Tag Archives: Australia

September Price Promotion – Grounded

In a world where wings give everyone the freedom to fly, an artist born wingless uses her art to show the winged world the wonder of the ground. But when she meets a recently injured police officer who finds himself grounded, they will both learn that there is more than one way to soar.

From 1 to 30 September, Escape Publishing is offering Grounded at a special price on Amazon Australia for Australian and New Zealand readers! This ebook is available for only $3.99 until the end of the month!

To make the deal even sweeter, I’m offering a separate promotion of my own (to Australia-based readers only)!

If you reblog this post, you’ll get one entry into a competition to win one of three Dangerous Charms items of jewellery, inspired by Grounded.

If you buy Grounded at the special offer this month, message me with proof of purchase via the Contact page (under About Narrelle) or via @daggyvamp and you’ll get 10 entries in the draw.

Get Grounded from Amazon Australia for $3.99 until 30 September!

On offer are a necklace and two sets of earrings, to be posted anywhere in Australia for three winners.

NOTE:
The Dangerous Charm jewellery promotion is only open to people based in Australia, as I’m not able to post small items overseas under the current Covid-19 Australia Post restrictions.

ToC Reveal: Oz is Burning

While the Branch and Root anthology has been delayed for various reasons, other anthologies are still being produced and I’m absolutely delighted to announce that I have a story in another new anthology: Oz is Burning.

I don’t have a cover to reveal for it yet, but I can reveal the table of contents. It’s always flattering and marvellous to appear alongside writers I admire!

Oz Is Burning is being published by B Cubed Press. The book of apocalyptic fiction was conceived as a response to February’s terrible bushfires (how long ago they seem now!) and the publisher’s share of the profits will be donated to a relevant charity.

More news to come when the cover is ready to share and the publication date known. (The book was originally to have been available for New Zealand’s August 2020 Worldcon, which is now an online event. )

In the meantime – here is the Table of Contents for the upcoming Oz is Burning by B Cubed Press!


  • And Gaia Screams by Ann Poore
  • Across the Ditch by Clare Rhoden
  • Burn, Burn! by Almas Alexander
  • Red Sky at Morning by Sue Bursztynski
  • Fires of the Heart by E.E. King
  • Pay Back by Alex Isle
  • By the Grace of God by Harold Gross
  • Should Fire Remember the Fuel by Kyla Lee Ward
  • Welcoming the End by Aura Redwood
  • Beef by Zena Shapter
  • The Last Wish by Lauren E. Mitchell
  • Wollemi Dreaming by Jason Nahrung
  • Firestorm Sounds by Suzanne Newnham
  • Red Sky, Blue Dream by Jack Dann
  • Infestation by Paula Boer
  • Writing on the Wall by Gillian Polack
  • Dire Insurance by Jared Kavanaugh
  • Divorce by Donna J. W. Munro
  • Inconvenient Visitor by Lucy Sussex
  • Burning Hearts by Eleanor Whitworth
  • Harvest by Narrelle M. Harris
  • A Town Called Hope by Silvia Brown

Review: Lillian Armfield by Leigh Straw

Leigh Straw, who has previously written about infamous Razor Gang crime boss Kate Leigh, has picked up the threads of the first female detective, Lillian Armfield, who played a significant role in policing the 1920s ‘Razor Wars’ between Leigh and Tilly Devine, in Lillian Armfield.

There was a lot more to Lillian Armfield’s trailblazing policing work than those infamous and bloody battles in Sydney, and Straw has set to unfolding Armfield’s life in the police from the earliest days, when she and Maude Rhodes were recruited in 1915 as the only two members of the Women’s Police.

Straw has pulled together a comprehensive view of Lillian Armfield’s professional life, and a some of her closely guarded private life, by working from a variety of sources – including contemporaneous newspaper reports, articles from the Police Gazette and other periodicals, published histories of the events (including Rugged Angel, Vince Kelly’s 1961 biography of Armfield based on interviews with her and witnesses of the events and times) and interviews with surviving family and Sydney locals.

After a glimpse of her work helping to apprehend cocaine dealer “Botany May” Smith in 1928, Straw backtracks to examine Armfield’s family history, with its First Fleet convict connections and Hawkesbury River settlers through to Lillian’s early life in Mittagong.

What follows is a detailed study of Lillian Armfield’s life and work, first in an asylum and then as a police woman who worked for 35 years, until her retirement in 1949. The quality of her dedication, compassion, toughness and skill becomes clear very early on, particularly as it served as a beacon to others. She was even respected (if not actually liked) by her arch-enemy, Kate Leigh.

Straw takes the time, throughout the book and particularly at the end, to look at Lillian Armfield’s legacy; the way she argued for more women to join the force, for their work to be taken more seriously, and the success of the Women’s Police which led to police services around Australia eventually recruiting women to active roles in detection and policing.

I particularly liked both the Epilogue, highlighting some of the women who have followed “In Her Shoes”, and the Afterword, which looks at an unsolved mystery in the public understanding of Armfield’s private life which may suggest a key in understanding the attitude she took with her into working with women, children and communities on the often mean and sometimes bloody streets of Sydney in the first half of the 20th century.

Lillian Armfield is an excellent study of how one determined and gifted woman changed the shape of Australia’s early policing and women’s roles within it.

My Library: Such is Life by Joseph Furphy

In my research about Victorian-era society in the UK and Australia, I sometimes pick up 19th century fiction. Such Is Life – an Australian classic, I’m told – is set in the 1880s, was written in 1897 and not published till 1903. The title comes from what were reputedly Ned Kelly’s last words before he was hanged in 1880, and the phrase pops up periodically as an ironic literary shrug about the whims of fate.

Such is Life is a series of anecdotes about the people government worker Tom Collins meets in his travels in rural Australia. That makes it sound straightforward, which is certainly isn’t, as the novel is punctuated with long and rambling side stories. A tale may start with a campfire story, diverge onto discussions of other, slightly related stories, philosophical tracts and adept interpretations of Shakespeare, before finally meandering back to the original point. The style makes it challenging to read but provides a lot of its charm too. 

The narrator, Tom Collins (his name itself a 19th century term for a tall story) spends time with bullock drivers, boundary riders, itinerant workers, graziers and the like. There’s lots of swearing but it’s all signified by terms like “What the (sheol)” (hell) and phrases like “good (ensanguined) shot!” and “poor (fellow)”. I no doubt substituted even fruitier language than he intended while reading, and the use of the substituted terms could be coy but is often very funny in its context.

Some stories are full of humour – like the one where Tom loses all his clothes in the river and his skulking about naked, trying to resolve the issue without scandalising anyone. (The repercussions of this misadventure are discovered some chapters later.) Others are full of the sad, grim reality of bush life with the campfire stories of children lost in the wilderness, some discovered too late or not at all. 

(Frederick McCubbin produced several paintings about this deep anxiety for white settlers in this country.) 

But there’s more to Such is Life than a relatively realistic though rambunctious look at rural life in Australia at the time.

In my 19th century research, I’m looking for hints and examples of queer life, representation and perception, since contemporaneous accounts keep queerness hidden or coded when it’s not being excoriated. So colour me pleasantly surprised when I discovered that Such is Life is open to queer interpretation in no uncertain terms.

In the first chapter, two men with the bullock teams are noted as disappearing in the night for an unknown reason – Dixon and a fellow called Bummer (the colloquial term for a loafer or layabout).  Nothing is explicit, but you can’t convince me that 19th century readers weren’t fully alive to a filthy pun when they read it.

More frequent is a playful and curious sense of gender switching that permeates the story. Tom’s horse Cleopatra is actually a stallion; in the naked escapade, he’s hiding at a farm and hears someone call for ‘Jim’ who turns out to be a young woman named Jemima. Clearest of all is the long sequence where Tom is talking to the disfigured misanthrope, Nosey Alf, and it’s clear to the reader (if not to Tom) that Alf is a woman. Because of previous chapters we can discern who Alf Jones really is and perhaps interpret their reasons for living in men’s clothes, but Tom’s obliviousness means we’ll never fully learn Nosey Alf’s own reasons (or what pronouns are most appropriate).

Such is Life can be hard work to read because of all these lengthy off-piste passages, as well as some pretty convoluted writing. The book is full of difficult to follow dialogue written phonemically, reflecting the multicultural nature of the life. I’d feel the dialect of the Chinese boundary rider’s English was a lot more racist if it weren’t for the fact that Furphy gives exactly the same treatment to the Dutch, Irish, Scottish and even posh English characters throughout. 

A book of its time, Such is Life has the expected baseline sexism and racism – yet there’s an egalitarian streak that runs through it, noting at one point: “Better no religion at all – if such lack be possible – than one which concedes equal rights beyond the grave, and denies them here”. In between rough bush talk and rougher bush lives, Tom frequently philosophises on deep questions, including the nature of free will (referencing Hamlet and Macbeth) and notions of love.

For anyone wanting social insight into 19th century rural Australia and to explore some attitudes to queerness, Such is Life is worth a look. It might be best to read it in small bites however, to better digest the strange divergences, dense colloquialisms and long literary discourses

Telling a furphy

As a curious aside, Australian vernacular has a term – a furphy – to refer to a rumour or a false story. You’d think it derived from Joseph’s book but in fact the etymology experts note that it comes from the water carts belonging to Joseph’s brother John: people would gather round John’s water carts for ablutions and gossip, and thus the term gained use. 


Further reading