The Booktopia Book Guru asks
author of The Jungle Dark
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in England, in Ely near Cambridge. Emigrated as a family to rural South Australia. A year later moved to Swan Hill in Victoria where I spent a couple of (very bad) years at school before signing up for the RAN two weeks after my 16th birthday.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
I wanted to be a farmer when I was young but have no idea why. At 18 I just wanted to survive the navy and at 30 only wanted to live a peaceful life.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
No strong beliefs that have changed over time. I’ve become mellower and resigned to the fact that even though ‘they’ say you can do anything you want – even change the world – the reality is you can’t. I’m ok with that. A realist.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
I always liked to read and I reckon I’m just a story teller. This has never been a ‘career path’. As for great effects, I suppose my father writing books and plays influenced me, as did his exposing me to World War 1 poetry. When people say they are influenced or changed by events, I always wonder how. Writing came gradually from an early age and I’ve been lucky to have been published extensively in many ways and in many places.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?
Books are tactile. They feel and smell great when they are new – and old – so they’ll never be displaced. They’re totally different from all the other stuff in the question.
6. Please tell us about your latest book…
It’s the true story behind the iconic song ‘I Was Only 19’. It’s graphic and honest and confronting. But it’s also a story of inspiration in that even though things may not always be as you want them to be, hardship can be overcome, even if only to a certain extent not completely.
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
Intolerance. Love is not all you need, as someone wrote, kindness is. Oh, and we need to understand that everyone has something to offer. We might not like what they say but we should listen because there just might be something there. You never know.
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
I admire most the people who overcome difficulties without complaint. Those who suffer the slings and arrows without losing perspective. Those who work their way through what life deals them.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To live peacefully and happily and to be kind to others. That’s it.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
To write. People who paint are happy to have their paintings on the wall so writers should simply write and share their stories with others. Publication shouldn’t the reason for writing. Also, talk to the keyboard. Write as you speak. Don’t try to ‘write’ Just tell the keyboard the story as you would the person next door.
Steve, thank you for playing.
by Steve Strevens
The powerful true story behind the classic Aussie song I Was Only Nineteen.
On 21 July 1969, the soldiers of 3 Platoon crouched in the scrubby Vietnamese landscape listening to the news on the radio: Neil Armstrong had just stepped onto the moon.
Moments later, Platoon Commander Lieutenant Peter Hines stepped on a mine and the platoon was engulfed in a maelstrom of dirt, smoke and blood.
This is the true story of Frank ‘Frankie’ Hunt and the other soldiers of 3 Platoon, A Company, 6 Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment who became the inspiration for Redgum’s 1983 hit song I Was Only Nineteen – the anthem for the veterans of the Vietnam War.
The Jungle Dark traverses the deep unhealed wounds of Vietnam soldiers and the song that finally brought them home.
About the Author
Steve Strevens emigrated from England in 1959, and joined the Navy two weeks after his 16th birthday. He served in Vietnam, Malay and Borneo and then became a freelance writer. He was a regular contributor to The Age and has been published in many major newspapers and magazines, both here and overseas. He is an award-winning journalist and has edited two regional newspapers. Steve’s eight books include Slow River and the critically acclaimed biography of Bob Rose.
He lives on the far south coast of NSW with his partner and their two ageing, loveable, but quite mad, dogs.