Posts Tagged ‘historical fiction’

One book reviewer described our historical adventure INTO THE AMERICAS (A novel based on a true story)  as being “like a motion picture in words.” Understandable given it’s set in the Pacific Northwest, which must surely be one of the most picturesque places on earth. 

Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island…where this true-life story is set.

 

Into the Americas is a tale of two vastly different cultures – indigenous North American and European civilization – colliding head on. It is also a Romeo and Juliet story set in the wilderness.

The storyline:

It’s 1802. Nineteen year-old English blacksmith John Jewitt is one of only two survivors after his crewmates clash with the fierce Mowachaht tribe in the Pacific Northwest.

John Jewitt…years later.

A life of slavery awaits John and his fellow survivor, a belligerent American sailmaker, in a village ruled by the iron fist of Maquina, the all-powerful chief. Desperate to taste freedom again, they make several doomed escape attempts over mountains and sea. Only their value to the tribe and John’s relationship with Maquina prevents their captors from killing them.

Mowachaht chief Maquina.

As the seasons pass, John ‘goes Indian’ after falling in love with Eu-stochee, a beautiful maiden. This further alienates him from his fellow captive whose defiance leads to violent consequences. In the bloodshed that follows, John discovers another side to himself – a side he never knew existed and a side he detests. His desire to be reunited with the family and friends he left behind returns even stronger than before.

Nootka village where Jewitt was held captive.

The stakes rise when John learns Eu-stochee is pregnant. When a final opportunity to escape arises, he must choose between returning to civilization or staying with Eu-stochee and their newborn son.

Nootka Sound…as it was in the days of the trading ships.

Nootka Sound…in more recent times.

Strait of Georgia, Vancouver Island….a potential escape route for Jewitt.

An older Jewitt…after his escape.

 

Into the Americas (A novel based on a true story)

Into the Americas  is available exclusively via Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Into-Americas-novel-based-story-ebook/dp/B00YJKM51E/

 

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Entries are open now for Goodreads members to win a FREE copy of the (US$24.99) paperback edition of our epic historical adventure White Spirit (A novel based on a true story).

 

White Spirit (A novel based on a true story)

By the authors of Into the Americas.

 

Based on the remarkable true story of Irish convict John Graham, White Spirit  is an epic historical adventure set in 19th Century Australia.

 

GIVEAWAY link: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/sh…

AMAZON listing: https://www.amazon.com/White-Spirit-n…

WHITE SPIRIT on Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3… 

 

Other novels by Lance & James Morcan:

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Coming soon! SILENT FEAR (A novel inspired by true crimes)

Silent Fear

 

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Great Historicals

Author and Top 500 Amazon Canada reviewer Mirella Patzer, of Great Historicals’ Historical Fiction Book Reviews, has this to say about our new release novel WHITE SPIRIT:

Lance and James Morcan love to write books about aboriginal peoples of the world. Their novels always intrigue me with their blend of historical fact and fiction. White Spirit is my favorite of all their novels so far.

It is a brutal, no-holds-barred retelling of the true story of Australia’s notorious Moreton Bay Penal and the one prisoner who successfully escaped and eluded capture for decades – a man named Graham.
The story takes from the harsh conditions of the penal settlement to the brutality of the aboriginals and their daily lives. The book is very long – about the length of a trilogy – but I can see why it is important for the tale to be told in one book as opposed to three. The best way to describe this novel is disturbing, brutal, honest, and unputdownable. It is real, very, very real with fascinating characters at the helm. Very highly recommended! Both men and women will enjoy the story.
The entire review can be seen at the Great Historicals blog site at:  http://greathistoricals.blogspot.co.nz/

White Spirit (A novel based on a true story)

 

WHITE SPIRIT (A novel based on a true story)  is exclusive to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/White-Spirit-novel-based-story-ebook/dp/B01LWIRH9J/

 

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By the mid-1800’s, Fiji has become a melting pot of cannibals, warring native tribes, sailors, traders, prostitutes, escaped convicts and all manner of foreign undesirables. It’s in this hostile environment an innocent young Englishwoman and a worldly American adventurer find themselves in FIJI: A NOVEL (The World Duology, #2).

 

Fiji: A Novel (The World Duology Book 2)

 

Prologue

A Fijian maiden stooped to pick up a shell as she walked along a white sand beach at Momi Bay, on the western side of Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu. Sina had a natural island beauty. Lithe and graceful, her dark skin glistened in the tropical sun. She wore a traditional grass skirt and shawl made from tapa, or bark cloth.

The beach was bordered by a grove of coconut trees and the turquoise waters of the bay. Tropical birds filled the sky—among them Kingfishers that dived into the sea, competing for fish.

At one end of the beach, a distinctive headland protruded out into the Pacific. It accommodated a village whose entrance was marked by defensive fortifications in the form of bamboo palisades. The village was home to the Qopa, the region’s predominant mataqali, or clan.

Out in the bay, Qopa fishermen speared fish and cast nets from their canoes. Beyond them, foaming surf marked the reef that ringed much of Viti Levu. The constant sound of waves crashing against the reef was like the boom of distant thunder.

Several miles beyond the reef, a ship sailed by, her sails billowing as she was pushed along ahead of a light southerly. Sina and the other villagers paid scant attention to the vessel: they’d become used to the comings and goings of the white man’s ships.

The maiden noticed the shadows were lengthening. It was time to think about returning to the village. She smiled as squealing village children playing at the water’s edge splashed one another, white teeth sparkling against their black skin. Like all Fijian children, they seemed to wear permanent smiles.

Sina stopped to pick up another shell, dropping it into a woven flax bag hanging from her shoulder. Humming a traditional lullaby to herself, she was unaware a tall, muscular warrior was watching her impassively from the shadows of the coconut grove. Standing motionless, the sinister warrior held a musket in one hand. Only his coal-black eyes moved—his heavily tattooed, battle-scarred face adding to his air of silent menace.

This was Rambuka, also known as the Outcast, the charismatic leader of a tribe of cannibals feared by villagers up and down the coast. Rambuka’s eyes subconsciously widened as he studied Sina. He liked what he saw. Finally, he moved, gliding soundlessly among the palm trees like a spirit as he stalked his prey.

Still singing, Sina bent down to study an unusual shell. A sudden movement to her left caught her eye and she looked up to see Rambuka rushing toward her, musket in hand. She recognized him immediately. Screaming, she turned to flee, but had barely taken a step before her assailant was onto her, dragging her back to the trees. Startled by her screams, the children ran toward the village, shouting.

Terrified, Sina lashed out and twisted around, trying to bite her attacker. Rambuka slapped her hard, momentarily stunning her. Everything started spinning and Sina felt as if she might faint. Effortlessly hoisting her over his shoulder, the Outcast began running inland.

Behind them, Qopa warriors came running from the nearby village, alerted by the children’s screams. Most carried clubs or spears, while some had tomahawks they’d acquired from white traders. Nearly all were tattooed about the arms, legs and torso. The warriors were led by Joeli, son of the village ratu, or chief.

A big, powerful man, Joeli’s proud bearing and intelligent eyes were clues to his royal bloodlines. Bone earrings hung from his ears and a huge, intricately-carved, whale bone club dangled from a cord around his waist, a dozen human teeth inlaid around its head testament to how many men he’d killed in battle. Most striking, however, was his massive hairstyle. Nearly two feet high and even wider across, it was dyed blue with yellow stripes through it. Earlier treatment with burnt lime juice would ensure it remained stiffened in place for a few more days at least.

Some of Joeli’s warriors wore equally flamboyant hairstyles—many dyed a bright color and some even multi-colored; several sported hairstyles of a geometric shape while the orange-dyed hair atop one proud warrior was all of six feet in circumference. Such weird and wonderful styles could be seen on men throughout Fiji and were worn as a symbol of masculinity and social standing.

The frightened children all talked at once and pointed down the beach. Joeli led his warriors to the spot the children had indicated and there two sets of tracks were immediately visible in the sand. He turned, grim-faced, to his warriors. “It could only be the Outcast,” he decreed.

A fine-looking young warrior with a distinctive birthmark on his forehead and a zany, geometric hairstyle asked, “Who has he taken?” This was Waisale, a close friend of Joeli’s.

Joeli looked down, avoiding his friend’s eyes. He suspected that Rambuka had abducted Sina, but didn’t want to say as much until it was confirmed. It was common knowledge Waisale and Sina were lovers.

A sense of foreboding suddenly came over Waisale as he studied the footprints that Rambuka and his captive had left behind. “Sina!” he murmured. Without another word, Waisale sprinted into the coconut grove, following the tracks into the dense rainforest beyond. The others ran hard on his heels.

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Dusk was approaching and Sina was near exhaustion when the Outcast finally stopped running, allowing her to briefly rest and drink from a shallow stream. Their flight had taken them into the forest-covered hills above Momi Bay.

Scratches and bruises covered Sina’s face and body, and she winced as she splashed water over her face. Aware of Rambuka’s reputation and knowing what fate awaited her, she looked frantically around, her mind racing, desperate to find a way out of her predicament.

Rambuka grabbed her by the arm. Sina shrank back, expecting to be raped. Instead, she was dragged into the water. Her heart sank as the Outcast began pulling her along upstream, leaving no tracks for anyone to follow. The realization was setting in that Rambuka wasn’t merely intending to rape her—he was abducting her. Her skin crawled at the thought.

A quarter of a mile behind, Joeli and his warriors followed their quarries’ tracks. With night approaching, they knew they were running out of time. Waisale led the chase, desperate to save Sina. However, as Rambuka had intended, the tracks ended at the stream. In the fading light, Waisale ran up and down the bank, frustrated at the dearth of signs to follow.

Joeli shook his head. “The Outcast is taking her to the Land of Red Rain,” he said simply. His tone suggested the dye was cast; there was no saving Sina now. Joeli and the others reluctantly turned and began retracing their steps back to the village.

Waisale stayed behind, looking east toward the highlands of the interior. He knew the land Joeli had referred to lay beyond those same highlands. Exactly where the outcasts were hiding wasn’t known. They moved around constantly, using various hideouts. Many a raiding party had set out from Momi Bay to try to find their enemies in the past, but the land was rugged and the outcasts hid their tracks well.

Pain and anger rose up like bile in Waisale’s throat. He vowed he’d go to the Land of Red Rain and rescue Sina.

 

Product Details

 

FIJI: A NOVEL (The World Duology, #2)  is exclusive to Amazon and is available as a paperback and Kindle ebook: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0057YCZM0/

 

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Set in the nineteenth century, World Odyssey (The World Duology, #1)  follows the fortunes of three young travelers as each embarks on an epic journey. Their dramatic adventures span sixteen years and see them engage with Native American Indians, Barbary Coast pirates, Aborigines, Maoris and Pacific Islanders as they travel around the world – from America to Africa, from England to the Canary Islands, to Australia, New Zealand and Samoa.

 

World Odyssey (The World Duology Book 1)

Prologue

Summer, 1832

Alone in his father’s study, young Philadelphian Nathan Johnson surveyed the lavishly furnished but slightly musty room. His keen eyes rested momentarily on the titles of some of the hundreds of books lining the shelves behind his father’s desk. Many had a nautical theme, alluding to the occupation of the absent Captain Benjamin Johnson.

The boy never tired of being in his father’s study and often ventured into it even though Johnson Senior had made it clear the study was out of bounds whenever he was away.

Although physically absent for the moment, his father was present in a sense: a recent portrait painting of the forty-year-old captain hung on the far wall. Dark, curly, shoulder-length hair framed his unsmiling but still youthful face. The ruggedly handsome Johnson Senior had the appearance of someone who didn’t suffer fools. His startlingly blue eyes seemed to bore into Nathan’s as the boy studied the painting.

Nathan couldn’t know it, but he was looking at a mirror image of himself in later years. Even at the tender age of ten he was already a chip off the old block. Tall for his age, he was more mature than his schoolmates, and more serious, too.

Sounds of children’s laughter drifted in through an open window. His two older sisters and their friends were making the most of a sunny day after several days of constant rain. From the kitchen downstairs, the clink of crockery could be heard as the maid cleared away the breakfast dishes.

Nathan switched his attention to a faded world map hanging alongside the painting. A dotted line connecting North America’s west coast and the coast of mainland China showed where his father had journeyed on his latest expedition. Johnson Senior was a successful trader whose latest enterprise had involved trading goods to the Native Americans for their prized sea otter furs. He had transported those same furs to China where they fetched huge prices.

The thought of sailing to some exotic destination thrilled Nathan to the core. He lived for the day he was old enough to go to sea. Meanwhile, he contented himself studying the world map and dreaming of far-off places.

So engrossed was he, he didn’t hear his father arrive home from town. It wasn’t until the study door burst open and Johnson Senior strode in that Nathan realized he was in trouble.

When Johnson Senior saw Nathan, he turned livid. He grabbed his son by the hair and began cuffing him hard about the head.

Johnson Senior’s mood wasn’t helped by the fact he’d been drinking and gambling since the previous night, and had lost a considerable amount of money. As a man of means, it was money he could afford to lose, but that hadn’t helped dampen his already foul temper.

Nathan could tell his father had been drinking. He could smell the whisky fumes on his breath, and Johnson Senior was unsteady on his feet and slurring his words as he cursed and beat the son he wished he’d never had.

Determined to remain staunch, Nathan bit his lip to stop from crying out. This further infuriated his father who removed his belt and began flailing the boy with all his considerable strength. The belt’s buckle cut into Nathan’s bare arm and drew blood.

As Nathan covered up as best he could to protect himself, he fixed his gaze on a portrait painting of his mother hanging on the near wall. It gave him strength. The painting was the work of one of Philadelphia’s leading artists and it captured pretty Charlotte Johnson as she was in her early twenties. There was a quiet determination in her sparkling brown eyes.

Charlotte was the mother Nathan had never known for she had died giving birth to him ten years earlier.

The beating ended as quickly as it had begun when Johnson Senior pushed the boy from the study and slammed the door shut after him.

Now alone at the top of the first floor landing, Nathan swore he’d run away from home as soon as he was old enough.

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At that very moment, across the Atlantic in England, little Susannah Drake was playing with dolls and other girlie things while watching two white swans that had taken up residency in the lily pond behind her Methodist clergyman father’s rectory in the affluent west London district of Kensington.

The cute, red-headed, six-year-old closed her eyes to protect them from the bright sunlight reflecting off the pond’s surface. When she reopened them, one of the swans had paddled to within an arm’s length of her at the pond’s edge, causing her to jump back in surprise. Swan and child stared at each other for a second or two before the majestic bird paddled off to rejoin his mate.

On the lawn behind Susannah, her father Reverend Brian Drake was chatting to visiting members of his congregation while her mother, Jeanette, served Devonshire tea. It was a very English scene.

Jeanette, a pretty but frail woman, called out to Susannah who promptly skipped over to join her parents. Jumping up onto her father’s knee, she licked the strawberry jam off one of her mother’s famous scones as Drake Senior talked to the other adults.

Susannah amused herself as the conversation turned to the missionary work the Methodist Church was engaged in, in far-off places. Drake Senior expressed a desire to become a missionary one day. Jeanette didn’t seem to share her husband’s enthusiasm for missionary work and quickly changed the subject.

Finding the adult conversation boring, Susannah jumped off her father’s knee and ran back down to the lily pond. She laughed delightedly when the two swans paddled to the pond’s edge to greet her. Her laughter turned to screams as one of the swans waddled up onto the lawn and proceeded to chase after her, hissing. It seemed the swan was intent on securing the remains of the scone Susannah was still holding.

Chuckling at his daughter’s predicament, Drake Senior advised Susannah to give the swan what it wanted. Although frightened, Susannah refused to back down. She rammed the remains of the scone into her mouth and shooed her tormentor away. Beaten, the swan gave up and waddled back to the pond.

The adults laughed and commented how cute Susannah was. Drake Senior and Jeanette observed their daughter with pride. Not for the first time, she had demonstrated that, despite her angelic appearance, she was not easily intimidated.

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Several miles away, in southeast London, sixteen-year-old Jack Halliday was traipsing from door to door looking for work in the capital’s busy dockyards. The Cockney’s spirits were uncharacteristically low. Since his mother had kicked him out of the family home two weeks earlier, he’d been job-hunting without success.

Back in the East End, Jack had a reputation for being a lovable larrikin. Shorter than average and not especially good looking, the curly-haired lad nevertheless had a mischievous face and engaging personality which generally endeared him to others. Generally because his cheeky manner ensured he had his share of enemies too. Any who underestimated him did so at their own risk. He never took a backward step and he compensated for his lack of height by fighting with all the fury of a pitbull.

The shadows were lengthening when Jack arrived at Sullivan’s Foundry, a large establishment next to the River Thames. Having experienced around twenty rejections from prospective employers that day, he had to force himself to adopt his normally cheerful disposition as he entered the noisy foundry. The fact he hadn’t eaten in two days gave him extra motivation. He desperately needed to earn some money. If he didn’t land a job soon, he knew he’d have to find money via other means.

Approaching the front office, Jack was suddenly confronted by a big, bad-tempered man who demanded to know what he wanted. The young Cockney guessed, correctly, the man was the foundry owner, Henry Sullivan. When Jack explained he wanted a job, Sullivan advised him he wasn’t in the habit of employing runts and ordered him off the property.

Jack stood his ground, his perceptive green eyes flashing with anger. The look wasn’t missed by Sullivan who decided to put him to the test. He’d recently laid off an apprentice blacksmith who hadn’t measured up, so Jack’s interest in a job was timely. Pointing to a thirty-foot long steel shaft resting on the floor nearby, Sullivan challenged the young Cockney to lift it up onto a shelf that was just above Jack’s head.

Without hesitating, Jack bent down to lift the shaft. He suddenly realized every eye in the foundry was on him. Taking a deep breath, he managed to straighten up while holding the shaft, but when he tried to lift it up onto the shelf it fell to the floor with a mighty clang. Several onlookers chuckled at his misfortune.

Unimpressed, Sullivan turned his back on Jack and returned to his office.

To the surprise of those still watching, Jack prepared to make another attempt. This time, he put everything into it and, to the resounding cheers of the assembled, managed to hoist the steel shaft up onto the shelf just as Sullivan re-emerged from his office. Suitably impressed, the proprietor immediately hired Jack as an apprentice.

Mindful of the hunger pangs that were now causing frequent tummy rumbles, Jack tried to negotiate his first week’s pay in advance. Tightwad Sullivan agreed to pay him two days in advance on condition that he put in some extra hours unpaid. Jack reluctantly agreed. At least now he could afford a square meal.

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Jack Halliday, Susannah Drake and Nathan Johnson had no way of knowing their paths would cross one day; their destinies were integrally linked. Fate and the unfathomable twists and turns of life would eventually throw them together on the far side of the world in a place some called the Cannibal Isles.

 

Product Details

 

World Odyssey (The World Duology, #1)  is exclusive to Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/World-Odyssey-Duology-1-ebook/dp/B00HHVOMO0/

 

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For those who love historical adventures, romance and true-life, action-packed, wilderness survival tales, here’s an excerpt from our critically acclaimed, new release epic WHITE SPIRIT (A novel based on a true story) – set in 19th Century Australia.

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WHITE SPIRIT / Chapter 1

A wiry Aboriginal tracker ran fast through the undergrowth, following tracks only he could see. He carried a spear in one hand and a nulla nulla, or club, in the other. Wearing only a loincloth, he covered the ground with effortless ease, his bare feet hardly touching the sun-baked earth.

This was Barega, one of the last surviving members of the mysterious Joondaburri, a tribe whose menfolk were renowned up and down Australia’s east coast for their superior tracking abilities. In the language of his people, his name meant the Wind, which was appropriate for he ran like the wind. To the British soldiers who employed him, he was simply known as the Tracker.

Although only average height, Barega’s legs were out of proportion in that they were unusually long in relation to his torso – a fact that gave him a distinct advantage in his chosen occupation. Few men, black or white, could match him for speed in a cross-country foot race, and, like others of his tribe, he could run all day long, seemingly without tiring or succumbing to the relentless heat.

The tracks he followed were those of three convicts who had escaped custody earlier that morning. They were heading west, away from the coast and away from Moreton Bay – the site of Britain’s newest penal colony and home to two hundred or so convicts and soldiers. The route was leading deeper into the tropical rainforest that hugged this part of the coast. It became progressively steeper as the hills gave way to mountains.

Barega was accompanied by three soldiers who followed him on horseback. He glanced back at them from time to time to ensure they remained in contact. Though their horses were doing most of the work, it was clear to him the men were having a hard time of it in the heat. They stopped every so often to drink from their water bottles.

Leading the way was Lieutenant Desmond Hogan, a dashing Englishman who was a career soldier through and through. Hogan’s ambition to succeed in his chosen career was hinted at by his senior ranking, which was an achievement in itself for one so young. He was only twenty-six. His rapid rise up the ranks had undoubtedly been influenced by the fact that his father and his father’s father had both been high ranking army officers, and he was candid enough to acknowledge that, but that didn’t change the fact he was a man of some ability whose promotion had largely been based on merit.

Hogan caught Barega’s eye. “How close, Tracker?” he asked.

Pulling up, the tracker pointed at the sun, which at that moment was to the northeast, and then he pointed dead north. “Soon, Mister,” he said by way of explanation, though no explanation was necessary.

The young lieutenant had used Barega so often he could readily understand the other’s hand signals. On this occasion, the tracker had indicated they’d catch up to their quarry by mid-day when the sun would be where he’d indicated – dead north. By Hogan’s reckoning, that would be in an hour’s time give or take. He glanced around at his two men. “Another hour should do it,” he said.

“Thank Christ,” one of them muttered.

Like their commanding officer, the two soldiers – both privates – had removed their red tunics, which now hung loosely from their saddles. It was the one allowance Hogan made for the heat, but only when out of sight of the penal settlement as it bucked the army’s rigid dress code.

Behind the pair, in the distance, Hogan could still see Moreton Bay. Trees concealed the penal settlement that had taken its name from the bay, but from the current vantage point there was an unobstructed view of the bay itself. And beyond it, the blue of the Pacific Ocean merged with the blue of the sky. It was a sight to behold.

Hogan and the others weren’t here to admire the view, however. They’d been tasked with capturing the runaways, and to a man they were aware the sooner they accomplished that the sooner they could return to base and enjoy some well-earned refreshments – and escape the accursed heat and humidity.

Ahead of them, Barega had resumed running. His black skin glistened with sweat as he picked up the pace. It was clear he sensed his prey were close now.

The soldiers followed, staying close to the tracker so as not to lose touch with him in the dense rainforest. Vines and creepers clawed at them, threatening to unseat them from their mounts, as they proceeded. Despite their discomfort, the soldiers were grateful the convicts had opted to keep to a well-worn trail carved out over the centuries by nomadic natives. They knew if their quarry had opted to deviate from the path, the horses would be no use to them and they’d have been forced to follow on foot.

Lieutenant Hogan knew something his men didn’t know, however. He alone knew they weren’t expected to bring all of the runaways back alive. Before setting out, the penal settlement’s commandant had made it very clear to Hogan privately that he’d be upset if more than one escapee survived.

Lord Bertram Cheetham’s reputation for cruelty had preceded him before he took up his new posting as Moreton Bay’s commander-in-chief four months earlier. Since then, Hogan and the other officers had come to see Cheetham’s reputation was well deserved; he viewed the convicts as animals and expected the soldiers under his command to treat them as such. As a result, floggings had become a daily event, the overworked convicts were starved and regularly beaten, and the dysentery and other ailments that plagued them and some of the soldiers, too, had reached epidemic proportions. Nearly every single convict had at least one serious illness or injury and, to make matters worse, medical care was basic to say the least. Despite this, as long as a convict could draw breath, he was forced to endure sixteen-hour days of hard labour, seven days a week.

So harsh were the conditions – reportedly as harsh as those at infamous Norfolk Island – a few convicts had opted to commit suicide rather than serve out their sentences, and more than a few others were contemplating such drastic action.

Another consequence of the cruelty was barely a week passed without one or more convicts attempting to escape. Where they hoped to escape to was anyone’s guess because Moreton Bay was many hundreds of miles from the nearest civilization. Convicts escaping overland risked death by heatstroke, thirst, starvation, snakebite or unfriendly natives, and escape by sea was out of the question because the only vessels visiting Moreton Bay were those servicing the penal settlement.

Rebellion was inevitable, of course, and since Lord Cheetham’s arrival illness, escape attempts and deaths amongst the convicts were all increasing. This had only served to infuriate Cheetham whose solution was to work the convicts even harder and to impose harsher punishments for any transgression.

Attempts by Hogan and the other officers to appeal to the commandant’s common sense, if not his humanity, had fallen upon deaf ears. Hence Cheetham’s private instructions to Hogan earlier that morning – to make an example of these latest escapees and ensure only one of them was returned to Moreton Bay alive. So desperate was he to deter the other convicts from attempting to escape.

Such instructions didn’t sit well with Hogan, but he felt his hands were tied. Experience had taught him if he returned the three escapees alive, the eccentric Cheetham was likely to order the execution of all three, and possibly one or two others as well. He’d seen that happen before.

In a clearing, Hogan glanced behind him and was distracted by the sight of a sailing ship some two or three miles offshore. She was far to the south – so distant that he wouldn’t have noticed her had it not been for her billowing white sails. They could easily have been mistaken for clouds had it not been a cloudless day. The young officer knew immediately the vessel was the Hoogley for she was the only one scheduled to visit Moreton Bay this week. She was bringing another shipment of convicts from the Parramatta penal settlement near Sydney Town. A regular occurrence these days. Had Hogan not been prevailed upon to supervise the capture of the escapees he’d have been tasked with greeting the Hoogley and her cargo of convicts. As it was, that particular chore would fall to his commanding officer on this occasion.

Though compassion and sympathy didn’t figure highly in his make-up, the lieutenant almost felt sorry for the men incarcerated in the hold of the schooner he was observing. Almost but not quite. He was aware that convicts unlucky enough to be shipped out to Moreton Bay, or to the other hell-hole that was Norfolk Island, were considered the most incorrigible of the convicts. Beyond Repatriation was the army’s official term for these men. As far as the military was concerned, they were unlikely to taste freedom again let alone ever return to their countries of origin. As far as Hogan was concerned, they deserved to rot in hell.

Hogan’s horse stumbled on the protruding root of a tree, forcing him to focus on the task at hand. He realised he’d lost sight of the tracker, and dug his heels into his mount’s flanks, encouraging the horse to move faster.

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Offshore, the Hoogley was making hard work of it as she plied north through high, rolling seas. The conditions were the lingering aftermath of a storm, which, up until the previous evening, had battered the three-masted schooner without let-up since she’d departed Sydney Town six days earlier. Her timbers creaked in protest as her bow rose and fell alarmingly, and the waves that crashed over her threatened to tear the sails from their masts. In the rigging, high above deck, riggers hung on for dear life as they carried out their death-defying duties.

Below deck, the conditions were scarcely any better. As well as putting up with the rolling motion of the vessel, the forty mainly Irish convicts and their guards had to contend with the constant sea spray and saltwater, which poured through the portholes and open hatches, and which ensured the men remained permanently wet.

The convicts had the worst of it for they had been confined below deck for the entirety of the voyage. Permanently shackled, their ankles were secured by chains, which, in turn, passed through a longer chain bolted to the hull’s interior at each end of the hold. Their condition wasn’t helped any by the lack of adequate food and water throughout the voyage, nor by the temperatures, which soared in the confined space by day and dropped to near-freezing by night.

The overpowering stench of urine and shit combined with the ever-present bilge water that sloshed about in the bottom of the hold was all pervasive. An outbreak of dysentery early in the voyage had swept through the vessel, affecting convicts, guards and crew alike, adding to the misery of all.

Not all the convicts had survived the voyage. One, a sickly young man from Belfast, had succumbed to pneumonia. His body had been unceremoniously dumped at sea two days earlier. And several others were critically ill. Their condition wasn’t helped any by the fact there was no doctor or even any rudimentary medical facilities on board.

Harsh though this voyage was, it was nothing compared to the three or four-month journeys these convicts had originally endured out from England. In some cases, fatalities had been as high as forty per cent, and on one ship fatalities had topped sixty per cent.

Two survivors of that hellish voyage aboard the most notorious of prison ships were now aboard the Hoogley. Twenty-eight-year-old John Graham and the slightly younger Noel Thomas whose date of birth was unknown – unknown to Noel at least – were chained together toward the rear of the hold. Originally from Dundalk, in County Louth, Ireland, they were boyhood friends. The former had been sentenced to seven years’ transportation to Australia for stealing ten pounds from a shady employer he alleged hadn’t paid him, while the latter – hackneyed though it may sound – had been sentenced to five years for stealing a loaf of bread.

The two friends were a study in contrasts. John was broad-shouldered and taller than most of his companions, and certainly better looking. His unruly black, shoulder-length hair framed a pale but interesting face that women invariably found attractive. What really set him apart, however, was his startling blue eyes. Ever-alert, they missed nothing. Even here, chained in the hold of a ship, John constantly surveyed his fellows and the guards who watched over them.

Noel, on the other hand, was short and wiry, and not overly handsome. Nevertheless, he had an engaging manner and a cheeky wit that endeared him to all – all except his jailers that is. His cheekiness constantly landed him in trouble, with fellow convicts and guards alike, and John had had to come to his rescue more than once.

Chained alongside them was elderly Dubliner who was ailing rapidly. Leith Donovan, who claimed to be forty-five but looked to be all of sixty-five, had been ill even before departing Parramatta. He began throwing up as soon as the schooner set sail and was still throwing up now. In the last six days he’d lost damn near half his bodyweight.

“Hang in there, Leith,” Noel urged as Donovan disgorged the last of the meagre rations he’d managed to keep down. The remains of those rations, including vestiges of cabbage and corn, ended up on Noel’s leg.

“Sorry, Thomas,” Donovan mumbled as he made a half-hearted attempt to wipe the mess from his companion’s leg with his hand.

John glanced at Noel. His friend’s expression signalled that he thought it likely Donovan’s journey would end soon – an opinion that John shared.

Noel waved to the nearest guard to catch his attention. “We have a sick man here,” he said.

The guard, a callous Englishman who took every opportunity to show his contempt for the Irish, just grinned at Noel. He quickly looked away when he noticed John staring at him.

John Graham’s startling blue eyes had that effect. Few men could hold his gaze. There was something behind those eyes that unnerved them.

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At the same time, in the hinterland behind Moreton Bay, the three convict escapees were so exhausted they had slowed to a walk. While they’d started out full of running in the cool of the pre-dawn, the exertion, heat and thirst had quickly reduced them to a slow shuffle. They weren’t helped either by the leg irons they wore. The heavy shackles made running almost impossible, and the clinking noise they made gave the convicts’ whereabouts away to anyone within fifty yards or so. Only the thought of what awaited them back at Moreton Bay should they be caught kept them going. To a man, they’d rather die than return to the place they called hell.

They were a mixed bunch. About all they had in common was they were English convicts with a shared yearning for freedom. And they were armed. The older man carried a tomahawk and the two younger men carried knives.

Tim Brady, the ringleader, was the oldest of the three by some years. A forty-five-year-old Cornishman, he was considerably shorter than his two companions, but he was almost as wide as he was tall. What he lacked in height he made up for with strength, and it was widely accepted he was the strongest of all the convicts – and all the soldiers, too, for that matter – at Moreton Bay.

Brady’s companions, both Cockneys and both in their early twenties, naturally looked to Brady for guidance. After all, the escape had been his idea. Unfortunately for them, Brady was now out of ideas and so exhausted he was no use to them or to himself for that matter.

The two Cockneys pulled up when they realised Brady had fallen behind.

“Hurry up Brady!” the younger man shouted.

Gasping for breath, the Cornishman tried to run, but his legs gave out from under him and he crashed to the ground. “Water,” he mumbled. “I need water.”

“We all need water, Brady!” the older Cockney said. “We ’ave to keep movin’.”

Brady slowly pushed himself to his feet and stumbled forward to catch up with his companions.

The two Cockneys looked at each other.

“He’s slowin’ us down,” one mumbled.

“Yeah fuck ’im,” the other said.

The pair took off, leaving Brady to fend for himself.

“Wait, you bastards!” Brady called. He hurried after them, desperate not to be left behind.

The first the Cornishman realised they had company was when the tip of the tracker’s spear skewered him from behind. He saw its tip emerge from his chest before he felt any pain. And what pain he felt was only fleeting as Barega’s nulla nulla smashed his skull, killing him moments after the spear had entered him.

Barega stopped only long enough to retrieve his spear then resumed running after the other two. Behind him, the sound of horses’ hooves told him the soldiers were close by. Ahead of him, he could hear the two Cockneys’ clinking leg irons as they crashed through the undergrowth.

Although less than fifty yards ahead of their pursuers, the surviving escapees had no clue they were about to be captured, or worse. For the moment, they were blissfully unaware of Brady’s untimely end or the fact that their freedom could now be measured in minutes, or less.

The first they realised the game was up was when the sound of the horses reached them. They immediately hid in dense bush and waited, their knives drawn.

Looking through the foliage, they were confused by a series of movements too quick for the eye to follow. Barega moved with such speed and stealth he gave the impression there were two or even three of him.

In the confusion, the younger Cockney moved, revealing his hiding place. It was the last thing he ever did. The tracker’s spear went straight through his throat, pinning him to a tree.

Terrified, the surviving convict took off, running blindly through the trees.

Not for the first time that day, twenty-three-year-old Frank Patterson pondered the wisdom of attempting to escape. In fact, he had regretted his decision almost immediately, but he’d made his choice and had to keep going.

Patterson didn’t see the nulla nulla that flew through the air, striking the back of his head and stunning him.

Barega retrieved his weapon and prepared to finish off the stunned Cockney. He was distracted by the arrival of Hogan and the others. His hesitation gave Patterson time to retrieve the long-bladed hunting knife he’d dropped. Barega brought his nulla nulla down hard, shattering his victim’s forearm and causing him to scream out in agony.

The tracker looked on, amused, as the desperate convict retrieved the fallen knife with his good hand and shaped up to attack again.

To Patterson’s surprise, Barega suddenly lay prone on the earth. The young Cockney glanced up to see the two soldiers with Hogan had their muskets pointed his way. Two shots rang out as a single volley. Such was his shock Patterson fell to the ground, convinced he was dead. It took him a moment or to realise he’d been spared. He looked up to see the soldiers were laughing at him.

“Welcome back to the land of the living, lad!” one of the soldiers shouted, prompting more laughter. They’d pulled the same trick on other escapees, aiming their weapons high or wide of their would-be victim, though Patterson wasn’t to know that.

Grinning, the tracker rose and pulled the long-bladed knife from the Cockney’s grasp, claiming it for himself. Such spoils were his as of right. That was the arrangement he’d made with the British. Barega beamed at Hogan who motioned to him to lift the relieved but still shocked survivor to his feet and start marching him back to Moreton Bay.

 

White Spirit (A novel based on a true story)

WHITE SPIRIT (A novel based on a true story)  is exclusive to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/White-Spirit-novel-based-story-ebook/dp/B01LWIRH9J/

 

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To celebrate the successful launch of our new release historical adventure WHITE SPIRIT (A novel based on a true story)  the publisher has reduced the Amazon Kindle ebook price to 99c for a few days.

 

White Spirit (A novel based on a true story)

For lovers of action, romance and adventure.

 

Based on the remarkable true story of Irish convict John Graham, WHITE SPIRIT   is an epic historical adventure set in 19th Century Australia. After escaping from the notorious Moreton Bay Penal Settlement, Graham finds refuge with the Kabi, a tribe of Aborigines who eventually accept him as one of their own.

 

See what Amazon Australia Top 50 reviewer Todd Simpson has to say about this novel:  ★★★★★ A very good book. Both Lance and James Morcan have done an amazing job with this incredible story. Being based on a true story, made it that much more interesting…”

 

WHITE SPIRIT (A novel based on a true story)  is exclusive to Amazon. To see all the reviews for this book go to: https://www.amazon.com/White-Spirit-novel-based-story-ebook/dp/B01LWIRH9J/

99c price promotion ends December 20 PST.

 

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