Anthony Hill’s Newsletter
Welcome to my Autumn newsletter. In this edition:
* Captain Cook’s Apprentice new edition
* Literary landmarks: Tahiti
* Animal Heroes great start
* Anzac Day at Portland
* Books in print
Find me at anthonyhillbooks
Captain Cook’s Apprentice new edition
Excellent news to cheer us up for this Winter Newsletter. Penguin Books is to publish a new edition for the adult market of my novel Captain Cook's Apprentice, to coincide with the 250th commemoration next year of HMB Endeavour leaving England on its three-year odyssey around the world.
It was one of the most important European voyages of discovery ever made.
It filled in many blanks on the map of the South Pacific – largely completed with Cook's two further voyages in Resolution.
Ultimately it led to British colonisation of New Zealand and Australia.
Our two countries will be commemorating their 250th anniversaries of Cook's arrival in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
As Captain Cook's Apprentice tells the story of the whole voyage through the eyes of Isaac Manley – one of the servant boys on board, who rose to become an Admiral and was the last survivor of the crew – the new edition will be out around mid 2018.
Endeavour left Plymouth in August 1768, so perhaps we can steal a march on some of the other publications planned around these events.
Restoring the cuts
The text will be a revised version of the first edition that came out in 2008, for I'm taking the opportunity to restore several passages that were cut during the heavy editing of the original.
Certainly, it was written for secondary schools. But it irritated me that, when young Isaac met his girl on Tahiti, I was unable to say 'they loved each other’ – yet when they saw the remains of a Maori cannibal feast, it was quite okay to say 'they ate each other'. I'll give Isaac back his first love.
I've also written a new Introduction giving an historical overview to the continuing importance of the Endeavour voyage in all our lives.
Isaac Manley’s house, Braziers, Oxfordshire
The book will be marketed as a novel, which it really is, rather than as an historical reconstruction, with not a lot by way of illustrations. In such a format there is little room to give an expansive account of the long-term results of the voyage.
Yet I hope we'll be able to include the full set of Chapter Notes that at present are available only on my website. I often find them the most interesting part of a book.
In any event I must say how thrilled I am that Penguin is to do the new edition. Captain Cook's Apprentice is one of my own favourite books. It did well, winning the NSW Premier's History Award for Young People in 2009.
I was always sorry when it went out of print, for the cost of reproducing some of the illustrations from the British institutions is prohibitive these days. It pleases me more than I can say that the text will now be available to a whole new generation of readers.
Significance of Endeavour voyage
The Endeavour story is not only a great adventure – a splendid seafaring yarn. It was a voyage that hugely enriched our knowledge in the arts and sciences and of the world we live in. And it continues to touch our lives in so many ways.
Cook proved that Tasman's New Zealand is in fact two main islands, and not part of any fabled great southern continent. He mapped the east coast of New Holland and claimed it for the Crown under the name of New South Wales.
The botanist, Joseph Banks and his scientific party, brought back over 50,000 marine, zoological, botanical and mineral specimens. Many of them, especially from New Zealand and Australia, were completely unknown in Europe…
Something like a greyhound that hopped on its hind legs called a kangaroo? Eucalyptus trees that, defying nature as the Europeans knew it, kept their leaves and shed their bark!
The Polynesian and Aboriginal vocabularies … records of native customs and beliefs … ethnographic material – clothes, weapons, artefacts, tools, venerated objects collected by Banks … all laid the foundations for the modern discipline of anthropology.
Aboard Endeavour 2006
The observation of the Transit of Venus at the recently discovered island of Tahiti, helped establish the earth's distance from the sun fairly accurately at 95 million miles.
Tahiti itself seemed an idyllic paradise with its easy tropical life, and the sexual favours granted to Cook's men in return for a nail. Some visiting captains feared their ships threatened to fall apart so much ironmongery went missing!
Of course, life on the islands could be as violent and brutal as anywhere else. But these early accounts reinforced notions among European political philosophers of the 'noble savage' living happily in a 'state of nature', all of which fed into the ferment behind the American and French Revolutions.
They certainly had a huge influence among writers and artists - Robert Louis Stevenson and Paul Gaugin among them. As they still do. I've been smitten by a tropic idyll of the imagination ever since I read Treasure Island.
While the Endeavour voyage marked the beginning of European settlement in the South Pacific – the colony at Sydney was established eighteen years after Cook charted New South Wales – it also saw the beginning of the destruction of traditional indigenous cultures and societies.
The consequences of that are something else we are still living with. The French were also active in the Pacific at that time, and European incursion would have happened even without Cook.
We cannot change the past: but we can try to right the wrongs that were committed. In my view, the movement for indigenous cultural and political recognition across the Pacific is very much part of that imperative.
Certainly, I was conscious of this aspect of the voyage during the writing of Captain Cook's Apprentice.
Throughout I sought to give an indigenous perspective of events as they might have seemed to people on 'the other side of the beach'.
Even Cook was aware that, whatever benefits might accrue to Britain and the world from his discoveries, they came at a dreadful price.
He was shocked, for example, to discover that venereal disease was even then rife in Tahiti – brought a year or so earlier by sailors with either Captain Wallis or de Bougainville. It would, Cook told his journal, be their 'eternal reproach'.
Disease, in fact, would prove more deadly than superior European weapons. Indigenous people had no resistance to measles, smallpox, even the common cold – and within a few years of settlement, the Aboriginal population around Sydney, for instance, had collapsed by 70 per cent.
It was a disaster for them.
The rock where Cook came ashore, Botany Bay
Cook Memorial, Tahiti
In keeping with the theme of this Newsletter, this month’s Literary Landscape is the restored memorial to Captain Cook at Point Venus, Tahiti, only a hundred metres or so from the site of the fort he built with Endeavour men to observe the Transit of Venus in June 1769.
Point Venus is surely one of the most significant sites in South Pacific history.
The black volcanic sand spit is at the northern end of Matavai Bay. Here Captain Wallis anchored when he discovered the islands for the Europeans in 1767. Cook came here on each of his three great voyages.
Captain Bligh anchored at Matavai Bay in 1788 with the fateful Bounty, to collect breadfruit – and to which his mutinous crew returned before sailing to their hideaway at Pitcairn island.
Here the London missionaries landed in 1797 to begin the story of European settlement on Tahiti.
And there is also a pharos, a lighthouse, designed by the father of Robert Louis Stevenson, with a plaque to commemorate the author’s visit in the 1880s.
Unrestored Cook memorial and pharos, Point Venus
The monument consists of a short column with a sphere standing on a six-pointed navigational star above a hexagonal plinth.
Originally erected in 1901 as a memorial to Cook by the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Society, it stood rather neglected and anonymous, having been missing a plaque for many years.
About six years ago the Captain Cook Society and the Government of French Polynesia agreed to restore the memorial, and after researching the history I was able to help by supplying the words for a suitable memorial plaque.
An extended article I wrote about the memorial for the Captain Cook Society can be found here.
The restored memorial
Animal Heroes and Anzac Day
The new edition of Animal Heroes got off to a great start when it came out at the beginning of April. The book had widespread publicity on TV, radio and the press. In fact, it was picked up by the media very much as the Anzac Day book for this year.
The take on Australian soldiers, past and present, and the animals that served with them seemed to appeal strongly. And the book has already gone into reprint.
Over the month I did more than thirty separate interviews: and I must acknowledge the fine work done by the Penguin Random House publicity staff in pulling it all together and keeping me fully up-to-date with the program during the two weeks Jill and I were on the road in Victoria.
Highlight of the trip, of course, was Anzac Day at Portland, on the far south coast, where I gave the address at the main service to a gathering of more than two thousand people on a splendid site overlooking the sea.
I also spoke some introductory words at the dawn service, reminding people that, as the soldiers were coming ashore at Gallipoli on that first Anzac Day, so, too, were the animals: the few horses, the many mules, and some donkeys picked up from nearby Greek islands the day before.
One of them used by the ambulanceman, Jack Simpson, was to become the most famous of them all.
The main service, arranged by the Portland RSL, was splendidly done, with wreaths and floral tributes laid at more than 600 memorial crosses on the lawn to local men and women who had died in Australia’s wars.
The opening parade was led by the Light Horse, naturally, with a donkey on a leading rein behind them.
There was a nice touch at the end of my speech. I concluded with the stories of two messenger pigeons who served in New Guinea during the Second World War and received the Dickin medal for gallantry, equivalent to the animals’ VC.
As we remembered their bravery, I said, ‘let us reflect that pigeons are also the universal symbols of peace.’
And at that moment a returned soldier opened a travelling military pigeon coop, and half a dozen of the little birds flew above the crowd into the sky.
We were in Portland for three days altogether, meeting old friends including Ian Moody and his family. Ian’s father, Jim Moody, was the man who smuggled back Horrie the Wog Dog in 1942. And there, centrepiece among the flowers on the lawn that Anzac Day, was a floral tribute to Corporal Horrie, looking large as life. Larger, indeed. It was a wonderful display.
Canine Operational Service Medal:
As a footnote to Animal Heroes, you may have noticed that on 8 June the Defence Department announced it was introducing a new Canine Operational Service Medal, to be awarded to all military working dogs that have at least thirty days service on a declared military operation, eventually dating back to Vietnam.
The round, nickel-silver medal features the combat assault dog, Quake, who died in Afghanistan in 2012. The medal is said to be the first of its kind issued by a Defence Force. It will be available in addition to the unofficial square Canine Service Medal and War Dog Operation Medal awarded by the ADF Trackers and War Dogs Association.
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 have 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 $8.60 postage)
• The Burnt Stick ($16.95 plus $1.80 postage)
• For Love of Country($35 plus $13.60 postage)
• The Story of Billy Young ($23 plus $8.50 postage)
•Soldier Boy($20 plus postage $2.10)
• 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.
The Spring 2017 newsletter will come out in September. Until then, with every good wish