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Read more about some of the main themes of Idriess's work, his Biographer, and more:

The Torres Strait Islands and Indigenous Australians

A subject Idriess returned to many times. Torres Strait is the narrow waterway between Australia's Cape York Peninsula and New Guinea. During the earlier years of European settlement in Australia, the indigenous people of these islands fiercely rejected occupation or even visits. Europeans shipwrecked on the islands faced an uncertain fate; many were killed outright, as all white people were believed to be "Lamars" - spirits of the dead. Shipwrecked Lamars were particularly feared, as they were believed to have power to wreak catastrophe if allowed on land.

Very rarely, a white person was thought by some chance resemblance to be the spirit of a lost son or daughter, and was spared. Strange indeed was the life they now found themselves living. If they were able to adapt, they could live on the islands for years. Idriess's books on the islands are drawn from both history and legends, and are carefully woven into a coherent story. Some of the characters were real; some "composite"; Idriess usually carefully noted which were which. In order to produce a narrative flow, there were embellishments based on his detailed research.

One unusual topic covered in these books is the "booya stones". These were kept by the Zogo-le (priests) of the Islands. They emitted an intense blue light, and had a number of apparently magical properties. Idriess speculated that they were lumps of pure radium. When Europeans reached the Islands, the priests hid the booya stones and their location is now unknown.

Idriess also wrote extensively on indigenous mainland Australians. He had an unusually good understanding and acceptance of indigenous culture and life compared to his contemporaries. His writing was guided by the belief of the time that Australia's indigenous people were literally dying out, and would disappear completely. Idriess was driven by a need to chronicle their existence and culture before it was too late. A number of his books in this field are works of detailed social anthropology.

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Beverley Eley - Idriess's Biographer

Information about Beverley Eley from OzLit is as follows:

"Beverley Eley, Idriess's biographer, was publicity and advertising manager for Angus & Robertson Bookshops in the 1970s, and was later marketing manager for the publisher Cassell Australia Collier Macmillan before becoming marketing manager and spokesperson for the Australian Consumers Association for several years. She was born in Sydney and now lives with her husband John on a small holding at Gleniffer in Northern New South Wales, Australia."

Beverley Eley also wrote The Book of David (1996), a biography of pianist David Helfgott, the subject of the movie Shine.

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Trivia

  • There is an Idriess Street, in Oxley, Queensland, 4075, Australia.
  • In an interview at Amazon.com, the author Rowlands Ronald stated that he is "a book collector. I have approximately 3,500 books in my home and garage. Mainly non-fiction, Australiana, (I have an excellent collection of Ion Idriess and Frank Clune)..."
  • There is a Red Chief Motel in Gunnedah, 2380, NSW, named after the central character of the Idriess book set in that area.
  • There are organised walking tours available in the Atherton area of Queensland, following in Idriess's footsteps in his tin-mining days.
  • Idriess was sufficiently popular that people were named after characters in his books. I received an email from Nareen on 14 Nov 1998, whose parents "discovered my name in Ion Idriess's book The Red Chief."
 
  Updated: 6 Sep 2004 To Top    
 

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