Book Reviews: December 2011

It strikes me by Peter Ryan
My life on Karkar by John Middleton
Medicine beyond Kokoda by Dr Clive Auricht
Life’s an adventure (Two volumes) by Thomas Joseph Leahy
Graveyard of flying men: The New Guinea years by Bryan McCook

It strikes me: Collected essays 1994-2010 by Peter Ryan
ISBN 9780980677843 (hbk); 314pp, includes Index, First published 2011 Cost: $44.95. Published by and available from Quadrant Books, 2/5 Rosebery Place, Balmain NSW 2041 Ph: 02 9818 1155 Fax: 02 8580 4664
Peter Ryan, author of several books including the World War II memoir Fear Drive My Feet has recently published It Strikes Me, a selection of 55 essays from Quadrant magazine. Having written a “column” for Quadrant over the last 18 years the collection features a wide range of topics. With the 70th anniversaries of WWII upon us the opening essay, reflecting on the atom bomb over Hiroshima and the war against Japan, stirs the senses. In his inimitable style Peter does not shirk from the facts and, having experienced the full gamut of emotion, he has every right. In this essay he is compassionate but crisp. In others there is humour and gentle whimsy. He speaks about courage, about rearranging “heroes’ corner”: an alcove in his study devoted to the special people in his life. There’s a “biography” on Bonny, his quiet old saddle pony. The Anzac Day “Reflections at Bomana” is a moving tribute to the “honoured dead” but it is also a tribute to the Australia/Papua New Guinea relationship. Several of the essays are directed wholly to PNG but references pop up throughout. Peter made 27 separate visits there after the War and was General Editor of the Encyclopaedia of P & NG.
Written with great clarity and cogency, the essays have a casual, often cheerful, easy tone. However Peter, with his sharp wit, needs no introduction.
Publisher’s Note Peter Ryan has long been one of Australia’s favourite writers of essays and newspaper columns. His classic World War II memoir, Fear Drive My Feet, has been an enduring bestseller, in print almost continuously for more than fifty years. The fifty-five essays in this collection may justly be called “a late picking”. They range from several moving reflections on the war against Japan in 1941-45 to tales of domestic and farm life, such as the story of his old saddle pony Bonny. Along the way he recalls books, writers and statesmen from whom he has learnt most.
These essays from Quadrant magazine reflect the writer’s worldly knowledge accumulated from his variety of employments, including publisher of Australia’s leading university press, soldier, bush timber worker and advertising man. Lately turned eighty-eight, his pen shows no signs of flagging.
Please look for the review in the March 2012 Una Voce but, in the meantime, add it to your Christmas list!

My life on Karkar by John Middleton with James Sinclair
ISBN: 978186333320, 367 pages b&w & col photos + maps. Published 2011 by Crawford House, PO Box 50, Belair SA 5052 $39.95 + $11.00 postage

This is a tale about the intriguing and interesting Middleton family told by its present senior member, Sir John Middleton. It is a chronicle of the ups and downs of the Middletons and their habitat, Karkar Island. All started by Max, John’s father, last century and continuing with his children and grandchildren.
Sir John’s easy conversational style of writing coloured with the obvious amusement he has with the antics of human behaviour gives the reader rare insights into PNG’s colonial and post-colonial life. Much of the book is documented oral history. And the remarks and comments by James Sinclair create a historical framework that puts the lives of the Middletons in focus in a continually changing social and political situation in Papua New Guinea.
William Maxwell Middleton, known as Max, created the plantation empire on Karkar and it has more or less survived in spite of war, political and social changes. John, his son, extended the family’s influence beyond the confines of Karkar Island to the larger sphere of an emerging independent PNG. He’s received the accolades of a grateful nation. But this book isn’t just a social history but an amusing read written by a gifted raconteur with a twinkle in his eye. Highly recommended! David Wall

Medicine beyond Kokoda by Dr Clive Auricht
First published 2011; Printed and bound in South Australia; 222pp colour photos Cost: $25 plus $5 p&p Available from Dr C Auricht at 8 Wigley Drive, McLaren Vale SA 5171 Ph: 08-8323 8316 E:
A series of anecdotal stories about the life and work of a young Australian doctor in the mountains and tropical plains to the north and north-west of Kokoda. At age 25 the author had administrative responsibility for all health services in the district with a population of 40,000, including running the 100-bed District Hopsital inland at Saiho. The stories also reveal the practice of Medicine in the 1950s and 60s.

Life’s an adventure: My Childhood 1929-1947 by Thomas Joseph Leahy (Vol 1)
ISBN 978-0-646-55970-4, 150pp A4 size incl 30 b&w and colour photographs. Published 2011 Toowoomba. Cost $25 plus $5 p&p
Life’s an adventure: 1947-1985 New Guinea and Corowa by Thomas Joseph Leahy (Vol II)
ISBN 978-0-646-56378-7, A4 size, 412 pp, 90 b&w and colour photographs, Published 2011 Toowoomba, Cost: $50 plus $5 p&p
Both volumes available from the author T Leahy. Address: 15a Archibald St, Dalby Ph: 07-4669 7083 E:
In 1947, two teenage lads arrived in PNG from the family farm outside Dalby. Tom and his brother Danny are wide-eyed and ready for whatever adventures their exotic life can bring and there will be plenty. Tom vividly describes the growth during the early years before PNG Independence and, as a member of Parliament elected as leader of the Cabinet 1968-1972, he provides a unique inside review of politics in the years of change and an irreplaceable historical record of the time. Tom’s love of this land and its people shines through as he chronicles the years on his beloved Maralumie farm in the Markham Valley near Nadzab, Lae.

Graveyard of flying men: The New Guinea Years by Bryan McCook
Published 2010 Prepared by Scott McCook, 120 pp. Available online at: Cost $ 51.35
The adventures of Captain Bryan McCook, who amassed some 25,000 flying hours in an assortment of “flying machines”. It is in black page/white font format with photographs; a choice of soft or hard cover, mailing and cost. It is a good easy read. Further information available from: Scott McCook. Email:

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