By Anthony Hill

See more links for Samuel Speed pages and interviews below

The Last Convict by Anthony Hill, published February 2021 by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Random House, Melbourne 2021; 353 pages including Author’s Note, three appendices plus photograph, Chapter Notes, References and Acknowledgements.


The Last Convict is an historical novel based on the life of Samuel Speed, who believed himself to be – and is widely accepted as – the last transported convict to survive in Australia. He died in November 1938, on the eve of the Second World War and within the lifetime of many people still living.

Convicted at Oxford with a mate in 1863 of setting fire to a barley stack because they were starving and wanted to go to prison to get regular meals. Speed arrived at Fremantle in 1866 on the convict transport Belgravia.

He got his ticket-of-leave in 1867 to work as a labourer in the Busselton district south of Perth, and his Certificate of Freedom four years later. Sam Speed never married. He had no family in Australia, and when he died at the Perth Old Men’s Home he was aged about 93-years-old.

The Last Convict is structured around an interview aged Sam Speed gave to the Perth Mirror newspaper in August 1938, only three months before he died. The article carried the only known photograph of the ‘Last of the Expirees’.

What the critics said

While the story of Samuel Speed, the last surviving Australian convict aches with sadness, it also exudes humour and triumph. Aussie history Australian Women’s Weekly.

Meticulously researched and brilliantly woven into an engaging fictional account, The Last Convict is a colourful recreation of the life and times of the last known convict to survive into the modern age. Penguin Random House cover notes.

In the character of Speed, Hill shows another truth. That having been so inculcated into the prison life so early, released men lost the ability to cope with the vicissitudes of freedom. Adam Courtenay Weekend Australian.

An engaging historical novel. It is a story of hardship and privation, alongside high adventure, a fresh start in the colonies, and the protagonist’s enduring solace in discovering the delights of literature. A ripping yarn. Cameron Woodhead, SMH Spectrum

Anthony Hill, whose writing career has involved historical research for his earlier books including those about World War I and an apprentice aboard Captain Cook’s Endeavour, has given this his best shot. Jennifer Somerville, Word of Mouth

Perth Mirror, 27 August 1938, page 1


* Buy signed copy of The Last Convict

* Writing Samuel Speed: The Last Convict: 17 Years Hard Labour

* Author’s Notes, The Last Convict

* Samuel Speed’s interview with the Perth Mirror, 27 August 1938

* Samuel Speed’s Trial: Extracts from Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 5 December 1863

* Samuel Speed’s Timeline

* Scenes from London prisons, 1862

* Notes for l’ultimo detenuto, the Italian edition of The Last Convict

* Facebook link to live Conversazione with translation for L’Ultimo Detenuto

* YouTube link to Anthony Hill in Conversation with Catherine Krause, Central Coast Libraries (NSW)

* Podcast link to ABC radio Nightlife interview with Philip Clark, 15 February 2021