Success as a Writer. Previous posts can also be found on my blog on the website here.
Books in print
Books still in print can be ordered through the website here
• Animal Heroes ($33 plus $8.50 postage)
• The Burnt Stick ($17.00 plus $2 postage)
• For Love of Country ($35 plus $13.50 postage)
• The Story of Billy Young ($23 plus $8.50 postage)
•Soldier Boy ($20 plus postage $3)
• Young Digger ($30 plus postage $8.50)
Complimentary bookmark, signature and personal inscription are included. I will refund any excess postage if multiple books are purchased.
Photos: Book covers courtesy Penguin Random House. Di Morrissey 2017 by Linda Bryant, courtesy Di Morrissey. Percy Westcott and Gunner, courtesy Percy Westcott. Yorkshire Dales by Anthony Hill.
The Summer Newsletter will come out for Christmas.
Until then, with best wishes