Authors: Judy Nunn
From stage actor and international television star to blockbuster, best-selling author, Judy Nunn's career has been meteoric.
Her first forays into adult fiction resulted in what she describes as her âentertainment set'.
The Glitter Game
, three novels set in the worlds of television, theatre and film respectively, each became an instant bestseller.
Next came her âcity set'.
, a fiercely passionate novel about men and mining set in Kalgoorlie;
Beneath the Southern Cross
, a mammoth achievement chronicling the story of Sydney since first European settlement; and
, a tale of love, family and retribution set in Darwin.
took Australia by storm, making Judy one of the nation's top-selling fiction writers, and her following novel,
, set principally in Vanuatu, met with equal success.
Her next work,
, a thriller based in the 1950s and set in the Snowies during the construction of the massive Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, embraces post-war immigration and the birth of multiculturalism. The resounding critical and commercial success of
has consolidated Judy's position as one of this country's leading fiction writers.
, Judy's ninth novel, is set in the âIron Ore State', Western Australia, and reveals, through three decades, the loss of innocence of a population caught up in the greed and avarice of the mining boom.
Judy Nunn's fame as a novelist is spreading rapidly. Her books are now published throughout Europe in English, German, French, Dutch and Czech.
Judy lives with her husband, actor-author Bruce Venables, on the Central Coast of New South Wales.
The Glitter Game
Beneath the Southern Cross
Eye in the Storm
Eye in the City
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ePub ISBN 9781742742205
Kindle ISBN 9781742742212
An Arrow Book
Published by Random House Australia
Level 3, 100 Pacific Highway, North Sydney, NSW 2060
Sydney New York Toronto
London Auckland Johannesburg
First published by Random House Australia 2002
This Arrow edition published 2003, 2007
Copyright Â© Judy Nunn 2002
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
National Library of Australia
ISBN 978 1 74166 595 6 (pbk.).
To my brother Robert Marshall Nunn, with gratitude not only for his invaluable assistance, but for his encouragement and belief in this book. And to our mother Nancy, who inspired in us both a fascination for the history of the
I would especially like to thank my husband, Bruce Venables, my agent, James Laurie, and my friends and work mates at Random House, Jane Palfreyman, Kim Swivel and Emma Rusher.
A special thanks also to Major Tony Young, Susan Mackie, Robyn Gurney, Dr Grahame Hookway, Ben Taylor and Maarten Smies.
For assistance in the research of Darwin and the Northern Territory my thanks to the following: Phil Jackson and Anna Johnson of the
Northern Territory News
, George Manolis of Dymocks Books in Darwin, Dr Ella Stack, Carrie Elton, Katrina Foong Lim, Danny Thomas, Gerry Blitner, Eddie Quong, Brett Midena, Norman Fry, and members of Darwin's Chung Wah Society, Adam Lowe, Eric Lee and Albert Chan, who were most receptive to my visit and most helpful with my queries.
Amongst my many research sources, I would particularly like to recognise the following publications:
, Hans Koning, Time Life International, 1978.
, Philippe Godard, Abrolhos Publishing, 1993.
Islands of Angry Ghosts
, Hugh Edwards, Hodder & Stoughton, 1966.
, Ernestine Hill, Angus & Robertson, 1955.
, Margaret Goyder Kerr, Rigby, 1971.
Hell West and Crooked
, Tom Cole, Collins, 1988.
Sitdown Up North
, Ted Egan, Kerr Publishing, 1997.
The articles of historian Peter Forrest, published in the
Northern Territory News
As a schoolchild I was taught of the many battles in which our brave troops fought and lost their lives. Of Gallipoli, the Somme, Tobruk, El Alamein, the list goes on.
Like most Australians, I was never told of the bombing of Darwin and the consequent battle which raged in the Top End.
Historians believe that the final figure of 243 dead in the bombing is not only conservative, but decidedly incorrect. The true casualty figure is estimated to be in excess of 500.
In memory of those who lost their lives on 19 February 1942, when Australia experienced warfare upon its own soil.
Lieutenant Akira Nakajima felt a deep pride at the spectacle which surrounded him. The clear blue sky of early morning was alive with action. Threatening, lethal and all-powerful. Through his cockpit windows Akira could see Val dive-bombers, just like his. And Kate high-level bombers. And Zero fighters. Two hundred and forty-two aircraft in all. A magnificent sight. Today would be another splendid victory for the Japanese Imperial Air Force. He glanced to his right and shared a smile with his young copilot who grinned back, barely able to contain his own excitement.
Toshiro Kurasoto was honoured to be a member of Nakajima's team. Lieutenant Nakajima had been a bomber commander in the force which had so triumphantly attacked Pearl Harbor. It was most regrettable that the Lieutenant's regular copilot had been wounded in the attack, Toshiro had agreed, but silently he had thanked the gods for his own good fortune. Soon he, Toshiro Kurasoto, barely twenty-three years of age, would share a similar glory to that of the heroes of Pearl Harbor.
Through their headsets nothing could be heard but the muffled throb of the powerful engines. Since their
departure from Ambon, radio silence had been maintained, but it would not be long before their headsets would be crackling with the voices of command.
Paul Trewinnard leaned back in his large wicker armchair, sipped at his tea, and looked out across the harbour from the windows of his room on the first floor of the Hotel Darwin. The overhead ceiling fan created the comforting illusion of breeze, but at barely nine o'clock in the morning the air was already hot and still, clammy with the humidity of the monsoon season. Today was his birthday, 19 February. Born shortly after the turn of the century, he was forty-two years old today and he felt every bit of it. No, that wasn't at all true, he felt twenty years older.
What would he do with the day, he wondered vaguely as he watched two boys playing football on the harbourside oval. He could complete his regular editorial article for the
, or he could start on his reportage of the situation in the Pacific which he regularly forwarded to the
, but he didn't feel like embarking upon either. At the best of times his writing was only a way of filling in the days, of giving his life some sense of purpose. He didn't need the money; the quarterly remittances that regularly arrived from the family law firm in London were more than enough to sustain him. No, to hell with journalistic responsibilities, he'd visit his good friend Foong Lee. Perhaps they'd get drunk together. Well, perhaps he would; Foong Lee never seemed to get drunk, no matter how much alcohol he appeared to imbibe. And that was it of course. Foong Lee always âappeared' to do things. Like a magician, a master of the sleight of hand, he was the perfect manipulator, a fact which most failed to recognise. Most, particularly Europeans, saw only a squat, jovial businessman who somewhat resembled a Chinese penguin. A man who spoke like them and enjoyed a good laugh. Paul, however, knew better.
It had been Foong Lee's wisdom which had helped Paul Trewinnard through what he called his âdark years', the years of despair when he'd first come to Darwin to escape the horror of his life. And Darwin was a good part of the world to escape to, a remote outpost where no questions were asked and no judgements made.
These days, no longer in need of escape, Paul based himself principally in Darwin simply because he loved both the place and its people. For many years now the Hotel Darwin had become intermittent home to Paul Trewinnard, and Foong Lee had become his closest friend.
He raked his thick greying hair back from his brow, his forehead already damp. Not that the heat particularly bothered him. To Paul, the human body's perpetual state of perspiration throughout the aptly named âwet' season was all part and parcel of Darwin's sensuality. He'd go down to the dining room and have a light breakfast, he decided, easing his gangly frame up out of the wicker chair. That would at least get the day started.
In her small weatherboard house on the Esplanade, not far from the Hotel Darwin, thirty-two-year-old Aggie Marshall, school teacher, sat at her desk completing her newsletter for the Country Women's Association. She applied herself diligently to the task despite the fact that there was no-one to send it to, all the members of the CWA having evacuated Darwin, along with the majority of women and children, and many of the men too, following the fall of Hong Kong on Christmas Day. The fall of Singapore only four days ago had made those who'd stayed even more aware of their precarious existence and the Government had evacuated the last boatload of people at noon just the previous day. The Japs could attack at any moment, many said.
Aggie had stayed in Darwin for the simple reason that she had nowhere else to go. Which wasn't exactly true,
she could have returned to her elderly parents in Perth, they telephoned regularly begging her to do so, but the thought of being in the same city as her ex-husband made the prospect unbearable. And Perth was hardly a city in the true sense of the word, more like a large country town; it was not unrealistic to presume he would hear of her return and seek her out. For the first twelve months after she'd come to Darwin, Aggie had lived in fear that he might even have followed her north. Now, five years later, having reverted to her maiden name, her hideous marriage a thing of the past, Darwin had claimed Aggie. She'd discovered herself here, found a strength of her own she'd never known existed, and even the threat of a Japanese invasion could not drive her away. Darwin was where she belonged.
The school at which Aggie taught had been closed down so she'd set herself up as a one person secretarial office doing volunteer work for the war effort. She corresponded with various branches of the Red Cross, coordinating the parcels to be sent overseas, she typed endless circulars and lists of supplies and necessities, and she steadfastly continued to write her CWA newsletters. Mainly about courage in the face of adversity, now and then including a frivolous observation to boost morale, and she posted them up on noticeboards, in the post office and anywhere else she thought people might see them. It was something to do.
Aggie gathered together the pages of her newsletter. She was looking forward to a hearty chat with her friends at the post office. So few of her old acquaintances remained in Darwin, and the armed forces seemed to have completely taken over the town lately, but she enjoyed the company of the new friends she'd made at the post office. Many of them were recruits who had responded to the call for staff in this time of need, and they were young, vital and stimulating company.
She jammed on the brown felt hat that had seen better
days without bothering to check in the mirrorâAggie cared little about appearances. Her lack of vanity surprised some people because Aggie was a rather good-looking woman, tall and strong-boned. But she chose to wear her dark hair in an unfashionable bob (it was more practical that way), took little time with her dress (thank goodness trousers were acceptable, they were far more comfortable than skirts or frocks), and with the exception of a touch of lipstick (in the evenings, and when she remembered) she eschewed makeup.
As she opened the front door, Aggie noted that the wall clock said only nine-thirty. No, she decided, closing the door, she'd give it another fifteen or twenty minutes. Just until the post office had set up for the business of the day, then the staff would have time for a chat.
In Cavenagh Street, Foong Lee was carefully arranging his display of goods preparatory to opening his shop. Under normal circumstances he would have opened the shutters for business much earlier, or rather his eighteen-year-old son would have, Foong Lee himself having left before seven o'clock to visit the wharves or the market gardens or the number of subcontractors with whom he traded. But things had changed. Since the evacuation of Darwin business was poor, and his son Albert was in Adelaide looking after the rest of the family whom Foong Lee had sent south.
Most of the Chinese community had fled Darwin. As was to be expected, Foong Lee thought, the Chinese were not stupid, and he would most certainly have accompanied his family had it not been for the fragile condition of his father, who was unfit to travel. Foong Lee persuaded himself, with his characteristic commonsense, that it was just as well he had remained in Darwin, to protect not only his own interests but those of his friends.
Foong Lee was a highly successful businessman and leader of his community, not only loved and respected by
the Chinese but recognised by the Europeans, which was unusual in Darwin where the two communities rarely intermingled.
Despite the fact that he was always well dressed (which was to be expected, since amongst his many interests he owned one of the major tailor's shops in Darwin) Foong Lee didn't look like an influential businessman. He looked and behaved more like âone of the boys'. But a tai pan he was, nonetheless.
Born in Darwin on 22 January 1901, he had taken his first breath, he said, âin the same hour that Queen Victoria took her last'. At times he spoke like a colonial Englishman, and at others like an outback Aussie, depending upon the occasion and who he was talking to. As a result, in the eyes of the European community, Foong Lee so contradicted the image of the inscrutable Oriental that he qualified unreservedly, albeit a little patronisingly, as a good all-round chap by some, and a bonzer bloke by others. In actuality, Foong Lee was perceived by all exactly the way Foong Lee wished to be perceived.
Having prepared his shopfront displayâan extraordinary selection of goods, both European and Chinese, from general groceries and photographic supplies to silks and lanterns and Eastern delicaciesâFoong Lee walked through to the living quarters at the rear. Perhaps his father may want some breakfast, it might be one of the old man's good days. But it wasn't.
In the living area which looked out over the large back courtyard, Foong Shek Mei was a crumpled heap on the sofa. He'd slept there last night. Again. As he had for the past week or so. When the family had been present he had at least attempted to scrape himself up from the sofa and retire to his bed. It saddened Foong Lee beyond measure to see his father reduced to a skeleton, his eyes dim and befuddled, his mind obscured by the phantoms which haunted it.
Foong Shek Mei's addiction was no secret amongst the
elders of the Chinese community. There were a number like him, remnants of the old days, habitues of the opium divans of Hong Kong and Singapore, who secretly fed their habits behind closed doors in little rooms at the rear of shops and shanty dwellings in Chinatown. Although the Darwin Chinese upheld the law and indeed did not approve of the opium trade, they sympathised with those few elders amongst them to whom, throughout their lives, the drug had been readily and legally available and whose inner peace could now only be attained by âchasing the dragon'.
The once-strong body of Foong Shek Mei, the body which had served him so well when he'd arrived from Singapore in the nineties to work as a coolie on the goldfields, was now a wasted skeleton. A lifetime of opium abuse had taken its toll, and over the past decade his mind too had decayed to the point where he'd become childlike, dependent. Foong Lee now purchased the opium necessary to assuage the relentless demands of his father's addiction. He was reluctant to do so but aware that he had no option. Foong Shek Mei was too far gone, and the opium was now necessary to ease him into a painless death.
Foong Lee warmed some soup and sat beside the old man, cradling the emaciated body against his. Gently, he touched the bowl to the parched lips.
Lei yiu yam, Baba.
Foong Shek Mei's eyes slowly opened. But glazed, unfocussed, they saw nothing.
Lei yiu yam,'
Foong Lee repeated, imploring his father to drink.
The old man's head leaned forward slightly, the cracked lips parted and, like an obedient child, he sipped. Very gently. Twice. Then he rested his head back on his son's shoulder and his gaze focussed on the hand which held the bowl. His eyes slowly became alive and he turned to look at Foong Lee.
Lei hai ho jai, Foong Lee
,' he said. Both the voice and the smile were gentle. Faded and distant, as if they came from far away, but they were genuine nonetheless. Foong Lee was indeed a good son and Foong Shek Mei wished very much to tell him so.
Foong Lee smiled fondly back. â
Lei yiu yam, Baba. Ho gan yue.
But the old man's head lolled against his son's shoulder, he'd fallen asleep.
Foong Lee rose. He eased his father's head comfortably back upon the sofa, then he walked through the house to the shop to prepare for his morning stroll. It was his custom these days to walk the streets of Chinatown, to greet those few of his friends who remained in Darwin and to check on the properties of those who had left. The closed and shuttered shops were an advertisement to the lawless element who might wish to take advantage of the current situation. Foong Lee considered it his duty to keep his eye on things, to check the shopfronts for any sign of forced entry which may have taken place under the veil of night.
Before embarking on his walk, he checked the day's âspecials'. Despite the fact that business was poor, Foong Lee liked to vary the array and to have some tantalising offer displayed daily out front. Satisfied that all was in order, he stepped into the street. He would open the shutters for business upon his return.
Toshiro Kurasoto flinched. He couldn't help it. The voice that cracked like a whip through his headset momentarily startled him. It shouldn't have done so, he'd been expecting the break in radio silence from the moment their flight path had approached Bathurst Island. Fifty miles north-north-west of Darwin, Bathurst Island was the point at which the attack force was to receive its specific orders. After the continuous monotone of the engine, however, the sudden sharp noise caused Toshiro to flinch, involuntarily
and barely perceptibly, but he cast a glance to his left nevertheless, hoping his commander had not observed his inappropriate reaction.