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Solomon's Song - Bryce Courtenay


Published: June 2006
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Published: 5th June 2006
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This is the story of two families – branches of the Solomons – transported to an alien land, both of whom eventually grow rich and powerful but who, through three generations, never for one moment relinquish their hatred for each other. It is also the story of our country from the beginning until we came of age as a nation.

I have learned a great deal about Australia and those things which concern us as a people and make us, in many ways, who we are today. To write this book, I visited Gallipoli and came away deeply saddened by the terrible waste of our young blood. We would never be quite the same again. It has been a grand adventure and I hope that you will find Solomon's Song a good and powerful story. No writer can possibly hope for more.

Bryce Courtenay

'Rest in peace Ikey Solomon and thank you, Bryce Courtenay, for concluding your absorbing trilogy on such a stirring note.' Canberra Times

'Courtenay superbly manages to put the reader in the thick of the bloody battles that took so many young lives in Turkey … Hard to put down.' Daily Telegraph

About the Author

Bryce Courtenay was born in South Africa and has lived in Sydney for the major part of his life. He is the bestselling author of The Power of One, April Fool's Day, The Potato Factory, Tommo & Hawk, Jessica, Smoky Joe's Cafe, Four Fires, Whitethorn and Brother Fish.


Fitting finale to the Australian Trilogy.


Bryce's turn of phrase often makes me laugh out loud. Hard to put down and make it last a few days.



Another great story from Courtenay


Easy to read/handle quick delivery

Congo NSw


Solomon's Song

4.5 2


Sydney 1861

On a dull early morning with the cumulus clouds over the Heads threatening rain, roiling and climbing, changing patterns and darkening at the centres, the incoming tide washes a body onto Camp Cove, a small inner-harbour beach within Port Jackson which is becoming increasingly known as Sydney Harbour.

Paddy Doyle, the shipping telegraph operator stationed at South Head, out with his dog hears its persistent and, what seems to his ear, urgent barking coming from the beach below him. He makes his way down the pathway onto the small jetty to see his black mongrel yapping beside what, even at a distance, is plainly a human body lying high up on the wet sand.

Doyle, a stout man not given to exertion, hesitates a moment, then jumps the eighteen inches from the jetty onto the sand and breaks into a clumsy trot, the sand squeaking and giving way under his boots. Commonsense tells him no amount of hurrying will make a difference; but death has a haste that ignores the good sense of walking slowly on a sultry morning. He is puffing heavily by the time he arrives at the wet bundle of wool and limbs from which trail several long ribbons of translucent iodine-coloured seaweed.

Immediately he sees that those parts of the body not protected by clothing are badly decomposed and much pecked about by gulls, crabs, sea lice and other scavengers of the deep. But not until he comes right up to it does he realise the body is missing a head.

The neck of the dead man protrudes from a dark woollen coat, a grotesque stump, ragged at the edges, torn about by the popping mouths of countless small fish. It is an aperture made less grisly by the cleansing effect of the salt water but more macabre by its bloodless appearance. It looks like the gape of some prehensile sea plant designed to trap and feed on small fish and tiny molluscs rather than something made of human flesh and blood.

Paddy, an ex-convict, brought to New South Wales on the barque, Eden, the last transport of convicts to Sydney in November 1840, thinks of himself as a hard man. But twenty years of half-decent living have increased the size of his girth and heightened his sensibilities and he vomits into the sand.

After a fair endurance of spitting and gagging he rinses his mouth in the salt wash and stands erect again, kicking the sand with the toe of his right boot to cover the mess he's made at his feet.

The sun has broken through a break in the clouds and almost immediately blowflies buzz around the corpse. A sickly stench starts to rise from the body, but with his belly emptied of his breakfast gruel, Doyle is now better able to withstand the smell and he squats down to make a more thorough examination.

A narrow leather thong around the base of the headless neck cuts deep into the swollen flesh and disappears inside the neck of a woollen vest. Doyle, reverting to his darker instincts, tugs tentatively at the cord. At first there is some resistance, then a small malachite amulet, a Maori Tiki, is revealed.

Doyle, like all past convicts, is deeply superstitious and is alarmed by the presence of an amulet known to ward off evil spirits and put a curse on those who harm its wearer. He hurriedly tucks it back under the wet vest, afraid now even to have touched it. Without thinking, he rubs the palm of the offending hand in the wet sand to cleanse it, then crossing himself he mutters, 'Hail Mary, Mother of God, protect me.'

The body is that of a white male of unusually small stature. The fingers of both his hands are clenched to form puffy, club-like fists. Whether from the sudden heat of the sun or the drying out of the corpse, the right hand begins to open and Doyle observes that the nails have continued to grow after death and are deeply embedded into the fleshy upper part of the dead man's palm. As the fingers unlock and open there is no sign of blood oozing from the fissures the nails have made. Each finger now wears a hooked talon with the finger pads puckered and raised from the immersion in sea water, so that the skin surface seems to be covered by nests of tiny white worms.

The nails are smooth and clean with no cuts or scars nor is there any permanently ingrained dirt etched into the lines on the palms to indicate a man accustomed to physical work. The skin on his arms is bluish-white from the sea water, but shows no signs of having ever been exposed to the sun. 'Some sort of toff,' Doyle thinks, 'no doubt up to no good and come to a sticky and untimely end, good riddance. Still an' all, choppin' off his 'ead's goin' a bit bloody far!'

Later, when he has pulled off his boots and placed them on the stone steps of his hut to dry and dusted the sand from his feet, he telegraphs Sydney to report the headless corpse. Then, in what Paddy thinks is an amusing appendage to his message, he taps out, Best get a move on it don't take long for them blowflies to lay their maggot eggs.

Two hours later, with the threatening clouds now well out to sea and the sun hot as hades in a clear blue sky, a steam pinnace from the police mooring at Circular Quay with two police constables aboard puffs up to the Camp Cove jetty to claim the body for the Pyrmont morgue.

While searching the corpse, the morgue attendant, observed closely by Senior Detective Darcy O'Reilly of the Darlinghurst Police Station, discovers a small leather wallet inside the jacket. It contains four pounds and several personal calling cards which identify the headless man as Tommo X Solomon.

Detective O'Reilly immediately sends a constable to Tucker & Co. to inform Hawk Solomon that he is required at the city morgue to identify what may be the remains of his brother.

Hawk, at Mary's instigation, had reported Tommo missing in case any of Mr Sparrow's lads might have seen him entering his lodgings on the night of Maggie's death and declared his presence to the police.

A further search of the victim's clothing reveals a deck of DeLarue cards, the kind generally used by professional gamblers of a superior status. Finally, a gold hunter watch, with the ace of spades enamelled on its outer lid and a sovereign hanging from its fob chain, is discovered in a buttoned-down pocket of his weskit. It has stopped at twenty minutes past ten o'clock. Senior Detective O'Reilly writes this down as the presumed time of death and then pockets the watch. The corpse is left clothed for the pathologist to examine and is lifted onto the zinc dissecting table in preparation for the autopsy by the Chief Government Medical Officer, William McCrea M.D., who will closely examine the clothes before removal, noting any tears or stains that may help to define the method of death.

Conscious of the corpse's advanced state of decomposition Dr McCrea loses no time presenting his findings to the coroner, Mr Manning Turnbull Noyes, known in the magistrates courts as M. T. Noyes and by the hoi polloi as 'Empty Noise'.

The hearing and its immediate aftermath is best summed up by the following day's Sydney Morning Herald report on the murder by its popular senior crime reporter, Samuel Cook. Although Mr Cook's name is not used in the paper his style is easily recognised by his many readers who know him for his fearless reportage. He enjoys their respect for his ability to ask awkward questions which have a habit of greatly embarrassing nobs and government officials of every rank. Cook has even been known to take on the governor when a wealthy merchant of dubious reputation was included in the Queen's Honours List. There are some who believe he wouldn't back down to the young Queen Victoria herself.

Samuel Cook is the scourge of the police force, in particular of Senior Detective Darey O'Reilly. And while every magistrate in New South Wales, given half a chance to nobble him, would cheerfully sentence the Sydney Morning Herald reporter to a ten-year stretch in Darlinghurst, it is Noyes who would call in the hangman. Like O'Reilly, M. T. Noyes is a special target for his remorseless and acerbic pen.
Bryce Courtenay

Bryce: in his own words...

I was born illegitimately in 1933 in South Africa and spent my early childhood years in a small town deep in the heart of the Lebombo mountains.

It was a somewhat isolated community and I grew up among farm folk and the African people. At the age of five I was sent to a boarding school which might be better described as a combination orphanage and reform school, where I learned to box - though less as a sport and more as a means to stay alive.

But I survived to return to a small mountain town named Barberton in the North Eastern part of the country.

Here I met Doc, a drunken German music teacher who spent the next few years filling my young mind with the wonders of nature as we roamed the high mountains. His was the best education I was ever to receive, despite the scholarship I won to a prestigious boy's school and thereafter to a university in England where I studied Journalism.

I came to Australia because I was banned from returning to my own country.

This was due to the fact that I had started a weekend school for Africans in the school hall of the prestigious boy's school I attended.

One day the school hall was raided by the police who then branded me a Communist as they considered educating Africans a subversive act.

While studying journalism, I met a wonderful Australian girl.

"Come to my country!" Benita invited.

I did, and soon after arriving in Australia, married her. Benita gave me three splendid sons, Brett, Adam and Damon. Brett, who married Ann has given me three lovely grandsons, Ben now 14, Jake is about to turn 12 and Marcus is almost 6 years old.

I have lived all my Australian life in Sydney (the nicest place on earth) and, until I started writing fiction, made my career in advertising working as a copywriter and creative director.

At the age of 55 I decided to take the plunge. I had been telling stories since the age of five and had always known I would be a writer some day, though life kept getting in the way until I realised that it was either now or never.

Bryce Courtenay died at his home in Canberra, Australia. He was 79. Courtenay is survived by his second wife Christine Gee and his children Adam and Brett.

Visit Bryce Courtenay's Booktopia Author Page

ISBN: 9780143004585
ISBN-10: 0143004581
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 696
Published: June 2006
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.9 x 12.9  x 4.4
Weight (kg): 0.52
Edition Number: 1