BOOK REVIEW: Nicholas Clements’ Black War (Review by Justin Cahill)

the-black-warIn 1976, Manning Clark famously asked “are we a nation of bastards ?” He was writing about Whitlam’s dismissal. But Clark’s real targets were the “heart dimmers”, the reactionary conservatives who he believed had brought down a man of vision.

Similar elements continue to deny that European settlement here led to war with the Aborigines. Generally, historians have tip-toed around this aspect of our past. Reading their accounts you would think the local people had, after thousands of years living here, simply melted away. But they resisted and it’s time we acknowledged the wars that followed.

Other nations do not share this collective amnesia. In New Zealand, the European settlers’ breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi, made with the Māori in 1840, led to over twenty years of civil wars. Those wars have a firm place in New Zealand national history. There are monuments to the dead. Battlefields, such as Rangiriri pā, are protected historic sites. There are movies about the conflict, including Utu, released in 1983.

The frontier wars between the Indians and settlers in America’s west spawned a culture of their own, culminating in 1970 with the publication of Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

But, to paraphrase the historian James Belich, while kids play cowboys and Indians, who plays convicts and Aborigines ? There is has been acknowledgement of such a conflict, the ‘Black War’, in Tasmania. It provided the background for a movie, Manganinnie, released in 1980.

Yet recent accounts of our frontier wars have been marred by sloppy extrapolations of casualty figures from primary sources or by simply ignoring Aboriginal evidence. But how much evidence do we need ? The Tasmanians endured for about 30,000 years then, co-incidentally, were reduced to several hundred within 30 years of European settlement. Are we just too gutless to confront past wrongs ?

Clements

Nicholas Clements

If not, we had better steel ourselves. Clements is open about his political leanings and the limitations of his sources. But the contemporary reports he has found show the Tasmanian government, despite humanitarian protestations, planned to rid the colony of the local people, either by transporting them to island ghettoes or simple extermination. His accounts of their fight for survival are harrowing. Apart from detailing the massacres of poorly armed warriors, he provides vivid accounts of how the women and children were captured, used as sex slaves then often murdered.

Clements’ approach is unique that he gives equal space to the experiences of the settlers, soldiers, emancipists and convicts. He acknowledges they were “…victims of their circumstances …hatreds, frustrations, fears and sadnesses.” For example, most of the convicts transported to Tasmania were not professional criminals, but just working class men who fell on hard times. Shipped to the other side of the world and brutalised by the penal regime, they were left with the bare shreds of humanity. Fear of attack from the local people stripped them of even that – reducing them to the level of broken, snarling dogs.

We pride ourselves that we live in a more civilised age. But Clark’s question remains unanswered. Are we to be a stagnant, introverted society living in denial ? Are we still a nation of bastards ? Clements shows we don’t have to be.

Grab a copy of Nicholas Clements’ Black War here


Justin Cahill is a Sydney-based naturalist and historian. His publications include a biography of the ornithologist Alfred North and A New Life in our History, a history of the European settlement of Australia and New Zealand told from the perspective of ordinary people. He has also written on Chinese history, including the negotiations surrounding Britain’s acquisition of Hong Kong and its decolonisation in 1997.

Justin’s most recent publication is the first part of Epitome for Eleanor: A Short History of the Known Universe, written for children. His current projects include a natural history of Sydney’s Wolli Creek Valley.

He regularly contributes reviews to Booktopia.


the-black-warThe Black War

Fear, Sex and Resistance in Tasmania

by Nicholas Clements

‘At its core, The Black War is a story about two peoples who just wanted to be free of each other . . . sooner or later Europeans and Aborigines were bound to clash, but it was Tasmania’s unique circumstances that turned this encounter into a ‘war of extermination’.’

Between 1825 and 1831 close to 200 Britons and 1000 Aborigines died violently in Tasmania’s Black War. It was by far the most intense frontier conflict in Australia’s history, yet many Australians know little about it. The Black War takes a unique approach to this historic event, looking chiefly at the experiences and attitudes of those who took part in the conflict. By contrasting the perspectives of colonists and Aborigines, Nicholas Clements takes a deeply human look at the events that led to the shocking violence and tragedy of the war, detailing raw personal accounts that shed light on the tribes, families and individuals involved as they struggled to survive in their turbulent world.

The Black War presents a compelling and challenging view of our early contact history, the legacy of which reverberates strongly to the present day.

About the Author

Dr Nicholas Clements is an honorary research associate in the School of Humanities at the University of Tasmania. Born in rural Tasmania in 1982, he now lives in Launceston. Nick is an avid rock climber and bushwalker, whose passion for Tasmania’s landscape and history inspired him to write The Black War.

Grab a copy of Nicholas Clements’ Black War here

REVIEW: The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (Review by Benison O’Reilly)

the-rosie-effectEarly in 2013, I wrote a Booktopia review of The Rosie Project, the home-grown literary phenomenon that has gone on to be published in thirty-eight languages and sell over a million copies worldwide. I had originally approached Graeme Simsion’s debut novel with trepidation, being the mother of a boy on the autism spectrum and thus a little thin-skinned on the subject. Could Simsion create a portrait of Professor Don Tillman, our unlikely Aspergian hero, which was both sympathetic, but at the same time believable? The answer turned out to be a resounding yes.

Not, for that matter, that Don thinks he has Asperger’s syndrome. When the Asperger’s label raises its head in an early scene in The Rosie Effect — hitherto referred to as the BlueFin Tuna Incident — he is bemused. Don regards Asperger’s syndrome with academic detachment: yes, he’s admittedly ‘somewhat socially incompetent’, yes, he once delivered a lecture on the topic back in Melbourne so best friend Gene could pursue ‘a sexual opportunity’, but apart from that, what’s its relevance to him?

This is entirely believable. Simsion has revealed in interviews that he based Don not on textbook descriptions of Asperger’s , but on real people he met in his former life in academia. People who’ve gone through life without any label except for ‘eccentric’ or ‘odd’. We can find lots of Dons in society if we care to look hard enough.

It’s during this same Bluefin Tuna Incident that Don is told by Lydia, an off-duty social worker: ‘Don’t ever have children.’ Unfortunately, Rosie has other ideas.

Benison-OReilly

Author: Benison O’Reilly

In The Rosie Effect, Don and Rosie have moved to live, work and study in New York, allowing Simsion to introduce a raft of new characters, including, George, a beer-collecting former rock drummer, Lydia, and a lesbian mothers collective. The novel follows the trajectory of Rosie’s unplanned pregnancy and, as you’d expect, it’s anything but smooth sailing. In marrying Rosie, Don has taken a huge step into what John Elder Robison called the ‘anxiety-filled, bright and disorderly world of people’, where his autistic traits — his honesty, his literal worldview, his capacity to absorb greats tracts of information (and perhaps less helpfully to reveal this knowledge to others) and his ability to pursue scientific enquiry without emotion or agenda — prove both a blessing and a curse.

When Gene suggests to the expectant dad that he ‘watch some kids’ to prepare himself for parenthood, Don takes himself off, alone, to video children at a playground, earning himself a visit from the NYPD. The policeman, who has a nephew like Don, quickly surmises that our hero poses no threat to the city’s children, but refers him for a psychiatric assessment:

‘I don’t think you’re a danger to kids, but I can’t just let you walk away. If next week you go and shoot up a school, and I’ve done nothing —‘

‘It seems statistically unlikely—‘

‘Don’t say anything. You’ll talk yourself into trouble.’

the-rosie-projectDon regards this as good advice, but unfortunately doesn’t follow it. But if he did we wouldn’t have a book, would we?

While there are plenty of laughs in The Rosie Effect, there is less humour to be had in Don’s floundering marriage. Rosie, he knows, is his only shot of happiness, and as an autism mum I could not help but take it personally. For much of the book we’re kept in the dark about what Rosie is up to, and Don, being Don, isn’t great at intuiting what she’s thinking.

But Simsion knows his readership: we’re expecting a happy ending and he’s not about to disappoint us. The climactic scene at JFK airport is classic screwball comedy, in typically unorthodox fashion.

How will Don adjust to fatherhood? We’ll have to wait for the next instalment to find out.

Grab a copy of The Rosie Effect here


Benison O’Reilly is the co-author of The Australian Autism Handbook. A new edition of the bestselling Handbook was released recently. You can follow her on twitter here.

the-australian-autism-handbookThe Australian Autism Handbook

by Benison O’Reilly & Kathryn Wicks

When first published in 2008, the Australian Autism Handbook quickly became the go-to guide for parents whose children have been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. In this new edition, the book has been updated with all the latest research, the ratings guide for early interventions, new chapters on teens; Asperger’s syndrome; DSM5 diagnostic criteria; and advice for dads by dads.

Its new resources section ensures you make the most of your funding and lists every website and phone number you could ever need. Australian Autism Handbook is a practical and comprehensive guide to every aspect of raising an ASD child.

Grab a copy of The Australian Autism Handbook here

BOOK REVIEW: Holy Cow by David Duchovny (Review by Ben Hunter)

David Duchovny wrote a book. Yes, that David Duchovny.

Sure, he’s known for being an actor, but did you know he has a Masters in English Literature from Yale? Booktopia’s Ben Hunter takes a closer look at his debut novel Holy Cow.


holy-cowWhen the X Files were on in the 90s, few of us thought that the man behind Agent Fox Mulder would publish a book twenty years later written entirely from the perspective of a dairy cow. We’ve come a long way, my friends.

Holy Cow isn’t your classic boy-meets-girl kind of quick read. What you’re essentially reading is cow becomes aware of own cruel fate, pig changes name to Shalom, meets Turkey that somehow has an iPhone and travels with them to the Middle East and India. None of this is believable in the slightest and the whole thing is a riot until the cow comes home.

cn_image.size.david-duchovnyDuchovny concocts his allegory/fable-type-thing with a self-referential tongue-in-cheek and there’s cow puns and bad Yiddish to boot.

His voice explodes through on every page. He even tries to solve the conflict in Palestine and Israel somewhere towards the end.

This book is postmodern humour for young readers and adults alike. Read it with no expectation and you’ll have yourself a blast.

Grab a copy of David Duchovny’s Holy Cow here

What Cathryn Read – Bestselling author Cathryn Hein on her recent reading

Australian novelist Cathryn Hein, author of The French Prize, Heartland and much more gives her verdict on the books she’s been reading.

It was all romance and crime fiction this month, with a blockbuster cherry on top!


Rivers of London / Moon Over Soho

by Ben Aaronovitch

What a delight this series is, like Harry Potter for grown-ups! The lead character, Peter Grant, is witty, brave and, in my humble opinion, just a little bit sexy. He doesn’t seem to have trouble getting the girls, that’s for sure (except maybe the one he really wants). Think urban fantasy police procedural with magic, and brilliant fun. I’ll definitely be reading more. Highly recommended.

Grab a copy of Rivers of London & Moon Over Soho 


Hades

by Candice Fox

Ooh, now this was different and in the best possible way. A crime thriller with memorable, flawed characters that’s dark ‘n dirty and right up my alley. When homicide detective Frank Bennett is teamed with Eden Archer he thinks he’s won the police partner lottery, but Eden is as mysterious as the serial killer they’re hunting. And might even be as dangerous. This won the 2014 Ned Kelly Award for Best Debut Crime Novel. The sequel, Eden, is out now and I plan to read it soon.

 Grab a copy of Hades here


Call Me Irresistible

by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Loved it! Phillips is a romance superstar in the US but until this runaway bride story I’d never read any of her books. Now I wish I’d read her years ago. The hero, Ted (perfect man and groom) and heroine, Meg (the bride’s best friend who, according to everyone in Wynette, causes Ted to be jilted) were fascinating and their unexpected and unwanted attraction worked perfectly. Loads of quirky characters, a believable romance, plus buckets of warmth, humour, and small town mayhem. Fabulous.

  Grab a copy of Call Me Irresistible here


Her Christmas Earl

by Anna Campbell

My new favourite Anna Campbell! Okay, so maybe that has something to do with the fact that I read it on Christmas Eve and was right in the mood for something romantic and seasonally themed, but this was a fast fabulous read and I loved it. Can’t beat a reformed rake trope and the sheer warmth of the story and its characters had me sucked in from the first page. Plus who would have thought so much fun could be had in a wardrobe?

Click here for more from Anna Campbell


Big Little Lies

by Liane Moriarty

Good writing buddy Rachael Johns pleaded with me to read this and what a fantastic tale it was. The way the story explored suburban lives reminded me a lot of Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap. The view isn’t always pleasant but Moriarty tackles the dark and complex issues she raises with sensitivity. On a basic level, it’s a whodunnit – we know from the outset that a death has occurred but not who died or how they died – but it’s so much more than that. The cliques, politics, gossip and sometimes sheer weirdness of being a school parent was brilliantly done, and I especially liked the structure, which made this a compelling page turner.

Grab a copy of Big Little Lies here


Hein, CathrynThanks Cathryn Hein, we look forward to seeing what you’ve read next month!

Cathryn Hein was born in South Australia’s rural south-east. With three generations of jockeys in the family it was little wonder she grew up horse mad, finally obtaining her first horse at age 10. So began years of pony club, eventing, dressage and showjumping until university beckoned.

Armed with a shiny Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture) from Roseworthy College she moved to Melbourne and later Newcastle, working in the agricultural and turf seeds industry. Her partner’s posting to France took Cathryn overseas for three years in Provence where she finally gave in to her life-long desire to write. Her short fiction has been recognised in numerous contests, and published in Woman’s Day.

Now living in Melbourne, Cathryn writes full-time.

Click here to see Cathryn’s author page

The French Prize

by Cathryn Hein

An ancient riddle, a broken vow – a modern-day quest for a medieval treasure.

Australian-born Dr. Olivia Walker is an Oxford academic with a reputation as one of the world’s leading Crusade historians and she’s risked everything on finding one of the most famous swords in history – Durendal. Shrouded in myth and mystery, the sword is fabled to have belonged to the warrior Roland, a champion of Charlemagne’s court, and Olivia is determined to prove to her detractors that the legend is real. Her dream is almost within reach when she discovers the long-lost key to its location in Provence, but her benefactor – Raimund Blancard – has other ideas.

For more than a millennium, the Blancard family have protected the sword. When his brother is tortured and killed by a man who believes he is Roland’s rightful heir, Raimund vows to end the bloodshed forever. He will find Durendal and destroy it, but to do that he needs Olivia’s help.

Now Olivia is torn between finding the treasure for which she has hunted all her life and helping the man she has fallen in love with destroy her dream. And all the while, Raimund’s murderous nemesis is on their trail, and he will stop at nothing to claim his birthright.

Grab a copy of The French Prize here

Writing Paper Planes – The Movie And The Book (a Guest Blog from author Steve Worland)

Author Steve Worland

Writing a novel is more difficult than writing a screenplay.

Why do I think this?

Two words.

Word count.

My three action novels run between eighty to one hundred thousand words each. A typical screenplay? Twenty thousand, if that. I had one horror script come in at sixteen thousand a few years back. So, obviously, that means the time investment is very different too, about a year for a book versus three months for a screenplay, though if you get your skates on you should probably knock it over a lot quicker than that.

Also the prose of a screenplay is much simpler than a novel. Scripts are all about being brief and succinct. You want it to be easy to read so there’s no reason for a producer to put it down and move on to the next project on the pile. And it’s not like you need much description anyway, unless you’re detailing an important element of the story. If the hero drives a ‘beaten up ute’ then that’s all you need to write. Any more description is superfluous. The director and production designer will do the rest.

Now what about money I hear you ask. Yes, screenwriting pays quite well, certainly compared to what you make if you’re a first time novelist.

So why would you ever write anything but a screenplay?

quickBecause getting a novel published by a major house, as difficult as it is, and it is extremely difficult, is a whole lot easier than getting a movie made, even one with a low budget. Getting any movie into production is, in its own way, a miracle. And if you write action adventure stories like me, which cost a fortune to produce, well, it’s even harder. I can write anything in a novel, a formula one car driving at three hundred kilometres per hour, upside down, on the roof of a French motorway tunnel (that’s in Quick, my latest book by the way), or a Space Shuttle landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (that’s in Velocity, my first book) and not have to worry about the cost. In a movie those sequences would have a producer in your ear immediately: ‘I mean — does it really need to be a Space Shuttle, Steve? We have enough money for a Cessna. Can it be a Cessna?’

And then there is control. As a novelist you have a great deal and can mostly do as you please, though I would always urge new writers to listen to the sage advice of their experienced editors, publishers and agents, whereas in the film business the screenwriter is the low man on the totem pole whose importance to the project falls somewhere after the director, the producer, the other producer, the other other producer (who is often the first producer’s half brother) and, always, the star. A big part of your job as a screenwriter is to juggle the disparate story and character ideas of that group and then finesse a solution that will make the script work and everyone happy.

This was something that, when I was starting out as a screenwriter, I enjoyed. I loved to take stories from the page to the screen. But the reality is that you don’t get a chance to make a movie very often and when you do it can take a long time before you see it at the cinema. You are lucky to get one made every couple of years. You can be writing all the time but the percentage of screenplays that actually get up is extremely low. So that means you can write an amazing story but if the German tax money falls through or the star is offered something more lucrative or the director bails over creative differences with the producer (and his half brother) the movie can keel over. The thing about screenplays is that you can write something you think is wonderful and, literally, no more than eight people may ever read it. Screenplays, unfortunately, don’t have value to the public as reading material, unless somebody wants to see how one’s written so they can write their own.

paper-planesSo, considering this screenplay/novel conundrum, it was interesting that with my latest project I had the opportunity to write both. A screenplay and a novel, in that order. It often happens the other way around but not with Paper Planes, an idea my co-writer and the film’s director Rob Connolly had a number of years ago. At the time we both had young children who, we realised, had not seen any Australian children’s films. (It was before Red Dog). That was a shock to us because, when we were kids growing up in the 70s and 80s, we saw Australian films regularly, everything from Storm Boy to Crocodile Dundee to The Man From Snowy River to BMX Bandits to Fatty Finn to Blue Fin. They were a part of our lives.

But that wasn’t the case with our daughters. For many reasons, some economic, some creative, some cultural, Australian films don’t have that kind of traction in the marketplace any more. So we wanted to see if we could change that and offer up a genuinely entertaining family film for an Australian audience. After all, if Aussie kids aren’t watching Aussie movies when they’re young how can we expect them to watch them as adults?

So it was my job to not only co-write the screenplay but to novelise it into a book children would embrace. There were two major jobs to do: flesh out the prose from the succinct and sparse language of the screenplay and find a writing style that kids could hook into.

As the Paper Planes movie runs ninety minutes you only have time to include the most exciting and emotionally satisfying parts of the story, so the aim of the Paper Planes novel is to give the readers the hero’s journey — a young Aussie bloke making new friends, clashing with powerful rivals and coming to terms with his family’s past as he attempts to create a paper plane that will compete with the best in the world — then flesh out the characters and backstory to add a little more depth while making sure the story is a satisfying read for those who haven’t (yet!) seen the film.

SamI’ve been writing action adventure novels for adults for the last couple of years so I though writing a book for young readers would be a doddle. I was so wrong. It was a real challenge to alter my style. I really had to stretch. Mainly I was mindful that I didn’t want to speak down to the kids. I also had to make sure my cultural references are spot on. It ultimately came down to practice. Doesn’t it always? Thankfully I had a wonderful team at Penguin Young Readers to guide me and point out the pitfalls before I stumbled into any large, unseen crevices.

One element of the process I didn’t realise would take so long and be so complex was organising the book’s ‘added extras’, specifically the section of colour photos from the film. For some reason I thought it would be simple but getting clearances from all the actors and photographers was a huge undertaking that took months. The book’s other ‘added extras’ include a Q&A with the Rob who talks about directing the film and a foreword by the film’s star Ed Oxenbould (whose uncle was the lead in the aforementioned Fatty Finn, if you can believe it). My favourite ‘added extra’ in the book are the folding and throwing instructions for a paper plane. There’s something about seeing the film that makes you want to fly a paper plane immediately, so hopefully the readers will feel the same after they finish the book.

As I said before, movies take a long while to get made so by the time Paper Planes hits theatres on January 15th, Rob and my daughters will be four years older than the little girls who inspired us to tell the story in the first place.

Even though they’re approaching their teens we’re sure they’ll love the movie, and the book, as much as we do.

Grab your copy of Steve Worland’s Paper Planes here

—————————————–

Steve Worland co-wrote the screenplay for the Australian family film Paper Planes with its director Robert Connolly, whose previous work includes Tim Winton’s The Turning and Balibo.

Steve has written scripts for Working Title and Icon Productions, worked in script development for James Cameron’s Lightstorm, wrote Fox Searchlight’s Bootmen, which won five Australian Film Institute awards and worked on the Hugo award winning sci-fi series Farscape.

He is the author of the action-adventure novels Velocity, Combustion and Quick and recently novelised Paper Planes.

For more from Steve, check out his website www.steveworland.com, and catch him on twitter at @StevenWorland

—————————————–

paper-planesPaper Planes

by Steve Worland

One paper plane flies straight and fast and true. Dylan’s.

Twelve-year-old Dylan Webber lives in outback Western Australia in a small country town. When he discovers he has a talent for folding and flying paper planes, Dylan begins a journey to reach the World Junior Paper Plane Championships in Japan.

Along the way he makes unlikely new friends, clashes with powerful rivals and comes to terms with his family’s past before facing his greatest challenge – to create a paper plane that will compete with the best in the world.

Steve Worland brings you the exciting, heartwarming story of Paper Planes, adapted from the award-winning family film that features a cast of Australia’s finest actors, including Sam Worthington, Deborah Mailman, David Wenham and Ed Oxenbould.

Grab your copy of Steve Worland’s Paper Planes here

BOOK REVIEW: Here Come the Dogs by Omar Musa (Review by Caroline Baum)

The energy of this debut novel just leaps off the page. Musa, a charismatic rapper, has successfully translated the idiom and pulse of performance to the page with its syncopated rhythms and hard-edged beats. Inevitably, he is being compared with his mate Christos Tsiolkas for his full-frontal engagement with contemporary Australian society: in this case, multicultural masculinity with its surges of often misdirected testosterone. In small town suburbia during a tinder-dry summer, anything could happen. Booze, drugs, violence and a racing dog all help pass the time.

At the centre of this compelling mash up of poetry and prose are three iconic young men: Solomon, a charming Samoan, who has broken up with his girlfriend and is fascinated by Scarlett, a free spirited tattooist; his half-brother Jimmy, who has got himself into trouble, and their Macedonian childhood friend, Aleks.

Musa manipulates language with raw, bracing vitality, offering up a picture of Australia that is not pretty but feels authentic.

Grab a copy of Here Come the Dogs here

——————————————————-

Caroline Baum has worked as founding editor of Good Reading magazine, features editor for Vogue, presenter of ABC TV’s popular bookshow, Between the Lines, and Foxtel’s Talking Books, and as an executive producer with ABC Radio National. She is currently Booktopia’s Editorial Director.


here-come-the-dogsHere Come The Dogs

by Omar Musa

In small town suburbia, three young men are ready to make their mark.

Solomon is all charisma, authority and charm, down for the moment but surely not out. His half-brother, Jimmy, bounces along in his wake, underestimated, waiting for his chance to announce himself. Aleks, their childhood friend, loves his mates, his family and his homeland, and would do anything for them. The question is, does he know where to draw the line?

Solomon, Jimmy and Aleks: way out on the fringe of Australia, looking for a way in. Hip hop and graffiti give them a voice. Booze, women and violence pass the time while they wait for their chance. Under the oppressive summer sun, their town has turned tinder-dry. All it’ll take is a spark.

As the surrounding hills roar with flames, the change storms in. But it’s not what they were waiting for. It never is.

About the Author

Omar Musa is a Malaysian-Australian rapper and poet from Queanbeyan, Australia. He is the former winner of the Australian Poetry Slam and the Indian Ocean Poetry Slam. He has released three hip hop albums, two poetry books (including Parang), appeared on ABC’s Q&A and received a standing ovation at TEDx Sydney at the Sydney Opera House.

Grab a copy of Here Come the Dogs here

BOOK REVIEW: Deco Radio by Peter Sheridan (Review by Caroline Baum)

Peter Sheridan

Peter Sheridan

Peter Sheridan is a man possessed by a peculiar but persistent affection for bakelite – the world’s first synthetic plastic. To some, this material may appear unlovely and charmless, but to Sheridan it is the stuff of poetry. As a result, he has become one of the world’s foremost collectors of objects made from this versatile and resilient man-made resin.

A genial enthusiast, the curator of his own private museum, Sheridan is equally happy to share his passion with complete amateurs and connoisseurs alike. Ask casually about any of the three hundred radios displayed in his Sydney home and you will get their history, provenance, and a surprising anecdote that explains their shape, colour or origin. He is a competitive bidder, an astute buyer, always on the trail of a new acquisition and has some sound advice for aspiring collectors which he shares in the text that punctuates this sleek but hefty coffee table book.

Showcasing what he calls the most beautiful radios ever made, Sheridan has photographed them with loving care in close up, so that every feature is shown to best advantage. They have sexy curves, voluptuous bodies, and come in a wide range of colours – forget about bakelite brown, the greens and reds really pop. Shot against deep dramatic black they gleam on the page like jewels.

Their shapes reflect what was happening in industrial design, fashion and popular culture with style and humour. My favourite has a mantel (casing) that features the mesh silhouette of a woman’s head.

Sheridan’s lively text is a timely reminder of how central radio was to the lives of people around the world back in the early twentieth century ; how they were the source of pleasure , broadcasting live entertainment and music that people listened and danced to in their homes as well as including declarations of war that shaped the century and changed lives forever. The radio was the vehicle of coded messages and signals to allied troops and resistance fighters. Under the Nazi regime, being caught listening to the enemy was punishable by death.

Anyone with a nostalgic interest or enthusiasm for the glorious heyday of art deco and its sleek modernity will find this irresistible.


deco-radioDeco Radio

by Peter Sheridan

With 380 brilliant photos and engaging text, this book presents some 300 of the rarest and most beautiful radios ever made for home or workplace. The advent of the small, mantle or tabletop radio in 1930 gave a huge impetus to the spread of radio, not only allowing multiple sets in the home, but changing the listener from the family to the individual. This book highlights a small subset of tube (valve) radios that incorporated new styling, materials, and approaches to consumer marketing in the 1930s and 1940s. Until now they have been underrated by many radio enthusiasts, and largely unrecognized in the world of Art Deco and Industrial Design. The radios of 35 industrial designers, including the luminaries of streamlining in the USA and UK (Loewy, Bel Geddes, Teague, Van Doren, Vassos, Coates, and Chermayeff) are identified and examples from 15 countries are stunningly displayed.

About the Author

Peter Sheridan is a respected historian, lecturer, and author, with a collection of radios considered one of the world’s finest. His highly acclaimed book Radio Days–Australian Bakelite Radios (2008) is the standard reference for Australian radio collectors. A member of the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers, Peter’s photos are used by media, museums, and specialist publications.

 Click here to grab a copy of Deco Radio 

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