John Batman, ruthless, singleminded; four convicts, the youngest still only a stripling; Gould, a downtrodden farmhand; two free black trackers; and powerful, educated Black Bill, brought up from childhood as a white man, this is the roving party and their purpose is massacre.

With promises of freedom, land grants and money, each is willing to risk his life for the prize.

Passing over many miles of tortured country, the roving party searches for Aborigines, taking few prisoners and killing freely, Batman never abandoning the visceral intensity of his hunt. And all the while, Black Bill pursues his personal quarry, the much-feared warrior, Manalargena.

This month’s book divided our group in a clear ‘loved it/hated it’ form. A handful of us, although admitting the horror of the storyline, nevertheless found the writing, characterisation and realistic setting a pleasure to read. And where some found the lack of punctuation difficult, others found the narrative flowing and well fitted to the character style. To read more of this review visit Over the Fence for the full picture.

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