21st Anniversary Edition
Rose Pickles knew something bad was going to happen. Something really bad, this time. She itched in her awful woollen bathing suit and watched her brothers and a whole mob of other kids chucking bombies off the end of the jetty in the bronze evening light. Fishing boats were coming in along the breakwater for the night, their diesels throbbing like blood. Back under the Norfolk pines gulls bickered on the grass and fought for the scraps of uneatenlunches that schoolkids had thrown there. The sun was in the sea. She stood up and called.
Ted! Chub! Cam, it's late!
Ted, who was a year older than her, pretended not to hear, and he came up the ladder dripping, pigeontoed, and dived off again, holding one knee, hitting the water so that he made an artillery report – ker-thump – and a great gout of water rose up at her feet.
She got up and left them there. They can do what they like, she thought. Rose was a slender, brown girl, with dark straight hair, cut hard across her forehead. She was a pretty kid, but not as pretty as her mother. Well, that's what everyone told her. She wasn't vain, but it stuck in her guts, having someone telling you that every day of your life. Probably in a minute or two, when she got home, someone'd tell her again, someone in the public bar or the Ladies' Lounge. They'd be all swilling for closing time and there'd be a great roar of talk, and she'd try to slip upstairs without getting caught up. She wasn't in the mood for it this evening. Yeah, something terrible was up. Not the war, not school, but something to do with her. She didn't know if she could bear any more bad luck. In one year they'd lost the house, the old man had been through two jobs and all the savings, and now they were living in Uncle Joel's pub.
Rose had never felt a shadow like this before, but she'd heard the old boy go on about it often enough. Well, she wondered, I bet he's squirmin out there now, out on the islands, feelin this dark luck comin on. She stopped under the trees and looked back out over Champion Bay. The boys were silhouettes now. She still heard their laughter. The sea was turning black. Yeah, he'd be squirmin. And if he wasn't, he should be.
Sam Pickles was a fool to get out of bed that day, and he knew it ever after. In the sagging, hammocky cot he caught the scent of his father, the invalid port and tobacco, the closeness in the sheets of him, and he woke with a grunt. He jerked upright and looked about the dormitory hut. Other men were sleeping in the half-light before dawn with their salt-white boots paired beneath them, their photos and empty bottles awry on bedside benches, and another hard stupid day of labour hanging ahead of them in the twilight. Sam knew, as anybody will know, that when you wake up on a summer morning fifty miles out to sea on an island made entirely of birdshit and fag-ends, where only yesterday the rubbershod foot of a Japanese soldier was washed up, and you turn in your bed and smell your dead father right beside you, then you know the shifty shadow of God is lurking. And Sam knew damnwell that when the shifty shadow is about, you roll yourself a smoke and stay under the sheet anddon't move till you see what happens. When the foreman comes in to kick your arse, you pull the sheet up over your head and tell him you're sick enough to die, to give up women, gambling, life itself. And if you're smart you'll let him blow and bellow, but you'll hang onto that bed till you hear whose missus is dead, or who's won the football raffle, or what poor bastard's the proud father of twins, or whose mob it is that's won the war. You stay right there till the shadow's fallen across whoever's lucky or unlucky enough, and then when it's all over, you go out and get on with your business. Unless you're just plain bloody stupid and thinkyou can tell which way the shadow's fallen. Then you'll think: nah, this one hasn't got me number on it. Today's not me day. It's someone else's. And you may or may not be right.
Sam Pickles, who thought today wasn't his day to be worried, and who happened to be dead wrong, just waited for the odour of his old man to leave him, and then cocked his head, whistled through his teeth at the shiftiness of it all, and slid off the cot. Tiny crabs scuttered across the boards away from him. He went and stood on the stoop and saw the ocean, flat as sheetmetal. He headed for the thunderbox with gulls, terns, shags and cockroaches watching him come. The toilet was built on a catwalk hanging off the edge of the island. The seat was only eight feet above the water on a low tide, and on a high tide you were liable to experience what some welltravelled soul called nature's bidet. Or a shark might go for your heart the long way.
Out there, with his bum hanging over the still lagoon, Sam Pickles told himself today was just a day – more work, more sweat, and salt, diesel, guano. Some talk of the war, maybe, and a game of cards in the evening. He looked at his hands which were white with work. Every time he looked at them he knew he was a small man, small enough to be the jockey his father once wanted him to be. What a thing, hoping for smallness in a son. Well, he was small, in more ways than he cared to think about, but Sam never was a jockey.
He rolled a smoke and looked out beyond the Nissen huts and the water tower to where the dozers and trucks and oilsmeared engine blocks were waiting. A couple of scurvy-looking dogs sniffed about at the perimeter of the compound, finding leftover crayfish and abalone from last night's meal. Well, he'd just have to square the day away. It was a dream, that's all.
At the long trough outside his hut, Sam washed in the cool tank water, and as though to arm himself against such a shifty start to the day, he shaved as well. No one else was up yet. There was nothing to distract him. He got thinking about the old man again. When he looked at himself in the shard of mirror hanging from the water tank, that's who he saw.
Sam's father Mery had been a water diviner. He went round all his life with a forked stick and a piece of fence wire, and when he was sober he found water and fed the family on the proceeds. He was a soft, sentimental sort of man, and he never beat Sam. The boy went with him sometimes to watch that stick quiver and tremble like a terrier's snout and see the old man tugging at his beard as he sang 'Click Go The Shears' and tracked back and forth across the sandy coastal plain. Sam followed him, loved him, listened to him talk. Hebelieved deeply in luck, the old man, though he was careful never to say the word. He called it the shifty shadow of God. All his life he paid close attention to the movements of thatshadow. He taught Sam to see it passing, feel it hovering, because he said it was those shifts that governed a man's life and it always paid to be ahead of the play. If the chill of itsshade felt good, you went out to meet it like a droughted farmer goes out, arms wide, to greet the raincloud, but if you got that sick, queer feeling in your belly, you had to stay put and do nothing but breathe and there was a good chance it would pass you by. It was as though luck made choices, that it could think. If you greeted it, it came to you; if you shunned it, it backed away.
Queer, now he thought of it, but Sam had spent his boyhood sharing a bed with the old man. And he was an old man, fifty, when Sam was born. At six every evening, his father retired with the Geraldton Gazette and a bottle, and Sam climbed in beside him to doze against that wheezy chest, hear the rustle of a turning page, smell the pipesmoke and the port. As a general tonic, the old man drank a bottle of Penfolds Invalid each evening; he said it gave him sweet sleep.
Sam's mother slept in the narrow child's bed in the next room. She was a simple, clean, gloomy woman, much younger than her husband. Even as a boy, he barely thought about her. She was good to him, but she suffered for her lifelong inability to be a man.
One morning Sam woke to a creeping chill and found the old man dead beside him. His mouth was open and his gums exposed. His mother came in to find him stuffing the old boy's dentures in. He stopped rigid, they exchanged looks, and it appeared, with the upper plate left the way it was, that the old man had died eating a small piano. The townspeople wrote fond obituaries about Mery Pickles, water diviner. In the end they named the racetrack after him in tribute to his finding water there, and probably for having made it his second home. Without doubt, his faithful and lifelong loss to the bookies had probably underwritten the place for a good twenty years.
People had loved him. He was poor and foolish and people will always have a place in their hearts for the harmless. He loved to gamble, for it was another way of finding water, a divination that set his whole body sparking. Sam Pickles grew up on that racetrack, hanging around the stables or by the final turn where the Patterson's Curse grew knee high and the ground vibrated with all that passing flesh. Old Mery had Sam down as a rider. He was small and there was something about it in his blood, but when Mery died the dream went with him. A gambler's wife has ideas of her own. Fools breed a hardness in others they can't know. Sam Pickles tried to knuckle down to his mother's way. He came to love labour the way his father never did, but there was always that nose for chance he'd inherited, an excitement inrandom shifts, the sudden leaping out of the unforeseen. He did badly at school and was apprenticed to a butcher. Then one day, with the shifty shadow upon him, he shot through,leaving his mother without a son, the butcher without an arse to kick, and a footy team without a snappy rover for whom the ball always fell the right way. A lot of things hadhappened since that day. His luck had waxed and waned. Like a gambler he thought the equation was about even, though any plant, animal or mineral could have told him he was on a lifelong losing streak. Plenty of queer things had occurred, but he'd never before woken up smelling the old man. It could only mean something big. Even as a boy he'd known that his father's soul had touched him on the way up. He knew that meant something big and quiet and scary as hell.
Men were stirring and cursing now, and the cook was spitting out behind the mess hall. They were hard men here – crims, fighters, scabs, gamblers – but the government didn't seem to give a damn who they were as long as they filled quotas. They were here to mine guano for phosphate, and there was no shortage of that. Some places, a man could get thighdeep in the stuff if he wanted to. Dozers scooped it, trucked it and dumped it on barges. In Sam's hut some wag had painted the motto on the door: Give em shit. And that's what they did. Sam didn't mind the work. It was better for his asthma than the wheat dust on the mainland wharf, where he'd been foreman. And the money was good. Right now he needed the dough, what with a wife and three kids to feed. In a single bad year he'd gambled away everything he'd ever owned and he figured he'd see the war out hauling birdcrap to make up. A man could always recover his losses.
These islands were the sort of place to put the wind up a man, though. He knew about all those murders and mutinies. The Batavia business. There'd been madness out on these sea rocks since whitefellas had first run into them. Under the night sky they glowed white and when you heard some blokes had found a man's foot in a rubber boot, you wondered whether you weren't living on some outpost of Hell itself. His cousin Joel had worked here as a crayfisherman before he made his pile on the horses. Joel said sometimes you heard the sound of men strangling women at night, but in the morning you always told yourself it was the birds nesting.
Give em shit, boys! the cook yelled as they left the mess hut.
Sam got down to the boat with a full belly and waited for his partner Nobby. Keep the day ahead of you, that's what the old man used to say. Nobby rolled up to the wheelhouse and belched. He was a fat brand of man, balding, with bleached earhair and a great capacity for hatred. He had an ongoing grievance with everybody, all forms of life. As he came in, he made a sturdy beginning to the morning.
That fucken Wilson, I tellya
Sam pushed past him and went astern to cast off the line. A man'd be hardly blamed for murderin that barsted in is sleep
He started the winch to draw an empty barge alongside.
It was Nobby who made the work hard. The sound of his voice was like something grinding away without oil or maintenance, and Sam had learnt to think across the top of it, to look into the water and think of coral trout, jewfish, baldchin, plan another night's fishing, conjure up the sight of himself with a beer by the fire and a drumful of boiling trays. That's what he was thinking of when the cable caught his glove and his hand was taken from him. His fingers were between the cogs before he could draw breath, and he felt his knuckles break in a second. Madness rose behind his eyes as Nobby fumbled with the gears, cursing him, cursing the winch, till he got him free and Sam tore the glove off, squealing, as four fingers fell to the deck and danced like half a pound of live prawns.
Sam was aloft. His body vibrated. Two men in flying suits played cards on his chest. His hand was in a block of ice. The airmen were playing gin rummy.
Orright, mate? We'll land in a few minutes, doan worry.
I'm not worried, he shouted back over the sound of the engines. So this was what a Catalina looked like on the inside.
He thought he'd tell them a cautionary thing or two on the subject of luck, but one of them slapped down a card so hard that Sam felt the reverberations right down his arm and he fainted fair away.
From up here, with hindsight, you can see into every room in the town of Geraldton, through roof and fence and curtain, down alley and beach, along bars and breakwaters, and if you look hard enough you'll see a schoolgirl hurrying home early to the back of the old pub to fetch her mother to the hospital. She clangs up the fire escape, pigeontoed but athletic. The rear of the pub looks like the back of a movie set but from the front, the place looks the real business.
Rose Pickles hammers along the corridor past numbered rooms till she reaches 36. It's locked. She calls out to her mother but there is no reply, though she detects an intake ofbreath from behind the door.
Now that it's all in the past, anyone can see the woman astride the bed with her dress up. The sweat on her skin. The Catalina pilot with his belt undone and his hat on the table. You can smell the beer on their breaths, you get so close. So close, you hear the blood in their fattened hearts. And out in the corridor you witness the terrible boiling dark in the schoolgirl's head, the confusion, the feeling, the colour she can't put a name to.
Her two brothers will be here soon. She goes out and waits on the fire escape. Afternoon sun cuts it way down from the reservoir of blue. Rose's plaits tug the back of her head. She feels tough all of a sudden, and grown up. The boys can find their own way, she thinks, they can all find their own way. She batters down the fire escape. The metal tolls after she's gone.
Dolly Pickles was a damn goodlooking woman. Anyone in town would tell you so. In some pubs they would know you so, and send a wave of winks down the bar that would always wash up at the far reaches of the Ladies' Lounge. As she headed down to the hospital, she turned a few heads in the street and took in the salt breeze. When this town didn't smell of salt it smelt of phosphate and wheat and rotting crayfish. She liked the stink of salt. Right now, with the rime of sex on her, she smelt of salt herself. Oh, those Yanks are somethin, she thought; Jesus Christ, they're somethin.
Kids were bombing off the jetty as she passed under the Norfolk pines. The water was a flat bed of sunlight and the brownslick bodies of children bashed through into its blue underbelly. Leaning against a fence, a man shelled prawns and eyed her off. He wiped vinegar from his chin and smiled. She gave him a piss-off-useless flick of her hips and went on to the hospital.
Rose and the boys were there. The boys left off whispering by the window and stood straight. They were rangy, sundark kids. Rose was by the bed. She didn't look up. Sam was asleep with his white fist bound up in a salute or a warning – she didn't know which. A private room in the new wing. Government money, she thought. We couldn't afford this.
Four fingers and the top of his thumb, Rose said. Christ.
Dolly saw it was his right hand. His bloody working hand. A man could hardly pick his nose with a thumb and half a pointer. They were done for; stuffed, cactus. Thank you, Lady Luck, you rotten slut. It was probably time now to pack a bag and buy a ticket, but hell, there was the kids and everything. The whole town knowing. How would she live?
He bin awake?
The boys, Ted and Chub, scratched themselves and pulled at their shorts.
We go down the jetty? He's not gunna wake up. S'posed to be in school, youse.
We'll be back dreckly. Dad might be awake, eh. Oh, ya mays well.
Don't drown from cryin, Rose said, from the bedside.
Dolly stood in the room with her daughter. You had to watch this kid. She was getting to be a clever little miss. And she was Sam's through and through. She was hot in the face like she was holding something back. Dolly wandered what she knew. She's a kid. I'm a woman. The only thing we've got in common these days is a useless man. Dolly'd always gone for useless ones. But this was the living end.
The room smelt of new paint and phenyle. Dolly tried to spot a mirror but there was none.
The woman and the daughter do not speak. The crippled man does not stir. The breeze comes in the window and stops the scene from turning into a painting.
After her mother left, Rose sat by the bedside and watched him sleep. She hated him sometimes, he was so hopeless. At times she wanted to hit him, to pick up a lump of four-betwo and snot him with it. He was a grown man and yet he didn't have a pinch of sense in him. But he wasn't mean, like the old girl was turning mean. She had to put up with all these catastrophes, so maybe she had a right, but the old man still made you love him. They'd had good times together, all of them, but something sour was coming into everything, and it'd been happening all year. Everything was falling to bits. When the old man was home they fought and swore. The old girl hammered him night and day and he went out and lost money. Even now she didn't know whether to put a cool hand on his brow or shake him by the throat. He looked so pale and busted. Oh, he'd made her laugh so many times, making a dill of himself to make her happy. He remembered what she liked, he told her adult things sometimes, and stories from his stockriding days. Rose saw through him; she knew he was always going to be useless, but she loved him. Hell, he was her father.
Sam began to snore. Rose pressed her lips together and waited.
No one in the pub had a conversation that night that didn't somehow wander into the territory of the Pickles family and their doomed run of luck. They had to do it when the publican wasn't about because he was a loyal relation. They wondered aloud about Sam's future, and the evening was kept alive with conjecture. Luck was something close to any drinker's heart here at the Eurythmic. The place was built and bought on it, named after the great horse that brought it. A photo hung above the bar of the dark gleaming horse with its white diamond brow staring out at them, as if reminding them of his beneficence. The brash, hearty talk rose into the residential rooms at the top of the broad banistered staircase. Rose and the boys listened to it until the closing swill got under way, and when the place was quiet they slippeddownstairs to the big dining room and its smells of steak and cabbage.
Alone on her bed in 36, Dolly dreams.
A faint breeze lifts her dress as she approaches the man by the fence with the prawns. He gives her a gaptoothed smile and she stops him. Children drop like jellybabies into the mouth of the sea. She takes a prawn, holds it in front of the man's red nose, rubs it against his lips and takes it away. She puts her tongue out and rests the prawn on her tongue, draws it slowly into her mouth, and bites down. She cries out, and spits it into the man's lap. It's a human finger. There's blood. She spits again and her front tooth lands on the man's shirt and he scrambles up and knocks her to the grass and forces his tongue into her mouth. She feels their tongues meeting through the gaps in their teeth, vinegar between her legs.
For a week Sam Pickles lay in bed and listened to the fans stir the soupy summer air. School was starting up again and the beach was quiet, but in the afternoons when the southerlyblew, he could hear kids bombing off the jetty and shrilling like gulls, setting the loose boards rattling as they ran. He knew his kids'd be there with the rest of them, and maybethey'd be down there at night with heavy lines under the lights, waiting for samsonfish like the others. The days were long and he heard them out. He heard the jangle and crash of the wharf; the wind in the Norfolk pines, the clack of heels in the street, rattles and moans down the ward. He listened instead of looking because everything hurt to look at: the juicy fat bumof the nurse who changed his dressing, the sideways, preoccupied look on Dolly's face when she visited, the angry bloodcrust on the stumps where his fingers had been. Therewas no use looking anymore. It all said the same thing.
At night the lighthouse divided up the dark, and he let himself watch it because it was just time slipping away.
One day a parcel came from the Abrolhos Islands, and the nurse with the juicy bum opened it for him and gasped. It was a preserve jar. In it, swimming in alcohol, were four fingers and the nub of a thumb. Someone had pasted a label on the glass which read: SAM'S PICKLES. He stared at it, then at the nurse, and laughed like a wounded dog. The nurse just looked at him lying there all gauzed and pale and handsome, laughing at his own fingers in a jar, and she wondered if he wasn't the most stupid bugger she'd ever met in her life.
When Sam came home from the hospital, Dolly had to say goodbye to the Catalina pilot and the smell of his cologne. The two rooms at the pub seemed crowded again, and the kids hardly came home except to eat and sleep. Dolly spent the days tidying up, sometimes even helping the cleaning girls to make beds in the other rooms. She couldn't stand the sight of Sam sitting in the chair by the window with his stump on the sill. That was enough to make her busy.
Afternoons, she pulled a few beers for Joel to show she was still grateful for the roof over their heads, and in the evening she drank more than a few to show anyone who cared tonotice that she was still a woman and not a beggar. On Saturdays she went out to the racetrack and watched Joel's horses win, and she looked into the faces of people whostared at her as though they couldn't believe her husband was so unlucky. Men looked at her the way they look at horses. They were bolder now they knew her old man was a crip. She was fed up with this town. She knew it was time to make her own luck and piss off, but she just couldn't get started. It'd be better when the summer was over, when the war was over. There'd be a better time, she knew.
No money came in. No compo. Sam didn't go on the dole. At night she lay beside him in bed, sensed his wiry weight spilling her towards him, and she tilted guiltily his way every time to scramble astride him and pull him into her, watch the harbour lights rise and fall through thewindow as she remembered the girlhood colour of moonlight on a paddock of stubble and the grind of dirt beneath her buttocks.
At the sound of the air raid siren, Rose and the boys sprinted up the beach toward the trenches in the lee of the showers. Rose followed her brothers across the buffalo grass and over the sandbags as they leapt in. The Japs were coming this time. She heard the sound of an aero engine as she landed in the dark end, ankledeep in turds and newspaper. Shecrouched in the stinking mire as a plane went overhead, too high to see. They laughed in disgust until the all clear sounded and they ran back to the water and swam the poop off themselves.
That afternoon, Rose bombed off the end of the jetty and got a jellyfish up her bathers that stung her navel until it looked like she'd been hit with grapeshot. Gutshot, the boys said.
Later the same day Rose and her brothers found the foot of a Jap soldier washed up in a twotoed rubber boot on the back beach. It was so horrible they laughed and ran home. When they told their father, he looked more gutshot than Rose.
In the evening Rose went down to the library with the old man. It was the first time he'd been out since the hospital. He walked slowly beside her as she carried her books and, under the Norfolk pines in the moonlight, she saw him stop and look out over the water. She took his wrist and held it gently.
Doesn't matter, Dad. You're okay.
He looked at her and she saw his teeth in the light of the moon. When he stood beside her at the library looking vague in the presence of all those books, she felt so sorry for him, so ashamed, so maternal.
On the way home a man came out of a pub as they passed and gave Rose four big crayfish.
Bastard, Sam said as they walked on.
He gave us a present, Dad.
I used to work for him. He's hoping I'll stay away and take the jinx with me.
Rose smelt the freshcooked trays damp in her arms and felt tired and sunburnt. The welts from the stinger on her belly felt like a fresh tattoo. She thought she'd fall asleep walking.
Some people are lucky, she heard him say. Joel, he's lucky. Got a good business. His hayburners win. See, I got me ole man's blood. Dead unlucky. Rose yawned. Until your luck changes.
Luck don't change, love. It moves.
In the cool of winter, Sam Pickles began to give up the idea of being a trip, even though he'd grown accustomed, even attached to his new status. Joel set up a serious campaign in July to persuade him, to badger, niggle and nag him to get up out of room 36 and get on with his life.
There's no flamin use droppin yer bundle, he said, you'll just have to cope with six-and-a-half fingers. You need a job and I need a payin guest. Catch my meanin?
Dolly softened a little toward Sam, as though under direction, though she still drifted away at odd times to leave him smoking by the back window and staring out at the Catholics moving on the high ground. She came back vague and cheerful but he couldn't work up any anger. For the kids, the novelty of having an old man who was wounded in the battle for birdshit had seriously faded. Even Rose looked at him these days as though she thought it was time hedid something.
The furious puckered pink scars on Sam's hand subsided round the finger stumps — the colour of a monkey's bum, some wag in the bar suggested. He'd learnt to button himself and roll a fag. Now he could look at the club on the end of his arm without having bile rise in him. He got restless. In the end, Joel ferreted him out. Fishing was the place to start.
One July evening, as the sun dozed in the sea, he found himself standing on a lonely beach casting and winding, clumsy as a child, with the great dunes behind him turning brown. Haze began to shoulder in and render every form fluid. When he baited up, the gang of hooks always slipped sideways in the mulie and ended up buried in his palm. It was frustrating and silly, but he said nothing to Joel, and Joel said nothing back. As dark came, Sam got the hang of it, and found ways to use his bung hand. He got a half decent cast out now and then and was satisfied by the sound of bait hitting the water. They lit the lamp and shared a smoke. Sam began to feel a crawly, exhilarating sensation in his fingers —all his fingers. He burned and tingled and swore he could feel ten fingers gripping that rod. It was a lie, he knew. but he let the feeling take him in the dark. There was something momentous in it, he thought, like it meant something truly big. The shifty shadow, alright. But he was relaxed. He was with Joel whose luck ran like a fountain. He was a lightning rod for luck, that boy.
He wasn't at all surprised to hear Joel grunt and then shout. It was a big strike. Sam brought the lamp alongside and saw Joel's cane rod arching halfway to the water. Line sang out and ran from the reel. They laughed like kids. Joel feinted and pulled, crabbing along the beach, to worry the fish, wear him down. Sam held the gaff and the light close by; he guffawed and stomped and felt like getting sickdrunk and dancing all night. He whooped and hooted as the great silverflanked mulloway came twisting in through the shore-break. Nah, it was no surprise at all. Not with Joel. He put down the light, swung the gaff into the fish's gills anddragged it in. He turned to Joel and there was the surprise. Joel was on his knees clutching his heart. Sam Pickles stood and watched man and fish flap on the sand until neithermoved. He stood there a long time after everything was still, letting it soak in. Joel, his only living relative beyond Dolly and the kids. His lucky, wealthy, generous, last relative. In whose pub his family was living. Sam's feet turned stiff with cold. The facts racked themselves up like snooker balls. He was bereaved. He was unemployed. Minus a working hand. Homeless. Broke.
A sea breeze blew.
Sam tried to decide which he would drag back first, man or fish. It wasn't going to be easy. The lamp burned low. He tried to weigh it up. He sat down to nut it out.
Number Of Pages: 432
Published: 21st March 2012
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 24.2 x 16.4 x 4.7
Weight (kg): 24.2
About the Author
The pre-eminent Australian novelist of his generation, Tim’s literary reputation was established early when his first novel, An Open Swimmer, won the 1981 Australian Vogel Award; his second novel Shallows, won the Miles Franklin Award in 1984; and his third book, Scission, a collection of short stories, won the West Australian Council Literary Award in 1985.
That Eye the Sky was adapted for the stage by Justin Monjo and Richard Roxburgh, and also made into a film. A second film adaptation was made of In the Winter Dark, featuring Brenda Blethyn.
Tim’s fifth novel, Cloudstreet, the story of two working-class families rebuilding their lives, was a huge literary and commercial success. It has been a best seller since its publication in 1991 and was recently voted the most popular Australian novel by the Australian Society of Authors. Awards include National Book Council Banjo Award for Fiction, 1991; West Australian Fiction Award 1991; Deo Gloria Award (UK), 1991 and the 1992 Miles Franklin Award.
Cloudstreet, was adapted for the stage by Nick Enright and Justin Monjo, and played to sell-out houses around Australia and in Zurich, London and Dublin in 1999. It toured internationally again in 2001, playing in London, New York and Washington. Film rights have been bought by Cloudstreet Inc. (USA).
Tim’s 1995 novel The Riders was shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize and has been translated into numerous languages including French, German, Italian, Danish, Dutch, Polish, Greek and Hebrew.
His books for children and teenagers include the series of three books about the 13 year old Lockie Leonard. The first book in the series, Lockie Leonard, Human Torpedo, won the Western Australia Premier's Award for Children's Fiction. It was adapted for the stage by Paige Gibbs and toured nationally with great success. Lockie Leonard, Legend, the most recent in the series, won the Family Award for Children’s Literature. The books are being made into a television series by RB Films.
In 2001 Tim’s novel, Dirt Music, was published to considerable critical acclaim and impressive reviews. The book was shortlisted for the 2002 Mann Booker Prize and won the 2002 Miles Franklin Award, the West Australian Fiction Award and the Christina Stead Award for Fiction. Film rights have been optioned to Phil Noyce’s film company, Rumbalara Films, and Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz are signed to star in the film.
The Turning, published in 2004, was described as At once exquisite and unsettling, brimming with imagery so lush and observations so precise the book is almost incandescent (The Bulletin). The Turning was shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award and won the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, the Queensland Fiction Book Award and the Colin Roderick Award.
His new novel, Breath, was published by Penguin Books Australia, Picador United Kingdom, Farrar Straus Giroux USA, Harper Collins Canada, de Gues in the Netherlands, Luchterland Germany and Editions Rivages Payot France in 2008.
Breath was awarded the 2009 Miles Franklin Prize for Literature.
Tim Winton is patron of the Tim Winton Award for Young Writers sponsored by the City of Subiaco, Western Australia. Active in the environmental movement in Australia, he was awarded the Centenary Medal for service to literature and the community. He is also the patron of the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Stop the Toad Foundation and is active in many of their campaigns. He has recently contributed to the whaling debate with an article published on The Last Whale website. He lives in Western Australia with his wife and three children.
Winner - 2003 Australian Society of Authors Medal
Winner - 2009 Miles Franklin Award
Winner - 2008 Age Book of the Year Fiction Award
Winner - 2008 Indie Award
Shortlisted - 2009 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, South East Asia and the South Pacific Region
Shortlisted - 2009 New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards, Christina Stead Prize
Shortlisted - 2005 Inaugural Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award
Commended - 2005 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, South East Asia and South Pacific Region, Best Book
Winner - 2005 Queensland Premier's Literary Award, Best Fiction Book
Winner - 2005 New South Wales Premier's Literary Award, Christina Stead Prize
Joint Winner - 2004 Colin Roderick Award
Shortlisted - 2002 Man Booker Prize
Shortlisted - 2002 Kiriyama Prize
Winner - 2002 Miles Franklin Award
Winner - 2002 New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards, Christina Stead Prize
Winner - 2001 Western Australian Premier's Book Award - Book of the Year
Winner - 2001 Western Australian Premier's Book Award - Fiction
Winner - 2001 Good Reading Award - Readers Choice Book of the Year
Winner - 2001 Australian Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award
Shortlisted - 1995 Booker Prize
Winner - 1995 Commonwealth Writers Prize, South East Asia and South Pacific Region
Winner - 1992 Deo Gloria Award
Winner - 1991 NBC Banjo Award for Literature
Winner -1991 Miles Franklin Award
Joint Winner - 1991 Western Australia Premier's Book Award - Fiction
Minimum of Two and Other Stories
Winner - 1988 Western Australian Premier's Book Award - Fiction
Scission and Other Stories
Joint Winner - 1985 Western Australian Premier's Book Award - Fiction
Winner - 1985 Western Australian Council Literary Award
Winner - 1984 Miles Franklin Literary Award
Joint Winner - 1985 Western Australian Premier's Book Award - Fiction
An Open Swimmer
Winner - 1981 Australian/Vogel National Literary Award
For Children and Young Adults:
Lockie Leonard, Legend
Winner - 1998 Family Award for Children's Literature
Winner - 1998 Bolinda Audio Book Awards
Winner - 1998 Wilderness Society Environment Award
Winner - 1999 WAYRBA Hoffman Award for Young Readers
Lockie Leonard, Scumbuster
Winner - 1993 Wilderness Society Environment Award
The Buglalugs Bum Thief
Winner - 1994 CROW Award (Children Reading Outstanding Writers): Focus list (Years 3-5)
Winner - 1998 YABBA Awards: Fiction for Younger Readers
Lockie Leonard, Human Torpedo
Winner - 1993 American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults Award
Winner - 1996 YABBA Awards: Fiction for Older Readers
Joint winner - 1991 Western Australian Premier's Book Award: Children's Book
Winner - 1990 Western Australian Premier's Book Award: Children's Book
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Twenty-one years on, Cloudstreet is still Australia's favourite novel.
After two separate catastrophes, two very different families leave the country for the bright lights of Perth. The Lambs are industrious, united and – until God seems to turn his back on their boy Fish – religious. The Pickleses are gamblers, boozers, fractious and unlikely landlords.
Chance, hardship and the war force them to swallow their dignity and share a great, breathing, shuddering joint called Cloudstreet. Over the next twenty years, they struggle and strive, laugh and curse, come apart and pull together under the same roof, and try as they can to make their lives.
Winner of the Miles Franklin Award and recognised as one of the greatest works of Australian literature, Cloudstreet is Tim Winton's sprawling, comic epic about luck and love, fortitude and forgiveness, and the magic of the everyday.
About the Author
Tim Winton was born in 1960 in Western Australia where he still lives. He attended a Creative Writing Course at Curtin University in Perth, and it was while there that he began his first novel An Open Swimmer. This was entered for The Australian/Vogel Award in 1981. It won and Winton has never looked back, utilising his considerable talent to maintain a full-time writing career. Something of an oddity for any Australian writer but especially for one of his age.