The novel was launched last night and thanks to the many people who braved the chill night air to be there, and as I said, many more from the country and interstate who couldn’t be, but sent apologies. For those who missed the event, here is a summary of what I had to say.
I started with an acknowledgement of traditional owners and elders of the Noongar language group, and then thanked all those who were in attendance and those who couldn’t make it. I acknowledged and thanked Ian Wansbrough and Karen for their support as editors and proof-readers over both novels, and Karen, Paul and Suzanne and Drew and Caitlin and their many connections over the years who have all role-modeled creativity and “get up and go”. They all taught me that being creative can be learned, and that getting up and doing what you believe you can do well is preferable to sitting around waiting for someone to give you permission to do something. That’s how they’ve lived their lives and I bless them for it.
Then I mentioned Jarrod Egan and Fineline Print in terms of their support for the publishing of the new novel, not just the service but the quality and price. Ross MacLennan of Book Covers Australia was mentioned for his excellent work, and Todd Pender of WA Police for his support of the project and his advice on policing.
Then I spoke about the creation of The WILUNA Solution and how it differed from the previous novel. In writing Hiding Place, I knew the theme – about walking in a world between cultures as a way of preserving the values and integrity of each – and the story fell into place fairly easily. The theme for The WILUNA Solution wasn’t clear and the story came about very differently. All I knew was that I wanted to describe a town as it existed 80 years ago. The first spark for that came from being the Club Hotel in the year 2000 and seeing photos of the town in the 1930s. Then came the opportunity to work as a consultant in Wiluna in 2011, which took me constantly to an area of land opposite Wiluna Remote Community School over four years of visiting the town. As I walked it, concrete slabs that were foundations for houses, old clothes-line poles, shards of corrugated iron, a rusting truck differential, and several cobbled stone fences all spoke of a life I could only imagine. There was also the old hospital, now the Shire Offices, and the remains of a railway station to whet the imagination. So I imagined. I also discovered the town had a population of nearly 10 000 people by the start of World War Two. I learned that the Canning Stock Route ran north to Halls Creek with 51 wells, a great engineering feat and social disaster in terms of race relations. I was able to build relationships with the Martu people and hear stories of their treatment over time from whitefellas. And I could only marvel at the story of Warri and Yantungka and their family, who, as far as I know, were the last Aboriginal nomads to meet white people. The more I visited, the stronger was the spark, until it burned as a flame. But still, all I knew was that I wanted to write about the town in the 1930s, so I did, and the theme came clear as I finished the story.
The novel covers two eras (or more accurately, the years of 2007 and 1934). The main character is 57 seven-year-old Detective Inspector Greg Johnson, based in Kalgoorlie and getting ready to retire at the end of 2007. He is sent to Wiluna in late November to investigate the disappearance of a female schoolteacher and his experiences, both positive and negative, endanger the lives of his children and grandchildren as he struggles to discover the truth.
It was only as I finished the novel that my theme arose. Never accept anything as a fact. Always turn it into a question and prove that it’s accurate. If you don’t, you risk dangling on the strings of other peoples’ conceptions, or misconceptions as the case may be.
Let me finish with two photos of Wiluna, one from the early 1930s and one from 2007. They are shots of the same street.