Author talk 6 May 2015

Another Book Shop Closes April 11 2014, 0 Comments

Another long established bookshop on the south-side of Sydney has announced that it is going to close its doors. This is about the fifth store to do so since I released 'Saltwater people of the Fatal Shore' just over a year ago. It was not the book that caused these events, but a result of high rents and the real reason that people on that side of the harbour are not buying books anymore ... well, not from bookstores at least. This is the strange thing about publishing. The Saltwater People book on the northern beaches has been a great success and is now out of print. to do local history books like this flies in the face of good business sense but the northern beaches community has embraced it. I am very sorry to say that, with a few exceptions (such as lovely Bundeena), the southern beaches seem disinterested in the companion book (recent winner of the Frank Broeze biennial National History Prize) telling the story of their coastline. I don't get it, but am afraid it may be a sign of what the future looks like. Here is review from the History Teachers Association news sheet:


Saltwater People of the Fatal Shore

Just occasionally you are sent a book to review that is quite simply magnificent. There is simply no other way to describe this history of Sydney’s southern beaches from South Head to Royal National Park. It is a combination of illustrations and words that should be a compulsory addition to every school library in the country.

 By covering the region across all its human occupation, Saltwater People of the Fatal Shore is an essential addition to our understanding of our indigenous history as well as an invaluable contributor to the emerging and much needed field of serious cultural history.

 As a people, Australians, regardless of skin colour, ethnicity or origin, have flocked to our coasts. We would like to think of ourselves as a water people, and in this wonderful book, John Ogden takes us on a deep journey towards understanding that essential obsession. This is a companion to the equally magnificent Saltwater People of the Broken Bays, which covers the geographical area from North Head to Barrenjoey. Taken as a set, they will ensure students are captivated by history, as they explore continuity and change across cultures and time.

 It is difficult to convey in words the printing quality, the richness and exquisite beauty of the illustrations, and the compelling accessibility of the text. Obviously this is too precious a resource to become a class set, but I was serious when suggesting every school library should own at least one copy. What other book could take you and your students from an 1813 depiction of Aboriginal men wearing body paint, carrying spears and shields to a 1925 police photo of the fabled Tilly Devine to a photo of the Abberton brothers in four pages? There’s the birth of surfing as a major leisure activity, Royal visits and biographies of indigenous figures such as Maroot that will enable to move your students beyond the usual brief textbook coverage.

 Ultimately that is perhaps this book’s greatest gift—a depth of understanding for both you and your students. Such is its breathtaking beauty that it would be a perfect for a loved one that understands what the coastline means to us, but I think it is much more important than that. John Ogden has produced a compelling narrative that is supported by an amazing array of primary resources. In the hands of History teachers and students this book will help everyone move to a deeper understanding of who we are and why we are. I know that’s a grand claim, but I stand by it.

 This is a magnificent book, an essential book that everyone studying in high school should have the opportunity to immerse themselves in. Don’t just take my word for it, go to: and go through the 35 page preview. But remember, no matter how good it looks there, it is a much, much richer experience holding the real book in your hand!

Bernie Hewitt, History Teachers Association