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Part 1: Books from 1927 to 1945

Stories of Jack's own early days, biography, histories of the people of the islands and northern Australia. War stories and a plan for Australia's future.

  Madman's Island Madman's Island (Fiction version) 1927

Idriess' first book. The story of the author's experiences marooned on an island off the north Queensland coast, with a friend who was unable to cope with the situation, and attempted to murder Idriess. It was believed at the time that a factual book on anything Australian would be of no interest, so Idriess was encouraged to write it as a fictional account. This is now a very rare version. Published by Cornstalk Publications. All other Idriess titles were published by Angus and Robertson.

    Madman's Island (Non-fiction) 1938

Although this title was never re-issued as a "real" story until 1938, it was always listed as the first Idriess title.

  Lasseter's Last Ride Lasseter's Last Ride An epic of Central Australian gold discovery 1931

All the then-known facts of the ill-starred Lasseter, and the gold reef that has still never been found. There is some controversy about Lasseter's fate, and the veracity of his claim. His diaries kept until his apparent death are reproduced here. Dick Smith, Australian entrepreneur and adventurer, attempted to locate the legendary reef in recent times. His account, and some of the history, was recounted in the first edition of Smith's Australian Geographic magazine (now a collector's item itself). Smith was not particularly kind towards Idriess' account.

    Flynn of the Inland 1932

The classic tale of the founder of the unique Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service, still the major medical service to a large area of remote Australia. Flynn also pioneered the development of accessible two-way radio for the remote residents of "the Outback", providing access to education as well as medical services. He started as one man on a camel, and founded the Australian Inland Mission (AIM), then an arm of the Presbyterian Church. He single-handedly changed the face of life in the Outback. Idriess's account of Flynn's life is probably the best-known of all Idriess works.

    The Desert Column Leaves from the diary of an Australian trooper in Gallipoli, Sinai and Palestine 1932

Based on Idriess's own experience, a view from the trenches of one of the defining moments of Australia's identity - the First World War battle of Gallipoli. Idriess went on to see action in the desert, before being repatriated with shrapnel wounds. He also writes of his own proposed improvements to weapons. "A classic of Australian Light Horse literature. Idriess, an author, explorer and soldier, served with the 5th Australian Light Horse and was wounded both at Gallipoli and Palestine."

An unusual experience is mentioned in chapter 30 of the book. When riding back through the desert from a battle, "Hundreds of men saw the queerest visions - weird looking soldiers were riding beside them, many were mounted on strange animals... The column rode through towns with lights gleaming from the shuttered windows of quaint buildings... There were tall stone temples with marble pillars and swinging oil lamps..." An article at The Fortean Times Web site discusses this story.

    Men of the Jungle 1932

A story of Idriess's own experiences with his "mates", tin mining and prospecting in the Australian north. Refer also My Mate Dick.

    Gold Dust and Ashes The romantic story of the New Guinea goldfields 1933

Once again, a story of pioneers - the New Guinea gold prospectors and miners, from the turn of the century. This book tells of the early development of the Bulolo alluvial goldfield by Australian prospectors, and the biography of C. J. Levien, the developer of reef mining. The early stories of aviation in New Guinea are also told.

    Drums of Mer 1933

The first of a number of Idriess's stories drawn from the history and legends of the Torres Strait Islands to the north of Australia. This title tells the fate of shipwrecked Europeans among the islands. The characters are composites, based on the histories of a number of people. The "Author's Note" in the introduction carefully distinguishes the fact from the embellishment. Later titles in this vein tell more specific stories.

    The Yellow Joss and other tales 1934

Idriess's only collection of short stories. This collection ranges across most of his favourite topics - the North of Australia, the tropical islands and gold prospecting.

    Man Tracks With the mounted police in Australian wilds 1935

The "tracking" skills of indigenous Australians are legendary. Even during the times when these people were believed to be less than human, they were valued for locating people; in this case, mostly people believed to be criminals. One of a number of books on the Kimberleys - the vast, sparsely populated area to the far north of Western Australia, the size of the UK. See also Over the Range and Outlaws of the Leopolds.

    The Cattle King The story of Sir Sidney Kidman 1936

Commissioned by the Kidman family, the story of the rise from rags to riches of a pioneering cattle station owner. Kidman devised a chain of huge cattle stations across the country as a means of avoiding local droughts. Starting with one horse, after a number of failures, he finally achieved this dream.

  Forty Fathoms Deep Forty Fathoms Deep Pearl divers and sea rovers in Australian seas 1937

The rich tapestry of life in the multi-cultural pearl-diving community of Broome, in north-west Western Australia.

    Over the Range Sunshine and shadow in the Kimberleys 1937

Some editions titled Over the Ranges. Another book on the Kimberleys. Much of the story concerns indigenous Australian "outlaws". See also Man Tracks and Outlaws of the Leopolds.

  Lightning Ridge Lightning Ridge The land of black opals 1940

One of a number of books based on Idriess's own prospecting experience. The pioneering days of Lightning Ridge, the still-prosperous opal field of New South Wales.

    Headhunters of the Coral Sea Australian Boys Adventure series 1940

A story of the Torres Strait Islands, perhaps in a lighter vein that the others.

  The Great Trek The Great Trek One of the greatest feats in Australian exploration - Australian Boys Adventure series 1940

In July 1864, Captain John Jardine, a police magistrate from Rockhampton, arrived by ship at Somerset Bay near the tip of Cape York Peninsula to establish a settlement, "Somerset". On the 11th October 1864, Captain Jardine's two eldest sons Frank & Alec set out from Carpentaria Downs Station, near Rockhampton, with 250 head of cattle and 41 horses. They finally arrived at Somerset on 2 March 1865. They were aged in their teens and twenties when they undertook this amazing trip. Most of the cattle were lost on the way, but they completed the trip. Somerset was planned to be a new Singapore, on the tip of Cape York. There is little left of it today.

Another book about Frank Jardine's time at Somerset - Too many spears - was written by Peter Pinney. This is effectively a sequel, and written in a similar style to Idriess's.

A facsimile edition of the Jardine's expedition journals is reviewed at the 4WD History pages at ecars.

    Nemarluk: King of the Wilds Australian Boys Adventure series 1941

Nemarluk was an indigenous Australian "outlaw" of the Kimberleys in northern Western Australia. He was jailed at Fannie Bay in Darwin, Northern Territory.

    The Great Boomerang 1941

Idriess's version of one of the great Australian "schemes" for developing the Australian outback. The plan was to divert Queensland rivers into Lake Eyre and other dry lake beds in South Australia's north-east to provide water for the parched inland areas of the country. The scheme is similar to the Bradfield scheme, created by the Brisbane engineer who designed and supervised the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The scale of this scheme is probably not dissimilar from the successful Snowy Mountains Scheme, commenced over 50 years ago, which provided water from the Snowy River to the irrigation areas of the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers.

    The Silent Service Action stories of the ANZAC Navy 1944

Written with T.M. Jones. A story of submarine warfare.

    Horrie the Wog-dog With the AIF in Egypt, Greece, Crete and Palestine 1945

Some editions possibly titled Dog of the Desert. The story of a mascot of Australian forces during the desert war. A title probably now considered to be somewhat politically incorrect!

  Updated: 9 Feb 2005 To Top    

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