The Scarlet Mile, by Elaine McKewon

From its beginnings as a dusty, water-deprived goldrush town, to its current place as a thriving city, Kalgoorlie has been the home to a similarly thriving prostitution industry. Prostitutes have come from around Australia and from overseas to work in brothels in the town, and its red-light precinct has become a famous tourist attraction.

The Scarlet Mile is an examination of this industry from its inception until the present, focussing on the social aspects of its history. Who were the women who came there, what part did they play in the town’s social and economic fabric, and what were the implications for them and for the rest of the population. There is discussion of the legal processes – the by-laws and police acts which impacted on the industry and the legal proceedings which arose from them – but the real focus is on the human aspect, with first person accounts peppering the book

This is an outstanding social history.

The Scarlet Mile: A Social History of Prostitution in Kalgoorlie, 1894-2004, by Elaine McKewon
UWA Press, 2005

The Literary Larrikin, by Michael Crouch

T. A. G. Hungerford has long been one of Western Australia’s foremost authors of novels and short stories. His works include The Ridge and the River, a novel based on his experiences in World World II, and more recently the autobiographical short story collection Stories from Suburban Road. But these signify just a small portion of the work of a man for whom writing has been a life passion .

In The Literary Larrikin, author Michael Crouch explores the life and works of this great man, recounting the events of his life, from his childhood in South Perth to his (current) retirement in Bentley. He discusses the writing, publishing history and reception of each of Hungerford’s major works and details his working life, which often centred around writing or editing, including being a publicist for successive Western Australian premiers, and the editor of Australian War Museum publications. The biography also looks at the person who is Tom Hungerford.

This is a title which will interest all with a love of Australian literature and history, particularly those who have read Hungerford’s works.

The Literary Larrikin: A Critical Biography of T. A. G. Hungerford, by Michael Crouch
UWA Press, 2005

Catastrophe Cat, by Mary Small

Drenched to the skin, Tia was clinging like a mad creature to the branches of a broken tree. One minute she was there, the next she was gone, a small Siamese cat swept up and whirled away with the wind.

On Christmas Eve in 1974, a ferocious cyclone devastated Darwin, in the Northern Territory. Sixty-five people were killed, many more injured, and 30 000 had to be evacuated from the decimated city. This is the story of a little Siamese cat, Tia, who disappears in the fury of the cyclone.

Having lived through the horror of Cyclone Tracy, life for Leisa can never be the same. Her family home has been destroyed and her precious cat, Tia, has disappeared. Lesia has to leave Darwin with her family, evacuated to Melbourne, where she continues to fret for her cat. It is six months before she returns to Darwin. Is it possible that Tia will be waiting?

Catastrophe Cat is a historical novel which combines the facts of the cyclone, a significant piece of Australian history, with the story of the missing cat, a fictionalised storyline based on a real cat which went missing during the cyclone. Kids will learn from the factual base of the story, but will also enjoy the story of the missing cat, which has a satisfactory resolution.

Suitable for readers aged 10-12.

Catastrophe Cat, by Mary Small
UWA Press, 2004

A Naturalist's Life, by Rica Erickson

Western Australia’s unique flora and fauna have long been a source of interest to a range of naturalists, locals and visitors alike. One of the most notable naturalists to live and work in Western Australia is Rica Erickson who was born in Boulder in 1908 and has spent most of her life studying and writing about her state’s orchids, plants, insects and birds.

In A Naturalist’s Life she shares a first person account of those studies, carried out both in her own backyard – a farming property in rural Bolgart – and around the rest of Australia, though her true passion was for Western Australian animals and plants.

Not really an autobiography, the focus is on Erickson’s work as a naturalist, against the background of her life as teacher, mother and wife. Several of the chapters are reprints of Erickson’s previous work – including articles from newspapers and journals, and brochures.

For anyone with an interest in Erickson’s work, this is an enlightening insight. It will also appeal to those with an interest in wildflowers and wildlife, or in Western Australian history. For this reviewer, a family link to the Bolgart district made the text especially relevant.

A Naturalist’s Life, by Rica Erickson
UWA Press for the Charles and Joy Staples South West Regions Publication Fund, 2005

The Castaway Convict, by Wendy MacDonald

“Help! Help!” he shouted and gagged on a mouthful of salt. Waves broke over him, filling his mouth and nose with water. He could not stand. He could not swim. Then he could not feel the bottom any more and he knew with real terror that he had been swept out to sea.

Josh Martin doesn’t know why he is in Point Puer, the boys’ division of the Port Arthur convict prison. He doesn’t remember how he got to Van Diemen’s Land, nor where his family is. In fact, all he knows is that his name is Josh Martin, not Tom Parish, which is what everyone else calls him.

When Josh is pushed into the sea by a bully, he is swept away in a terrifying ride to freedom. Soon he has made some new friends and found safety – but the past which saw him land in Point Puer continues to haunt him. As his memory starts to return, the truth of the terrible chain of events that led him here emerges – and new threats to his safety emerge.

Castaway Convict is a gripping historical novel, which weaves a vivid picture of life in colonial Tasmania, and has plenty of action and mystery to keep readers turning pages. Josh and his friends are believable, endearing characters and there is enough in the plot to absorb readers aged up to about 14.

A good solid read.

The Castaway Conflict, by Wendy MacDonald
UWA Press, 2005

The Legend of Lasseter's Reef, by Mark Greenwood

In 1887 seventeen year old Harold Lasseter, searching for adventure and fortune, stumbled on a gold reef which would consume him for the rest of his days.

Having drawn himself a map of the reef’s location, Lasseter was forced by need for food and water to leave the reef. Although he visited it a second time, the difficulties of mapping and access of such a remote area meant that it was 30 years before he could get the backing needed for a large expedition to recover the gold.

Unfortunately, that expeditionwas doomed and Lasseter died in the Outback. No other person has ever managed to lcoate the reef.

The Legend of Lasseter’s Reef is the first picture book to be written about Lasseter and his quest. Author Mark Greenwood uses a combination of historical recount, diary extracts, photographs and maps to impart the story and to lend an air of the mystery surrounding Lasseter’s reef.

An excellent read for the young historian or adventure fan, as well as an outstanding classroom or library resource.

The Legend of Lasseter’s Reef, by Mark Greenwood
UWA Press, 2003

The Legend of Moondyne Joe, by Mark Greenwood

One of the more colourful characters from Western Australia’s past has been brought to life in a new picture book from Cygnet Books, the children’s imprint of UWA Press.

The Legend of Moondyne Joe
tells the story of Joseph Johns (who became known as Moondyne Joe), who is remembered for his daring escapes from custody.

History has questioned whether Joe was really a hardened criminal, or simply a harmless lover of freedom. Author Mark Greenwood manages to explore Moondyne’s tale without either condemning or condoning his actions, yet the reader finds himself quietly cheering Joe on.

The story is told in simple yet clear detail and is superbly complemented by the gouache paintings of illustrator Frane Lessac (who is also Greenwood’s wife). The illustrations add to the air of history in the piece and are also true to the Western Australian setting. The pictures of the Fremantle Prison are especially accurate.

The addition of a glossary of terms and notes on the convict era are a useful educational tool and also help the independent reader to access the text.

The Legend of Moondyne Joe is an outstanding non fiction picture book text.

The Legend of Moondyne Joe, by Mark Greenwood, illustrated by Frane Lessac
Cygnet Books (an imprint of UWA Press), 2002