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Madman's Island

In 1920, though, as the three ex-diggers talked across the bar at the West Coast, swapping stories of the War and goings-on in Cooktown and along the coast, the pioneer vision would have still been fresh and sustained by hope and dreams. All that was needed was a little luck – which might come from the Chinese gambling den across the way, or at the races, or a tip on a ‘sure thing’, be it trepang, trochus, timber or the treasures of the earth. So that day Idriess signed up for a sure thing with George Tritton – or perhaps not such a sure thing; Dick Welsh, Idriess’s best mate, chose not to go. Even so, a few days later Jack (Idriess’s frontier name) and George set sail for Howick Island. Before the end of the decade Idriess had renamed both the Island and his companion – he wrote that he had gone to Madman’s Island with his mate, Charlie. Madman’s Island; Idriess as character and author – fact or fiction. Fifty books later the seam he struck after returning from the War was mined out. There was nothing left that could be said about frontier life as Idriess saw and said it. It required and still needs to be understood from other perspectives. But Ion Idriess – as Jack Idriess along the Bloomfield, in the Tablelands back of Cairns, and along the coast of north Queensland – gives us a participant’s view. It’s a voice we should attend to – it’s our voice from a fading past.
Ion Idriess (1889—1979) is one of Australia's best-loved writers, with fifty-six books to his credit and millions of copies sold. When he returned from the First World War he wrote The Desert Column, about his experiences with the 5th Light Horse. Prospecting for Gold was his first major successful work; it immediately sold out and was reprinted constantly in the following years, as were many of his books. Idriess spent much of his life travelling throughout Australia, collecting material for his true-life stories, including Flynn of the Inland, The Red Chief and Nemarluk. He was awarded the O.B.E. in 1968 for his contribution to Australian literature.
* Ion Idriess's first book about being marooned on Howick Island has been out of print for 60 years, introduced by Ernest Hunter (who wrote Vicarious Dreaming); so lots of Queenland media interest. * Review copies and Ernest Hunter will be talking with national media about Idriess and this book.
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