On the afternoon of Monday 18 May 1942, Richard Manson, Dickie to his family, sat in the back of an uncovered utility truck belonging to the Japanese Navy and watched the river of dust swirl and tumble away behind him.
He might have imagined, as 11-year-old boys sometimes do, that the road was moving and he was not, and that if he jumped it would carry him away to the mountains, where no-one would find him.
Last chance, then for this story to end differently.
His mother, Marjorie, took his hand and wouldn’t let go
In 1942, in the midst of world War 2, five Australian civilians were captured by Japanese soldiers and later driven to a pit at the base of a volcano and executed as spies. The civilians included a woman, her brother, husband and friend – and her 11 year old son. How did a child end up in such a situation? And why did even his family not know the full story?
Line of Fire traces the stories of the five civilians, with particular focus on the stories of Marjorie Manson and her son Dickie, detailing the events that lead to them being in Rabaul and, ultimately, executed. Using a combination of documents research, visits to Rabaul, interviews of the few people still alive with memories of the events, and some guesswork, the story is pieced together in a a work that will both appall and fascinate history buffs.
Line of Fire, by Ian Townsend
Fourth Estate, 2017
His silence disturbed Maggie, who tried to return to her letter.
The schooner shook as another gust hit, and she felt it roll.
‘Will it be bad?’ she said, not looking up.
‘We’ve been through rough weather before.’
’Poor Tommy can’t swim.’
‘It doesn’t well matter if he can’t swim,’ said Porter. ‘If he’s in a position where he can’t swim then he’s no help to us anyway. And I’ll need all the help I can get tonight.’
Maggie put her hand to her mouth. ‘Oh William.’
The year is 1899 and a terrible storm is approaching the Queensland coast. As the pearling fleet works to meet its quotas and a native policeman leads an expedition to solve a murder, hurricane Mahina approaches across the Coral Sea. On board one of the boats is Maggie, whose husband is a captain. After some time away from the ship, Maggie has come back aboard to be with her husband, and to share some news with him, news she has not had time to share when the storm hits. Soon, Maggie is fighting for her life, and the life of her baby, who she has brought aboard.
The Devil’s Eye is a tale of destruction, of struggle and of survival, exploring not just the terrible havoc which nature can create, but also the human face of those who must face it. The characters in this tale are brought to life and developed long before the storm unleashes its fury, making the reader care what happens to them. As well as being the story on a hurricane, these characters also make it a story of the Queensland of the turn of the 20th century, with its remote outposts, maritime industry and more. Author Ian Townsend has taken an historical event and made it come alive.
The Devil’s Eye, by Ian Townsend
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