Jack Fairley: romance hero

imageWhen I first saw the cover of Snowy River Man, I was thrilled. That’s my hero: Jack Fairley! Just as I’d imagined him.

The character of Jack was inspired, in part, by my uncles, Jack and Rody. They were wheat-sheep farmers from the Riverina district. Both rode horses. Both were kind, solid men with a strength borne of long years battling drought, floods and fluctuating prices. Both had big families, too, like ours, and a special way with children.

Although I grew up on Sydney’s northern beaches, like a lot of city kids I’d visit my country cousins during school holidays. I loved staying on the farm, especially at Jack and Rita’s. That’s where I discovered the family “library” and snuck away to read ancient books like Mary Grant Bruce’s Billabong series. But there was plenty of outdoor activity, too. Rita taught us to ride and we’d help round up mobs of sheep. As we got older, Jack let us drive his ute while he stood on the trailer at the back to distribute feed, or stopped to treat a fly-blown sheep. Back at the farm, we watched, fascinated, as he strung up a wether, cut its throat and slit its belly, letting the farm dogs snap up the bloody entrails. He enjoyed our horrified reaction. “You like eating lamb’s fry, don’t you?” he asked. “Where do you think it comes from? City slickers!”

I can’t remember ever hearing a cross word from Jack. Even that time when I accelerated the ute instead of braking and he fell off the back of the trailer.

Years later I learned that he’d distinguished himself as a soldier before he settled down and had a family. He rarely spoke of it, only opening up when one of my nephews went off to Afghanistan. Jack was a modest man. I like to think my hero Jack Fairley shares some of his good qualities.

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This is the fifth in a series of guest posts I wrote when Snowy River Man was first published. It first appeared on The Neverending Bookshelf.

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Snowy River Man’s setting: the inspiration

On the road out to Angler’s Reach on Lake Eucumbene (where Murray Tom has his cabin)

When Snowy River Man was published in February, I wrote a number of author spotlights for various blogs. Over the next little while, I’ll be reblogging a few of them here.

The first is about the inspiration for the setting.

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When I was a born, there was a record heatwave. Mum and Dad packed us kids into a bus and we all headed south to Jindabyne where it was cooler. Along the way, we stopped at Lake Eucumbene on the northern reaches of the Snowy River Shire.

In the early 1960s, to make way for the lake as part of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme, the old town of Adaminaby was flooded. As residents moved to higher ground, they left pubs, churches, shops and houses to the rising tide. My family must have talked about that sunken town for years afterwards. Or maybe I read about it for a school project. I don’t know. But the idea of a ghost town hidden underwater haunted me.

Years later as an adult when I visited the site, and saw the skeletal remains of gum trees reaching out of the water, I had the weirdest sense. It was as if I could see through the depths to the old town – to a time of bullock carts, prospectors and settlers, and before that, to the indigenous tribes who had inhabited the area. I knew I had to use that setting in a story. Eventually, the story became Snowy River Man, which features a child who is fascinated with the lake and what lies beneath.

Snowy River Man starts with a country rodeo and grazier Jack Fairley riding a brumby stallion. By the time he finishes his ride and looks around, his six-year-old son Nick has disappeared…

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A version of this post first appeared on All the Books I Can Read blog and is reblogged here with permission.