Exclusive extract from ‘A Great and Restless Spirit’ by D R Dymock:
Unaware of the mid-ocean drama, Muriel continued to mark off the hours Harry had been in the air. As the day went on, she began to prepare to head over to Brooklands, hopeful she would soon be reunited with her husband. There was quiet anticipation among the Sopwith representatives, military officers, and government and aero club officials gathered at Brooklands that Monday afternoon, 19 May, 1919. It promised to be a momentous occasion for the future of cross-Atlantic travel and for British aviation.
Muriel and her brother, RAF Captain Laurence Peaty, had driven over from Hook in the Sunbeam. Word had come through that the American fliers were trapped in the Azores by the weather, so NC-4 had not yet been able to make the final hop. There was still a possibility that Harry and Grieve could claim the transatlantic gong.
Nevertheless there was also an undercurrent of anxiety about the two fliers. No messages had been received; no sightings reported. Based on the reported Sunday departure time from Newfoundland, by Muriel’s 22-hour timeline the Atlantic should touch down at Brooklands at around 4.30pm. Unlike some others, she wasn’t worried by the lack of contact with the plane because she knew Harry and Grieve weren’t counting on the wireless during the flight.
But as the afternoon ticked by, concern started to grow. The Royal Air Force sent planes out from its Aldergrove base in Ireland to probe along the transatlantic route, but the pilots came back with nothing to report.
When Muriel crossed off hour number 22, and there was still no sign of the plane, the tension among the waiting group must have been palpable. They all knew that by then the Sopwith’s fuel tank would be close to empty. When a full 24 hours had passed without any contact, no one had to say what that meant.
Title:A Great and Restless Spirit: The incredible true story of Harry Hawker, Australian test pilot, aircraft designer, car racing driver, speedboat racer, world-beater
High-profile mystery plane crashes have confounded and intrigued the world since flight began – but this dramatic true story was the first.
A Great And Restless Spirit by D R Dymock tells of the disappearance of record-breaking Australian pilot Harry Hawker and his navigator over the Atlantic Ocean in 1919… and of how kings and nations were captivated by the event. The book has just been released.
A transatlantic feat
In May 1919, 30-year-old Harry Hawker and his navigator attempted the first transatlantic flight, from Newfoundland to Ireland, and in a plane with no radio or radar.
Millions waited for news of their triumph – but the plane never arrived. After six days, and with no sightings or leads, almost everyone gave them up for dead. Banjo Paterson wrote a eulogy for Harry’s passing. King George V sent Harry’s English wife, Muriel Hawker, a telegram of condolence. But Muriel refused to believe her husband was dead.
If things don’t go quite right, never give up hope, Harry had told Muriel before he left. She took him at his word.
‘As there seemed to be two sides to the question whether he was alive or not, and no definite proof of either,’ Muriel said, ‘I decided I’d cling firmly to the belief that he was alive.’
An extraordinary life
Muriel Hawker’s faith in her daredevil husband had reaped rewards before. Harry’s ‘need for speed’ made him a fierce competitor in car and speedboat races around the globe and, when he wasn’t racing, Harry designed and tested WWI planes.
His boss, aviation guru Tommy Sopwith, believed Harry was a genius – but Muriel kept her husband’s feet firmly on the ground. Would this remarkable woman’s hope be rewarded this time, too?
In A Great and Restless Spirit, author D R Dymock tells the incredible true story of Harry Hawker MBE AFC and the woman who refused to give up on him.
About the author: D R (Darryl) Dymock (author site) is the Brisbane-based author of several well-received non-fiction books, including Hustling Hinkler and The Chalkies. This is his second aviation biography. He is a mentor with the Queensland Writers Centre, and an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at Griffith University.
Here’s A Great and Restless Spirit in good company for March events at Avid Reader Bookshop, West End, Brisbane.
A Great and Restless Spirit will be launched at Avid Reader at 6.30pm AEST on Friday 25th March, 2022. And you’re invited! In person, or online.
All you have to do is click on this link to register for the launch. You can also pre-order the book (ISBN 9781925380415. Armour Books)
Here’s an extract from A Great and Restless Spirit to whet your reading appetite:
Outside, the weather matched their mood as they set off—sombre, dark and cold. The wind was whipping the trees around their house, and the rain danced in the headlights as they headed to Euston Station. For some reason, despite the almost cyclonic conditions, Harry opted to take the Sunbeam.
The big car might well have had a neatly riveted bonnet, but it also had no hood over the passenger compartment. So, as they roared through deserted London streets in drenching rain slashed by an occasional knife edge of sleet, Harry crouched behind the whisper of a windscreen.
Muriel hunched in the well on the passenger side, her head resting against her husband’s knee. She quietly wished that she’d married someone without ambition, like a farmer’s son. Someone who didn’t feel the need to go where no man had ever gone before. If only I could sleep away the time ahead, she thought.
When they reached Euston station, they had one final hug, said one final goodbye. As Harry disappeared into the carriage, Muriel was inconsolable. She couldn’t wait for the train to pull out.
Heading disconsolately back to the car, all she could think was that Harry had gone from her. The only thing she could do was wait for the future to unfold itself.
If you’re free and in the vicinity, I’d love to see you at the Brisbane launch of my new book on Friday evening, 25 March, 2022. (Covid permitting!).
The book is called A Great and Restless Spirit: The incredible true story of Australian Harry Hawker – test pilot, aircraft designer, racing car driver, speedboat racer, world-beater.
It will be published by an independent Brisbane publisher, Armour Books.
If Victorian-born Harry Hawker MBE AFC (1889-1921) was alive today, he’d be churning desert dust in the Dakar rally, strapped in a rocket on a SpaceX flight, or taking pole position on the Formula 1 start line.
Hawker moved to England at age 22, and in his day flew faster, higher and for longer than anyone else in Britain. His one need was speed. And if he couldn’t find it in the air, he was a fierce competitor in racing cars and international speedboat races.
When he wasn’t racing, Hawker was designing and testing WWI planes. His boss, aviation guru Tommy Sopwith, was convinced the Australian was a genius.
In the book you’ll also meet Harry’s remarkable wife, Muriel, who mostly kept his feet on the ground. But even she worried about his need to go where no man had ever gone before.
And in the background there bubbled away an underlying weakness that would eventually contribute to Harry Hawker’s death in a flaming solo plane crash. He was just 32 years of age.
I hope you might be able to join me for the launch of A Great and Restless Spirit at Avid Reader Bookshop, West End, Brisbane at 6.30pm on 25 March. It should be a good occasion, and there’s no obligation to buy😊.
Please put the date in your diary. You’ll be able to register nearer the time on the Avid Reader website: avidreader.com.au
And if you’re not from Brisbane, please keep watch for the book’s publication. I hope it will be available in both print and electronic form.
Please feel free to pass this message on, or to post it on social media. All welcome.
We had a great launch of the Oxley Men’s Shed anthology, Offcuts: Stories from the Shed, on Saturday 27 November in Brisbane. Nine men from the Shed contributed to the collection, and the first (modest) print run sold out! 70 to 80 people turned up to hear a brilliant launch by local Councillor Nicole Johnston, listen to music from the band Crossed Fingers, and enjoy a scrumptious morning tea.
This is no ordinary collection of stories. It draws on the varied experiences of nine men who have led very different lives, but whose paths have eventually crossed at Oxley Men’s Shed. In this book these mostly first-time writers have taken the opportunity to share some of their fascinating stories from the past with their families and with the wider community. Many of these are never-before-told tales, entertaining anecdotes that not only illuminate the writers’ earlier lives, but often trigger our own memories too.
In these stories we meet a former fitter and turner who as a boy decided to see what would happen when he packed gunpowder from leftover fireworks into a fruit tin and lit the fuse; a retired meat inspector who had to escape hand over hand down a rope off a high church roof when his ladder collapsed; an ex-plumber who starred in a Bollywood movie and dodged bombs and bullets while driving a tour bus in the Middle East; a former photographer who once had the ultimate hand in a boarding house poker game; and a retired insurance underwriter who relives his late-night dash home to dive under the bedclothes before the resident ghost appeared.
Then there’s a Vietnamese veteran driving an Army forklift who literally backed himself into an embarrassing corner with his commanding officer; an ex-teacher who was driving his prized first car through South Brisbane when the back seat caught fire; a former electrician who turned jackaroo to help out his mate on a cattle drive in northern NSW; and a retired agronomist who as a young man led a hiking group down a mountain during a cyclone, with intriguing romantic results.
This is a heady mix of yarns from a group of writers keen to tell their often remarkable stories – sometimes humorous, occasionally hair-raising, but always from the heart.
Offcuts: Stories from the Shed, Armour Books, Brisbane.
Author, editor and journalist Gary Kamiya said an editor is responsible for making a piece of writing ‘more like a Stradivarius and less like a woodchip’. He intriguingly suggested that the primary responsibility of an editor is not to the writer but to the reader.
Karen Lee, CEO of the Institute of Professional Editors Limited (IPEd) sent me Kamiya’s short piece on editing when I first made contact with her about contributing to a guest blog series for Margaret River Press in August 2020.
So as part of that series I was interested to follow this up with Karen, and explore with her the purpose of IPEd and the role of editors in the writing process.
This is an edited version of a recent Zoom interview with Karen. The short video clip below will serve to introduce her and give you some idea of her passion for what editors do.
I asked Karen how IPEd had come about. If I wasan editor, I said, why would I want to join IPEd?
Karen said that the majority of IPEd’s members are freelancers, sole traders, mostly working independently from home, and therefore potentially professionally isolated. She said the association came about when a number of smaller societies came together because they saw the need to network, to talk about professional standards and to consider professional development. Last year the Australian-based IPEd extended its reach to New Zealand, and is also seeking to better serve those working in-house in business and government.
Editors join IPEd for reasons similar to those of authors who join writing workshops and go to writers’ festivals, Karen said – to improve and hone their skills, and also to network, to get to know other writers. IPEd provides an opportunity for editors to get to know each other, she said, to form some connections. And sometimes there’s an additional spin-off – new business.
As a result of the various constraints and working-from-home requirements over the past few months, many organisations have moved to a new reliance on technology to keep staff in touch. It seems IPEd was already ahead of the game, as Karen explains in the video clip here:
While IPEd’s use of technology and its paperless office have helped the organisation cope smoothly with recent external changes, I asked Karen how members were faring under the Covid-19 slowdown. After all, editors, particularly freelancers, normally have a bit of ebb and flow in their work because they’re reliant on writers who also have ebb and flow. How had it been for them in recent times?
Karen said that they had undertaken a survey early in the closedown period, and from more than 200 responses, about half said it was too early to tell if there would be any effect on their business, and about the same number were already experiencing some downturn, with advance bookings dropping and workflows slowing. ‘But we’ve heard of some others,’ she said, ‘who say they’re going gangbusters.’ It seems that some authors were dusting off their manuscripts now that they had time to work on them again. At the time of this interview, Karen said IPEd planned to regularly monitor how members were going.
I also asked Karen about the impact the pandemic might have on IPEd’s future operations. You can see her reply here:
In reply to my question about how a writer might find an editor that’s just right for them, Karen assured me that the Editors Directory on the IPEd website is the way to go.
The next question a writer might of course ask is how much is having a manuscript edited likely to cost. It seems that there is no standard fee, and that IPEd members may use different criteria for a quote, as Karen explains in this video clip:
A major question for writers is, of course, whatever the basis for the fee, is it worth paying an editor to edit your manuscript. Is there likely to be sufficient value added to justify the cost and effort? Should we expect a Stradivarius? Karen Lee said that if you want to really incense an editor, suggest to them that what they do is ‘just proofreading’.
As a professional association, IPEd has to look inwards to serve the needs of its members. But at the same time, it extends its influence outwards into the community of writers through the activities of those members.
I asked Karen Lee the rather large question of what contribution she thinks the body of editors as a whole makes to the publication process. You can see her response here:
In that video clip, Karen Lee mentions that she is also a writer. I finished the interview by asking her whether she has a favourite author.
Karen said that of the authors she admires and who inspire her, Amy Tan is right at the top of her list. Also, recently she’d been introduced to the writing of Elif Shafak, a Turkish author who writes about religion in Turkey and the status of women in that country. Karen said that Elif Shafak’s writing reminded her of that of Isabel Allende, in that she writes very lyrically and very passionately, but also that she writes about issues that pick up on her country’s political nuances .
Another favourite is Yangsze Choo, a Malaysian author in America. ‘It was such a delight to read stories that were based in Malaysia with Malaysian-Chinese culture,’ Karen said, ‘and that had been well received at an international level.’
You will have seen even from her responses in this blog that Karen Lee is passionate about the role of editors and the purpose of IPEd.
In the short piece she sent me from Gary Kamiya, he admonished editors to ‘make it light and tight and strong so that it sings’. Writers and publishers alike would be glad to hear such a song.
Still to come
In the final blog for the Margaret River Press series, each of the three people I’ve interviewed adds another fascinating dimension to the writing and publishing process.
If, like me, your senses respond to the feel and smell of books in a bookshop, you’ll like Avid Reader.
This award-winning independent bookstore has been in the high street at West End in Brisbane for 22 years and has firmly established itself in the local community. In recent years they’ve spun off a successful children’s bookshop next door: ‘Where the Wild Things Are’.
But the past few months of 2020 have been tough for storefront bookshops, and I recently talked to co-owner Fiona Stager about how Avid Reader has coped. This is an edited version of that telephone conversation. It first appeared on the guest blogger page at Margaret River Press in August 2020.
First I asked Fiona about changes she’d seen in publishing in the past two decades. You can listen to her response in this audio clip.
The developments Fiona mentions in that audio clip were of course all before a certain pandemic swept across the world and turned many businesses upside down, including bookshops.
I asked Fiona how Avid Reader had responded to the constraints of Covid-19 measures. You can hear her reply in this audio clip.
Despite the limitations of Zoom-based events, Fiona says they will continue with them after the current restrictions have gone:
Using Zoom has really allowed us to engage with a much wider audience. Each time we’ve done a Zoom there’s been an interesting story that’s come out of it. After our first Zoom event we did a survey: ‘I’ve always wanted to come to your events but I live in Western Australia’; ‘I used to come to all your events but now I’ve moved out of Brisbane and with Zoom I can come to all your events.’
Fiona has also moved all her book clubs to Zoom. But despite the geographically expanded audience, she says that sales are down compared to walk-in events. With an in-store book launch, for example, people often not only buy that book, but they also browse the shelves, and pick up other books that appeal to them on the spur of the moment. Nevertheless, Fiona says they will continue with Zoom even when face-to-face events restart because they know it does reach people beyond the immediately reachable community:
For any number of reasons people can’t come to the shop, but we’ve built such a strong reputation that people jumped at the chance of coming to Zoom events. It’s really opened up the world for us. It also means we can curate our program to even finer detail. So we’ve been able to match the best interviewer for the author, and they don’t have to be in the same city. For example one author was in Melbourne and the interviewer was in Sydney.
‘An ecosystem of small business’
Fiona actively fosters a sense of community, not only among the bookshop’s clients, but also among local businesses. She says that after such a long time in West End, she sees Avid Reader as an ‘anchor tenant’ which relies on other small businesses but has an obligation to them as well:
I made a commitment to our staff, our publishers and writers that we would be here after this [the Covid-19 shutdown]. But also I was really committed to being here for other businesses around us. It’s an important ecosystem of small business, that we all really need each other. That’s something I’m really passionate about.
And there’s been unexpected spin-off from the constraints:
I must say I’ve never been so pleased to be near a chemist. I’ve always thought it was important to be near good retailers, like a good shoe shop, good fashion, good food, a good bakery … . But now, I think it’s been really great to have been close to a chemist. People come out and go to the chemist for something, and then they come to us because the chemist is right next door.
Clearly Fiona is always on the lookout for ways her own business can survive alongside and with the other retailers in West End. But as a bookshop, Avid Reader faces particular challenges at this time.
I asked Fiona about her predictions for the future of publishing and book-selling in Australia in the coming months. You can hear her response here:
Fiona added that in the emerging sales climate, not all the books released later in the year will make it. And that’s got nothing to do with the quality of the books, she says, but to the fact that they’re ‘competing for everything from our shelf space to media and what will get coverage and traction.’
As for Avid Reader itself, I asked Fiona how she was feeling about the bookshop’s future in the midst of this uncertainty. You can listen to her prognosis here:
Fiona’s response is the experienced and pragmatic voice of someone who’s been in the book trade for more than 20 years. It’s clear she sees some hurdles and unknowns ahead. As with the spread of the pandemic itself, retail businesses are in uncharted territory, with a compass we’re all learning to use as we go along.
Nevertheless, in the midst of predictions of retail gloom and doom, and her struggles to maintain a solid client base, Fiona maintains a pro-active and optimistic outlook. Not that she hasn’t had her doubts. ‘At one stage I was just too stressed to read anything,’ she told me. ‘But now I’ve got myself out of that hole.’
So, with the stock of a whole bookshop to choose from, what does Fiona like to read?
I read mostly new fiction. I read a little bit of non-fiction. It will often depend if I’m being any kind of book judge – if I’m judging a literary award, I will read fiction, non-fiction, children’s books as well, and a little bit of young adult.
You’ve probably realised by now that Avid Reader is not only a bookshop but a dynamic part of its local community. We need all the publishing outlets our pockets can sustain, and power to them, but independent bookshops seem to have a special place in our communities, whether you visit them in person or online. And at the end of the year, you might think of Fiona’s prediction that for authors, publishers and booksellers alike, ‘it will depend how Christmas goes’.
Until next time
In the next blog, I’ll bring you another perspective on writing and publishing: a video interview with a key figure in editing.
There’s an old saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The lack of activity on my blog in recent times has not been due to lack of intention but rather, lack of time. This has been a busy year, including a period spent in the UK, Finland, Sweden and Norway, as well as a short teaching stint in Singapore. Since I believe writers shouldn’t procrastinate, however, I’m determined to restore my regular blog and to let those generous people who were following it know that I have not neglected my writing since I last posted here. So here’s a bumper blog for the restart.
With Assoc Prof Sarojni Choy and Singapore students July 2015
Imagine that you’ve completed your teacher training in an Australian state or territory, and have just spent your first full year in front of a class. The next year, without your willing consent, but with the full force of the law, you’re in the Army. If you’re lucky, you may still be teaching, but not in a school, and not in Australia…
From 1965 to 1973, during the Vietnam War period, almost 64,000 young Australian men were conscripted by ballot into a two-year term of ‘National Service’ with the Australian Army. Over 15,000 of these conscripts were sent to assist the American war effort in Vietnam, but some 300 National Servicemen, who had been school teachers before their call-up, were quietly posted with the Royal Australian Army Educational Corps to the then Territory of Papua New Guinea for roughly 12-month periods. Colloquially known as ‘Chalkies’, the conscripted teachers served in the 3000-strong Pacific Islands Regiment, assisting an Australian Government effort to prepare TPNG for self-government and eventually independence.
Chalkies in Territory of Papua New Guinea 1971
With the aid of an Australian Government Army History Research Grant and a small reference group of ex-Chalkies, I’m currently writing the history of that scheme, drawing on official records (ask me about the frustrations of archival research sometime, when you have an hour or two to spare), historical commentaries, and more recently, the responses of more than 70 ex-Chalkies to a national survey. This is a little-known story, and the recollections of those teachers provide a fascinating picture of young men suddenly catapulted from their school classrooms into the military, of how they survived the experience, and what it meant to them.
I presented a paper about this scheme at an international adult education conference in the UK in July, and am aiming to develop the fuller material into a non-fiction book. As a writer, I’m enjoying the challenge of capturing the diversity of stories, not to mention the humour and sometimes the pathos of individual experiences. Remarkable stories in unique circumstances.
I’ve been meeting every few months with three other writers as a spin-off from a very successful workshop I ran for the Queensland Writers Centre in 2014, ‘Harnessing research for writing’. The four of us discuss our work and read from it, and at the last meeting we also shared our thoughts on a favourite or impactful* book.
To protect their privacy, I won’t mention the other members by name, but they have also been developing their writing: one has finished a novel based on true events in Asia and Australia, and is seeking publication; another has found a satisfying online outlet for his writing, which is based on his particular professional expertise; and the other member of the group is researching a 19th century soldier with American origins and an Australian demise, with the intention of writing a biography. It’s a very supportive and productive group.
*Hand up if you think this is a real word.
Baffled by Baffle Creek?
If you’ve never heard of Baffle Creek, that’s understandable, especially if you don’t come from the mid-coast of Queensland. I hadn’t heard of it either until Kevin Sommerfeld contacted me to see if I’d be interested in writing a history of the Baffle, as it’s known locally. My name had been suggested to him by Lex Rowland OAM, who chairs the Board of the Hinkler Hall of Aviation in the coastal city of Bundaberg, where Lex ‘launched’ my book, Hustling Hinkler, a little while back.
Baffle Creek, which is more like a river, empties into the sea just north of Bundaberg,
and Kevin grew up in that area. He’s been assembling historical material for some years,but felt he needed some assistance to write the story. After meeting with Kevin, who lives about an hour’s drive from my place in Brisbane, Queensland, we agreed that I would take the lead in using the material he had collected to write a jointly-authored article for the Queensland History Journal. It was a lot of work, but we beavered away, and the result is a 6000-word peer-reviewed article, ‘Baffle Creek: the changing fortunes of an inland waterway’, which was published in the August 2015 edition of that journal. Kevin and I patted each other on the back via telephone.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a strong proponent of lifelong learning (e.g. see my book, Extending your use-by date, and the Griffith Review essay, ‘Working late’), and am currently co-editing a book, Supporting learning across working life: Models, processes and practices, which will be published by the international academic publisher, Springer, later this year. I’m also contributing as an author to three chapters in that publication.
I believe in that adage that writers should also be readers, and read on average a book a week. Just in case you think from what I’ve written above that I’m only into non-fiction, much of my recreational reading is crime novels and thrillers, and an occasional historical novel. I’m also working on a fiction novel and a couple of short stories, all based on real-life events.