Black Huntress: Seven Spears by Philip Fitzpatrick, independently published, July 2019, 311 pages. ISBN-10: 1079837043. Available from Amazon US for US$7.64 plus postage and on Kindle for US$1.00. It will probably be a few weeks before Amazon Australia makes it available
TUMBY BAY - In the late 1800s in Australia, miners and squatters (people who occupied large tracts of Crown land in order to graze livestock) were agitating for the opening up of Papua for exploitation.
In 1883 Queensland made an abortive attempt to annex Papua arguing there was a threat from the Germans who were occupying New Guinea.
Australian was then still a colony of Britain. The Queensland initiative forced Britain’s hand and they annexed Papua, calling it British New Guinea.
In 1906 a newly independent Australia ( that happened in 1901) took over from the British and changed the name to Papua.
Its progressive administrator, Hubert Murray, made the protection of the people and their land a top priority.
These conditions, particularly as they related to land ownership, were later carried through to New Guinea when it was administratively joined to Papua.
The preservation of local land rights was hugely significant and probably prevented the kind of revolutionary violence that occurred in many of the African colonies where land had been alienated.
Saved from revolutionary violence by Hubert Murray’s sensible thinking, it’s still interesting to speculate about what might have happened to Papua, and probably New Guinea, if Queensland and the miners and squatters had their way.
To appreciate this, one has to understand what had gone on in Australia prior to 1883 and what the impact had been on its indigenous people and their land.
In short it is not a pretty story. The Australian frontier was a violent place and there was an undeclared war going on between the expansionist squatters and the Aboriginal people.
Atrocities were committed on both sides but the Aboriginal people were outnumbered and outgunned, and many of the squatters thought that killing them off was a legitimate way to deal with them.
The invention of repeating rifles, like the seven shot Spencer carbine in the 1860s, unhappily coincided with the outback predations of the Queensland squatters and made that the bloodiest state in the frontier wars.
And this is the theme of my latest novel, ‘Black Huntress: Seven Spears’.
The novel is set in the 1860s when the squatters were rapidly expanding into areas well away from the coast. They were pushing hard against the desert tribes who had lived in these areas for thousands of years.
Precious water sources became a major source of conflict. The squatters resorted to violence against the tribes and massacres were commonplace.
Then, in my book, one young girl, Mingiri, ‘the little mouse’, who has seen her family and clan massacred, decides to fight back. With spears collected from her dead clansmen she sets out for revenge.
The novel follows her pursuit of seven stockmen who have been acquitted of the murder of her people in a corrupted court case.
In the middle of this drama is one lone, conflicted policeman. He stands between the desert people and the squatters thirst for land and profit.
While the book is fictional, it weaves historical accounts into its narrative to impart a mood of authenticity.
I found it difficult to research and write. The scale of the conflict was many times that of what happened in the early days of Papua New Guinea and I’m thankful there is no need for a similar novel based there.