It's hard to imagine this story as being part of our past, but in 1942, an eleven-year-old Australian boy, Richard Manson, and his parents either side of him, were shot by the Japanese for suspected spying in Rabaul in Papua New Guinea.
Acclaimed 4th Estate author and award-winning science journalist Ian Townsend has uncovered a fascinating story of WWII, little known to most Australians. Centring on the hotspot (in every sense) that was Rabaul in WWII, his account is an intriguing narrative, which weaves together Australian history, military conflict and science - with volcanology being the peculiar science which drew the Americans, Japanese and Australians together in conflict in the Pacific in the 1940s - and the story of one ordinary but doomed Australian family.
Like The Hare with Amber Eyes, this is a fascinating work of narrative non-fiction, a story of spies, volcanoes, history, conflict and war, set against the romantic, dramatic and ultimately tragic backdrop of Rabaul in WWII.
About the Author
Ian Townsend is a journalist who worked for many year with ABC Radio National. He has won four national Eureka Prizes for science and medical journalism, and an Australian Human Rights Award for journalism. His first novel, Affection, based on the 1900 plague outbreak, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book, the Colin Roderick Award, the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction, the National Year of Reading, and was long-listed for the Dublin IMPAC award. His second novel, The Devil’s Eye, was long-listed for the Miles Franklin Award. He lives in Brisbane with his wife, Kirsten MacGregor, and their three daughters.
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Comments about Line of Fire:
Having been engaged in Topographic and Geodetic surveys in PNG from 1965 to 1985 and spending quite a lot of time in the area covered by the story I was keen to buy the book. I have to say that reading the book brought back many memories however I was a bit disappointed. Although an easy read I don't think it is particularly well written. There are a number of minor, factual errors; at times Ian Townsend tends to repeat himself and for me the speculative, italicised conversations don't work, they seemed a gimmick that added nothing to the story, indeed, I thought them silly.
Comments about Line of Fire:
I was recently sent a copy of Ian Townsend's latest book; Line of Fire, which is a story of an incident that occurred during the early stages of WW2 on Rabaul. This incident is one that I am sure many Australians are not aware of but they should be. It involved the execution of an 11-year-old Australian boy at the hands of the Japanese.
Firstly, for those not familiar with Rabual, it's a town in East New Britain province, on the island of New Britain, in the country of Papua New Guinea. New Britain is an island about 60 kilometres to the east of the island of New Guinea and for a period of time up to just before WW2 Rabaul was the capital of New Guinea.
Another item of note in regards to Rabaul is that it seems to be built on or next to numerous volcanoes and has suffered from a number erruptions, many of which have destroyed the town and killed inhabitants. In fact, beside the story of Richard 'Dickie' Manson, the 11-year-old boy, the book is also a story of the volcanoes of Rabaul and a massive caldera which formed an excellent deep water harbour of vital military importance during WW2.
This volcanic caldera at Rabaul attracted the notice of the Japanese Navy and in 1942 they sent a naval and army force to invade and occupy the island. However before the Japanese entry into WW2 the Australian government realised the importance of Rabaul to itself and the United States and sent the 2/22nd Infantry Battalion, known as 'Lark Force' and the 24 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force to defend Rabaul against any potential Japanese invasion.
Into the mix of volcanoes and the human misery of the Second World War the author has woven the story of young Dickie Manson, his mother Marjorie, and other family members. The author tells us of the life of Marjorie and her family back in Australia, her trial and tribulations that led her to Rabaul prior to WW2 and the life of her son, Richard, otherwise known as 'Dickie'.
We follow these two people through their travels till we
Number Of Pages: 320
Published: 1st February 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.4 x 2.5
Weight (kg): 0.42