BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG : Roy Higgins: Australia’s Favourite Jockey by Patrick Bartley

roy-higginsThe Melbourne Spring Carnival throws up uncertainty as quickly as the odds change in the Melbourne Cup all-in market. The favourite one day, can find himself the despised outsider. Every year we play the guessing game that is the Spring Carnival.

It’s never an exact science, and in my thirty-eight years as a racing writer, I’ve seen Caulfield Cup winners and likely Melbourne Cup victors pull out an indifferent track gallop, draw a bad barrier or rain affected track as the punters watch their hard-earned go down the drain, figuratively speaking.

In the spring of 1965, the Caulfield Cup favourite was scratched the morning of, and only one man thought she’d ever make it to the first Tuesday in November. That man of course, was arguably Australia’s greatest ever jockey – Roy Higgins. I had the pleasure of working with and relying on Higgins for information during my time as a daily paper journalist, and his account of the three incredibly crucial weeks between the two Cups was pivotal to the bond between horse and jockey that would transcend Australian racing and connect with the hearts of the general public.

After nearly falling in her final lead up to the Caulfield Cup, Light Fingers’ trainer Bart Cummings had no choice but to withdraw her from Australia’s second most important handicap. Unlike humans, you can only treat horses to a certain degree. You can’t over-medicate them because they can go off their feed. Light Fingers was a small, lightly framed mare as it was and she needed all the strength she could muster to get to the Melbourne Cup. It was a balance of easing the pain with medication, but at the same time being able to work her into fitness so that she was ready for arguably the toughest race in the Southern Hemisphere.

Ironically, she was in so much pain that she couldn’t have a jockey on her back, and instead Cummings and his team had to swim her in the Maribyrnong River, hoping that those miles of swimming would translate to miles in her legs.

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Patrick Bartley

Higgins told me that during this uncertain time, where his favourite horse, who he called ‘Mother’ because of her calming nature for the other horses in the stable, that he wasn’t sure she would make it to the Cup, but he was willing to forego rides on other fancied runners in the hope that she would make it.

“There was no shortage of outside offers once Light Fingers came out of the Caulfield Cup. Other stables had written her off, but I stood my ground. She had so much to offer, I was prepared to stay with her. I knew, unlike other trainers and owners, that Bart was working around the clock. My filly’s so good that if she gets to the post she just might win and if she does it would break my heart not to be her rider.”

As history tells us, this tiny chestnut mare, who had a heart as big as Phar Lap, not only made it to the barriers, but she wore down another of Cummings’ runners who was a big, strong colt and had had a faultless preparation, called Ziema. Higgins said that because Light Fingers had been used to calm Ziema down when he was being unruly around the stable, that when the colt felt her presence, he started to slow down and wait for her, which was when she stuck her neck out and did the unthinkable.

I remember visiting Higgs’ house many times over the years, and of all the winners he had ridden, and the great races he had won, the only framed photo was of Light Fingers.

Even though that was almost forty years ago, every spring carnival tells similar tales. From Big Philou in 1969 to the Caulfield Cup’s shortest-priced favourite in forty-one years, when Maldivian played up at the start and was withdrawn thirty seconds before the gates opened, the Spring throws up things that no trainer, punter or racing journalist can prepare for, but must quickly adapt to.

Grab a copy of Roy Higgins here


roy-higginsRoy Higgins

by Patrick Bartley

Everyone loved Roy Higgins. A warm and genuine character with a great sense of humour, the boy from the bush was known as ‘The Professor’ for his freakish ability to read the track and his easy eloquence. He became a household name not just for his work in the saddle but as one of the first jockeys to embrace the media.

Higgins’ racing record was extraordinary. He rode Bart Cummings’ first Melbourne Cup winner, Light Fingers, in 1965, and was one of a handful of jockeys to win the grand slam of racing: the Golden Slipper, Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup. Over his 30-year career, Higgins clocked up 2312 wins, including 108 Group 1 races. All this, despite a never-ending battle with his weight.

Roy Higgins died in March 2014, aged 75. His televised funeral took place in the mounting yard at Flemington, a fitting tribute to the humble man who had a profound effect on horseracing for more than five decades as jockey, commentator and teacher.

This is a celebration of a great Australian, with racing royalty, friends and family sharing their stories and memories of Roy Higgins, the gentle trailblazer who touched their lives.

About the Author

Patrick Bartley is the chief racing writer at The Age. In 2013 he won his second Bert Wolfe Award, the Victoria Racing Media Association (VRMA) award for Media Excellence in Victoria. Leading up to that award, Patrick had won three consecutive VRMA awards for Best News Story. Patrick’s investigative reports with John Silvester, into Tony Mokbel’s racing interests in 2007, were recognised by many as highly influential pieces. Penguin published On the Punt, a collection of Patrick’s columns, in 2010.

Grab a copy of Roy Higgins here

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Reading Fiction by Fiona McIntosh, author of Nightingale

auteurs-fiona-mcintoshI realised with shame that I’d not read any fiction for so long that I was losing touch with other people’s storytelling.  I was so immersed in my two novels per year, my research/travels, masterclasses, book tours, festivals and just as importantly, my family, that reading for the pure joy of entertainment had been ignored.  I do read towers of books for research and I love it, but it’s not the same rush of adrenaline as fiction provides.

So from mid 2014 I made my pact.  Since then I’ve devoured a dozen or more novels, which is good going for me on my hectic schedule.  And I am amazed, gobsmacked, beyond thrilled at the escape I have found in the pages of everything from current blockbusters to all those must-reads that slipped me by.  I am ticking them off and in a state of appalled pleasure that I nearly didn’t do this.

I have rediscovered surrender to and abandonment in a story where I’m not thinking about showing/telling, succinct sentences or character development.  I’m just getting lost with a cast and its conflicts. I want to remind anyone else who may be allowing themselves to be too distracted to pick up a book.

There is nothing more personal, intimate and drama laden … or more enjoyable than a book you feel like reading, with a pot of tea/coffee, a plate of chocolates nearby and silence.  It’s the ultimate treat – spoil yourself.


Fiona McIntosh’s Nightingale is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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nightingaleNightingale

by Fiona McIntosh

‘Love comes out of nowhere for most of us, when we least expect it . . . this young man has flown into your heart and made a nest.’

Amidst the carnage of Gallipoli, British nurse Claire Nightingale meets Australian Light Horseman Jamie Wren. Despite all odds, they fall deeply in love. Their flame burns bright and carries them through their darkest hours, even when war tears them apart.

Jamie’s chance meeting with Turkish soldier Açar Shahin on the blood-stained battlefield forges an unforgettable bond between the men. It also leaves a precious clue to Jamie’s whereabouts for Claire to follow.

Come peacetime, Claire’s desperate search to find Jamie takes her all the way to Istanbul, and deep into the heart of Açar’s family, where she attracts the unexpected attention of a charismatic and brooding scholar.

In the name of forgiveness, cultures come together, enemies embrace and forbidden passions ignite – but by the breathtaking conclusion, who will be left standing to capture Nurse Nightingale’s heart?

A heart-soaring novel of heartbreak and heroism, love and longing by a powerhouse Australian storyteller.

Fiona McIntosh’s Nightingale is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Writing in the steppes of Genghis Khan by Tim Cope, author of On the Trail of Genghis Khan

Tim CopeWriting in the steppes of Genghis Khan

A crisp autumn day near the Danube River in Hungary in 2007 marked the end of a long journey for my animals and I. For three and a half years I had travelled with three horses, and a dog, Tigon, from the Mongolian empire capital, Kharkhorin, across the steppe of Central Asia on a quest to understand the legacy of the nomads – the horseback cultures, who under Genghis Khan created the largest land empire in history.

Experiences early on had foreshadowed the nature of the difficulties that would define my time in the saddle: within the first few weeks in Mongolia, my horses had been stolen in the night by thieves, the camp had been surrounded by wolves, and it dawned on me that there was much more to learning about horses than I had bargained for (before leaving Australia I had barely been on a horse in my life.) But at the same time, I was taken in by a nomadic people for whom hospitality is the linchpin of survival, and began to learn that friendship on the steppe is the true measure of life (in fact upon returning the horses to me, the man who likely stole my horse had explained that ‘a man on the steppe without friends is as narrow as a finger… a man on the steppe with friends is as wide as the steppe.’). Now, putting all that to rest, I had safely made it to Hungary with my family of animals. Surely, the hardship was over, and all I had to do was return home to the relative luxury of life under a roof and put my experiences to paper…..or so I had thought.

What I could never have imagined was that it would be another six years before I had penned the last words of my manuscript, four of years of which had been full time writing. As the writing unfolded, I found myself learning, and challenged to consider my personal encounters into context of the rich and complex histories of steppe nations. The book began as a way of re-adjusting to life in Australia, but became an adventure in itself: a process that transformed me, as month after month I returned to the steppe in my mind, only now with my dog Tigon on the couch next to me, rather than chasing hares and foxes on the horizon. Half way through the first draft, an author and friend of mine had mentioned something that stuck with me to the end: ‘If you knew what the book would be….then you would never start writing it.’ For me I am now convinced that the life of a writer is rich, raw, and vivid, precisely because the beginning of any unwritten chapter throws up the prospects of the unknown, and a path that is unscripted: and that to me is real life.


Tim Cope’s On the Trail of Genghis Khan is a featured title in Bloomsbury’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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on-the-trail-of-genghis-khanOn the Trail of Genghis Khan

by Tim Cope

The extraordinary adventure of one man’s journey following in the footsteps of Genghis Khan’s conquering armies

The relationship between man and horse on the Eurasian steppe gave rise to a succession of rich nomadic cultures. Among them were the Mongols of the thirteenth century – a small tribe, which, under the charismatic leadership of Genghis Khan, created the largest contiguous land empire in history. Inspired by the extraordinary life nomads still lead today, Tim Cope embarked on a journey that hadn’t been successfully completed since those times: to travel on horseback across the entire length of the Eurasian steppe, from Karakorum, the ancient capital of Mongolia, through Kazakhstan, Russia, Crimea and the Ukraine to the Danube River in Hungary.

From horse-riding novice to travelling three years and 10,000 kilometres on horseback, accompanied by his dog Tigon, Tim learnt to fend off wolves and would -be horse-thieves, and grapple with the extremes of the steppe as he crossed sub-zero plateaux, the scorching deserts of Kazakhstan and the high-mountain passes of the Carpathians. Along the way, he was taken in by people who taught him the traditional ways and told him their recent history: Stalin’s push for industrialisation brought calamity to the steepe and forced collectivism that in Kazakhstan alone led to the loss of several million livestock and the starvation of more than a million nomads. Today Cope bears witness to how the traditional ways hang precariously in the balance in the post-Soviet world.

About the Author

Tim Cope, F.R.G.S., is an adventurer, author, filmmaker and motivational speaker with a special interest in Central Asia and the states of the former Soviet Union. He has studied as a wilderness guide in the Finnish and Russian subarctic, ridden a bicycle across Russia to China, and rowed a boat along the Yenisey River through Siberia to the Arctic Ocean. He is the author of Off the Rails: Moscow to Beijing on Recumbent Bikes. He is the creator of several documentary films, including the award-winning series ‘The Trail of Genghis Khan’, which covers the journey of this book. He lives in Victoria, Australia.

Tim Cope’s On the Trail of Genghis Khan is a featured title in Bloomsbury’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Getting back to reading, by Fiona Palmer, author of The Sunnyvale Girls

fee1I read when I was young but not a lot, as I was an outside kid who had paddocks to play in and cubbies to build. At school, I only read what I had to for class and then after I left school it was as if I forgot to read. I was busy with work.

It wasn’t until I was twenty and working as a teachers aid that I was reintroduced to the joy of books. I read Mem Fox’s book on how important it is to read, especially to our children from birth. Then the teacher at that time started reading the first Harry Potter book to the kids. At times, I would read a few chapters as well. Their little faces were mesmerised, ears listening, their minds picturing every detail. But so was I. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened so I brought it and devoured it.

I was drawn into the story and realised what I’d been missing. I can actually say Harry Potter brought me back to reading. And I haven’t stopped since. As much as I love my life in my tiny rural town I love being able to escape into new worlds and stories that books bring. When my children were born, I read to them at every chance and they both love reading now at ages 11 and 9.

Mem Fox had it right. Reading is important.

Grab a copy of Fiona Palmer’s The Sunnyvale Girls here

the-sunnyvale-girlsThe Sunnyvale Girls

by Fiona Palmer

Three generations of Stewart women share a deep connection to their family farm, but a secret from the past threatens to tear them apart.

Widowed matriarch Maggie remembers a time when the Italian prisoners of war came to work on their land, changing her heart and her home forever. Single mum Toni has been tied to the place for as long as she can recall, although farming was never her dream. And Flick is as passionate about the farm as a young girl could be, despite the limited opportunities for love.

When a letter from 1946 is unearthed in an old cottage on the property, the Sunnyvale girls find themselves on a journey deep into their own hearts and all the way across the world to Italy. Their quest to solve a mystery leads to incredible discoveries about each other, and about themselves.

‘Fiona Palmer just keeps getting better. This heart-warming tear-jerker kept me turning the pages right until the very end.’ Rachael Johns

About the Author

Fiona Palmer lives in the tiny rural town of Pingaring in Western Australia, three and a half hours south-east of Perth. She discovered Danielle Steel at the age of eleven, and has now written her own brand of rural romance. She has attended romance writers’ groups and received an Australian Society of Authors mentorship for her first novel, The Family Farm. She has extensive farming experience, does the local mail run, and was a speedway-racing driver for seven years. She spends her days writing, helping out in the community and looking after her two children.

Grab a copy of Fiona Palmer’s The Sunnyvale Girls here

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: The Wonder of Books by Monica McInerney

web-McInerney-Monica-_Michael-Boyny__Size4Looking back, I’ve had a pretty busy fourteen years.

As a writer, here are just some of the things I’ve got up to:

- I spent ten months running a winery-restaurant in the Clare Valley.

- My two sisters and I had a big falling out and didn’t speak to each other for three years.

- I moved to New York, where I not only found a job with a cantankerous old woman, but also met the love of my life.

- I moved from England to Australia with my family and turned an old house in the Victorian goldfields into a tourist attraction.

- I ran a charity shop in a small town.

- I lived on a sheep station in outback South Australia, from where I accidentally sent out a Christmas letter that spilled the beans on all my family’s secrets.

That’s not all. I’ve been busy as a reader too. I’ve been a Cold War spy. A sociopathic Irishman. An international photojournalist. Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. A lighthouse keeper off the coast of Western Australia. A shop assistant in the cocktail dress section of an elegant Sydney department store.*

That’s the wonder of books. Whether we are writing them or reading them, stories take us out of our own lives and put us into other people’s shoes, minds, lives, homes and countries. I learned to read as a four-year-old, sitting on the roof of my family home in country South Australia. I read about the Famous Five and the Secret Seven, about snow and the Mississippi River, about places I never thought I’d see but was still able to imagine. As a writer, I have travelled all around the world fictionally and in real life. I’ve imagined events through my characters’ eyes, laughed with them, cried with them. I’ve had that same experience with other authors’ books.

Reading enriches us in more ways than we can imagine. Books are our passports to new lives and ways of thinking. Our tickets to a world of wonders. Magic carpets for our minds. Happy reading, everyone – not only during Booktoberfest, but every other month of the year too.

*The books I’m referring to are: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré. Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent. Half Moon Bay by Helene Young. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. The Women in Black by Madeleine St John.


Monica McInerney’s Hello from the Gillespies is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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hello-from-the-gillespiesHello from the Gillespies

by Monica McInerney

For more than thirty years, Angela Gillespie has sent friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled ‘Hello from the Gillespies’. It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself – she tells the truth.

The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping poorly with retirement. Her 32-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.

Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when Angela is taken from them in a most unexpected manner, the Gillespies pull together – and pull themselves together – in wonderfully surprising ways.

Monica McInerney’s Hello from the Gillespies is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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Stephanie Alexander, author of The Cook’s Companion, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Stephanie Alexander

author of The Cook’s Companion

Six Sharp Questions
___________

1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Not a new book at all but a thorough revision of my classic and very successful The Cook’s Companion.

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

I have moved house which went from being the worst possible experience to go through to the best decision I have made. I also embraced digital technology and worked with a great team to convert the full text of The Cook’s Companion to a marvellous app.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

My dad said to me! ‘ nothing or nobody is as good or as bad as they first appear’. Interesting observation but not very profound but for some reason it has stuck in my head.

Stephanie-Alexander

Author: Stephanie Alexander

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

Live alone so only have to cope with myself although that is not always easy. I write best early in morning and for long stretches in the weekends.

5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

I have been writing about food and produce and the power of the shared table for more than 35 years. Seem to have influenced the marketplace actually as the food media has just gone on expanding as have cookbooks.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only a few books with you. What do you take and why?

The cook’s Companion volume, and also the Cook’s Companion App and get them all cooking.

Stephanie, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Cook’s Companion here


9781920989002The Cook’s Companion

by Stephanie Alexander

The Cook’s Companion has established itself as the kitchen ‘bible’ in over 500,000 homes since it was first published in 1996.

This 2014 revision includes two major new chapters, two expanded chapters, 70 new recipes and a complete revision of the text to reflect changes in the marketplace and new regulations. Stephanie believes that good food is essential to living well: her book is for everyone, every day. She has invaluable information about ingredients, cooking techniques and kitchen equipment, along with inspiration, advice and encouragement and close to 1000 failsafe recipes.

About the Author

For 21 years from 1976, Stephanie Alexander was the force behind Stephanie’s restaurant in Hawthorn, a landmark establishment credited with having revolutionised fine dining in Melbourne. From 1997 to 2005 Stephanie, along with several friends, ran the Richmond Hill Café and Larder, a neighbourhood restaurant renowned for its specialist cheese retailing. In her recently published memoir, A Cook’s Life, she recounts how her uncompromising dedication to good food has shaped her life and changed the eating habits of a nation.

One of Australia’s most highly acclaimed food authors, Stephanie has written fourteen books, including Stephanie’s Menus for Food Lovers, Stephanie’s Seasons and Stephanie Alexander & Maggie Beer’s Tuscan Cookbook (co-author). Her signature publication, The Cook’s Companion, has established itself as the kitchen bible in over 400 000 homes. With characteristic determination, Stephanie initiated the Kitchen Garden at Collingwood College in order to allow young children to experience the very things that made her own childhood so rich: the growing, harvesting, cooking and sharing of good food.

Grab a copy of The Cook’s Companion here

 

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Once a Shepherd backstory… by Glenda Millard

In 2005 I was awarded a May Gibbs Fellowship and as a result was given a month’s use of a studio in Adelaide, South Australia. My main objective was to begin work on a new book. Along with that, I agreed to regularly spend time with the grade 5 girls at Seymour College in Adelaide.

Mary Clark was the teacher librarian at Seymour at the time and we communicated for several months before I arrived in Adelaide as to how to best use my time with the students.

What I hoped to do was show the girls in a very practical, hands-on sort of way, how to source a single idea and transform it into a story. It would be a challenge, not only for the students but for me, as I too promised to take part in the exercise.

glenda41I suggested an off campus excursion to a number of different locations around the city of Adelaide, including the Adelaide fresh foods market, a Japanese garden and a St Vincent de Paul charity shop. Mary readily agreed and arranged buses, permission notes from parents and numerous other things required to make the outing possible.

The students were given questionnaires for each location to prompt them to use their observation skills and to encourage them to ask questions. Our aim was to find something that would stimulate our curiosity and then, using a questioning technique I provided and our imaginations, to discover more about it. I hoped that ultimately the chosen article, place or person and the questions we would ask ourselves about them would lead to the framework of a story.

The object I chose was an old military coat at St Vincent de Paul’s. The girls and I, and Mary, all completed our stories over the four weeks I was at Seymour. My story, or course, turned out to be Once a Shepherd.

In the first few drafts, my focus was on where the coat might have come from in a real sense. For example, wool production and the process it goes through to make a garment, from shearing, carding, dying, weaving and then sewing the woven cloth into a garment.once-a-shepherd

However it soon developed into a much more personal story: the love story of Tom and Cherry, the coming of war, the hand-stitched coat, Cherry’s labour of love for her husband, the birth of their baby, the effect of Tom’s bravery and humanity on an unknown, enemy soldier.

I have a great fondness for handmade things. My mother used to make soft toys for my sister and me when we were little girls. I made them for my daughter when she was small and will make others for my first grandchild when it arrives next March. My daughter makes me an apron every year for my birthday. To create a gift for someone, to spend time on it, is significant to both the giver and the receiver, whether it be a garment, a toy, a cake or something else. With each stitch, Cherry put love into the coat she made for Tom and did so again with the toy lamb she made for their child.

I have used a circular technique in the book – beginning and ending with a lamb. There are many symbolic references to the lamb in history and in mythology including purity, innocence and new life. This could also be said of the child in Once a Shepherd.


Glenda Millard’s Once a Shepherd is a featured title in Walker Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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once-a-shepherdOnce a Shepherd

by Glenda Millard

A story of love and war.

Once there was a shepherd, a very special coat – and hope.

A moving tale that will help grandparents connect personal experiences of war with young children.

About the Author

Glenda Millard was born in the Goldfields region of Central Victoria and has lived in the area all her life. It wasn’t until Glenda’s four children became teenagers that she began to write in her spare time. She has been writing full-time since 1999 and has published several books for children. Her first book with Walker Books Australia, Isabella’s Garden, has been awarded Honour Book in the Picture Book of the Year category in the 2010 Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, and has won a Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Award, Best Book for Language Development, Lower Primary Category (5-8 years), 2010; and short-listed the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards Children’s Book – Mary Ryan Award, 2010.

Glenda Millard’s Once a Shepherd is a featured title in Walker Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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