Category Archives: Books

The Lion and Tiger Annuals

My favourite series of stories during my primary school days was Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series – which I spoke about below. I have since collected all the hardback editions – see also below – most in very good order, some with the original dust jacket. The other two series I loved were the Tiger Annual and the Lion Annual. My older brother Michael received the Lion Annual for Christmas while I received the Tiger Annual. We received most editions between 1954 and 1961. By then Michael had outgrown them. I was not at all embarrassed to receive the 1962 Tiger Annual at thirteen-years-old. As with the Famous Five, I have been looking to collect the annuals between 1954 and 1962. Unfortunately, the editions we received had gone to the book heaven when I decided to collect them. I have been able to collect most. One I was missing was the 1960 Lion Annual. When I saw a rather tatty edition on UK eBay I ordered it to be given to me as a Christmas present. The book arrived and turned out to be in better condition than I thought. Only the cover was a bit worn at the edges. The interior was almost mint. Here’s me reading it on Christmas Day, as I had done fifty-six years ago.

New reader comment on Prison Hulk to Redemption

From Kathryn Farrell, second cousin once removed,  great-granddaughter of my grandfather’s brother.

Thank you for a most interesting and well written account of James Joseph Wilson’s life.

I have been doing some “family tree” work for just over a year now, and thought I was clever accruing some names and dates,  but you and your family have fleshed out the man and his times, and fascinating it was too.

My name is Kathryn Farrell née Houghton. My paternal grandmother was  Jessie Geraldine Wilson, she married John Houghton and her parents were Michael Henry Wilson and Clara Jane Cluff.

Once again thank you for uncovering such a rich family history that I was totally unaware of.

Kathryn Farrell

Latest review of Prison Hulk to Redemption

A favourable review of Prison Hulk to Redemption: Part One of a Family History 1788-1900 has appeared in the November-December edition of Annals Australasia.

On his ancestral string, its strands mostly British, Gerard Charles Wilson has hung what is effectively a history of Australia from the earliest European sightings to subsequent landfalls, encounters with the original inhabitants, settlements and the achievement of a hard won prosperity.

Wilson’s meticulous research has encompassed official documents, newspaper file and a wide range of books. His constant focus is the way his ancestors from a variety of religious backgrounds came to focus – or refocus – on the Catholic faith despite prejudice. Read on

A revised paperback edition of In This Vale of Tears

I was thrilled to be informed that the Catholic Book Club has chosen one of my novels – In This Vale of Tears – for one of their early meetings in 2017. I also received an invitation to be present at the meeting to discuss my book.

The news and invitation came at a good time because I had recently begun a revision of The Castle of Heavenly Bliss for a 2017 paperback edition. The Castle of Heavenly Bliss is the first book in my Winterbine Trilogy. In This Vale of Tears is the second book.

I was around two-thirds of the way through the revision of The Castle of Heavenly Bliss, but switched to In This Vale of Tears because of the news and invitation. I have completed the revision and uploaded the new ebook version to Smashwords.  I have completed the preparation for the CreateSpace paperback edition, except for the cover. I am having a new cover designed. That should be ready in a few weeks at the latest. I am hoping that the new paperback edition will be available before Christmas.

Without changing the story, I have extensively revised In This Vale of Tears for the 2017 ebook and paperback editions. I have trimmed the text and corrected faults of style and language as pointed out by a number of readers who were otherwise generous in their comments. I have also made additions to the story to bring it into line with The Castle of Heavenly Bliss and to clarify the linkages and themes of the story. I am confident the revised edition presents a far more gripping and polished story.

 

Jane Austen’s vigorous defence of the novel

 For many years Northanger Abbey was the only Jane Austen novel (of those published) that I neglected. It was my least favourite. And I don’t know why when I look back. It was probably the impression I gained from reading it as a school boy. When I eventually became inspired enough to pick it up, prompted by one of its television productions, I was surprised to find how modern it was in its depiction of the relations between young men and women.
 
Few males would not know what a flirt is like and the manipulative tricks she can get up to.  Such a flirt was no different in Jane Austen’s day, it seems. In Isabella Thorpe she has depicted the type exactly – and satirised her mercilessly.

Continue reading Jane Austen’s vigorous defence of the novel

‘A fascinating read’

I have been fascinated by your stories in “Prison Hulk to Redemption”, and, having had a taste of the Kindle version, I would like to order a hard copy…
Our compliments on your extremely thorough research and your highly interesting and readable book.  We are looking forward to obtaining a hard copy, and to seeing the next three volumes of your fascinating family  history in due course.
Ken Merrin, Kangaroo Point QLD

The Famous Five series was a breakthrough

From the beginning, my mother encouraged our reading by giving us books for all the important childhood milestones – Christmas, birthdays and similar occasions.  Among my first memories was my mother sitting on the edge of my bed reading one of the Golden Books so popular during the 1950s. My favourite was Scuffy the Tugboat who wouldn’t be restricted to the bath. That was followed by Tootle, the little train who refused stay on the tracks. There was something intriguing about the anarchic exuberance of Scuffy and Tootle the lessons of which have impressed me to this day.

There were also the many kids albums full of illustrations that publishers pumped out at Christmas time. As there were six of us, there was an abundance of books at all levels. I can’t forget the comics either. They appeared during times of sickness and long holiday trips. I devoured thousands of comics, spending my own money on them or swapping them with friends, besides their being liberally supplied by Mum. I had to be careful I didn’t take any to school, though. If spied, they would end up in pieces in the bin beside the heartless teacher’s desk.

I was happy with the kids albums and spent many a quiet time browsing through the pages, scanning the illustration and attempting to decipher the text. As my reading ability increased the level of the books increased – more text and less illustrations. I was never without reading material of some sort to distract and entertain me, but I delayed the transition to longer stories or what I hear called ‘chapter books’ these days. I received a number of longer hardcover books of mostly text before I turned ten years, but they didn’t engage me as much as the albums with their shorter stories. I had several goes at Little Men by Louisa May Alcott (a Christmas present) but did not persevere. The breakthrough came on my tenth birthday in 1956. I received a copy of Five on a Secret Trail.

It was all thrilling adventure with Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy trying to solve a mystery and deal with some dark, suspicious characters. I loved it. The story drew me on and on. But it wasn’t just the thrilling stories. The characters were just as important. For my ten-year-old mind they were clearly defined. They were brave, determined and acted always with honour and honesty.

I embarked on reading the full series. I read some of the Mystery series (The Find-Outers) and some of my younger sister’s Secret Sevens, but the Famous Five remained my favourites to the end of primary school.

Some years ago, in full nostalgia mode, I decided to collect the series of twenty-one titles. It took me a bit of time (and expense) but I now have them all on my bookshelf, each in good to very good condition.

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Not everyone is comfortable with looking into the past

My mind has always ranged back into the past. I have never stopped to wonder about this inclination or why it happens. I just seem to continually bring up associations of the present with past people and events, particularly with family and friends in sad or happy circumstances. My life-long best mate, Pete, also indulges in long reveries, especially about his childhood. I suppose he has more reason than most. He was a rubella baby. The problems with his eyes developed until he had lost his sight by the age of 21 years. Because his visual memory stopped in 1976, his reflections are to some extent dominated by that early period.

One of my sisters, Marie, also has a keen memory and needs little encouragement to reminisce about family occasions. Indeed, she has been of immeasurable assistance in the preparation for my family history series. She has a lucid memory of those things I think girls are more likely to notice than boys. She, as the first grandchild and a girl into the bargain, was my grandmother’s ( my mother’s mother) favourite  and spent much time with her. She has been able to tell me a lot about my grandmother – her ways and her brittle temperament- that almost completely escaped me at the time.  My other four siblings, in contrast, have little inclination to look back and thus have a fragmented memory of the years gone by. They appear to cast their minds back only when we get together and Marie and I begin reminiscing.

When I began my preparation in earnest for my family history series, I came to see that not everyone was in the habit of looking into the past. Indeed, it is a habit more than the occasional act of looking back. One’s mind is always in a way connected to the past. One’s consciousness is a panorama of one’s complete life. That is in contrast with someone whose mind is rooted in the present with an eye on the future.  But with some, I have discovered, there is more than an unconscious barrier to looking back.

There are two negative reactions I sometimes come across to my ‘constant’ talk about the past. The first is an impatience that I live in the past whereas the healthy mind lives in the present and plans for the future. That, of course, is misconceiving the inclination. The second, much less often, is a suspicion that there is some sort of ulterior motive behind bringing past connections or past events. One person told me that ‘the past is a foreign country’. In other words, don’t go there. At the time I blissfully missed the point. When the warning became explicit, I did not have to be told again.

It just goes to show there are pitfalls in assuming that people think the same way as you, even about matters that seem innocent enough. Of course, that does not at all discourage me from indulging in long and frequent reminiscences. That’s what my family series is all about – reflecting on the good and bad of one’s life. There are lessons to be learned – apart from enjoying the pleasure of some memories.