Award-winning journalist and author, Paul Daley was in conversation with Peter Fray on his new book, Jesustown, a gripping multi-generational saga about Australian frontier violence and cultural theft, and the myths that stand between us and history's unpalatable truths.
Morally bereft popular historian, Patrick Renmark, flees London in disgrace after the accidental death of his infant son. With one card left to play, he reluctantly takes a commission to write the biography of his legendary pioneering adventurer-anthropologist grandfather. With no enthusiasm and even less integrity, Patrick travels to Jesustown, the former mission town in remote Australia where his grandfather infamously brokered 'peace' between the Indigenous custodians of the area and the white constabulary. He hasn't been back there since he was a teenager when a terrible confrontation with his grandfather made him vow never to return.
Of course nothing is as it seems or as Patrick wants it to be. Unable to lay his own son to rest, Patrick must re-examine the legacy of his renowned grandfather and face the repercussions of his actions on subsequent generations. Will what he finds bring him redemption or add to the vault of family secrets and terrible guilt he keeps uncovering?
In Jesustown, Paul Daley explores poignantly, and with gentle humour, an Australian foundation myth that omits too much bitter truth about frontier violence against proudly resistant Indigenous people - the massacres and violent dispossession, and the hoarding of their cultural property including the shameful white theft of ancestral human remains.
'A challenging statement about the mythology of Australian colonial history. It confronts the hard questions with intense sensitivity and a smattering of humour.' Professor Brownyn Carlson, Department of Indigenous Studies, Macquarie University
'At long last, here is a novel that looks Australia's brutal, murky frontier-one that left generations traumatised-straight in the eye.' Professor. Mark McKenna. University of Sydney
Paul Daley, who has won two Walkley Awards, has for more than a decade focused his non-fiction on the yawning gaps in the story of Australia's national birth and identity, and on the imperative of refocusing on the Indigenous historical experience. His non-fiction books have been shortlisted for the Prime Minister's History Prize, the Manning Clark House Awards, the Nib and the ACT Book of the Year.
Peter Fray is Crikey's editor-in-chief and managing editor of Private Media. He is formerly the editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald, the editor of the SMH, The Sunday Age and The Canberra Times and the deputy editor of The Australian and The Sun-Herald. In 2013, he started PolitiFact Australia, the country's first stand-alone fact-checking website.
Sally Pryor, the features editor of the Canberra Times, gave the vote of thanks
This event was in association with Harry Hartog Bookshop.