Do you like to read fiction about a place with which you are familiar or which relates to your family history?

Or looking for a light read with a bit of faction? (i.e. fiction, based on fact)

There are a couple of books which may fill the bill when it comes to Hill End.


Picnic Races coverDymphna Cusack – Picnic Races

“A growing body of Australian writers is presenting their own contry to us with the true knowledge and insight that only a native can command. Foremost amongst these writers is Dymphna Cusack, author of the best-selling Come In Spinner. She dedicates this book to her own pioneering ancestors, and it is indeed a celebration of the pioneering spirit as it still exists in the small Australian town of Gubba. It is also the most cheerful of comedies, bringing to vivid life the social patterns and ups and downs of a community in which everyone knows – and usually disapproves of – what everyone else is doing.

“Gubba is celebrating the centenary of its white settlement, when gold was discovered in the surrounding hills; but there are two factions in town, with different ideas about how to celebrate. Rick Lock Dutton and his smart friends want to turn the town into a tourist centre with a new hotel and exclusive Picnic Races; but the old-timers want a community centre and the preservation of the original spirit of the town. In the ensuing struggles we learn something about the ‘dolce vita‘ of the rich ‘woolcrats’, with their snobbery and pretensions, in which the pretty young Eden Dutton is caught up; and about the ordinary, decent townsfolk like Greg Millard, the gold prospector whom Eden thinks she can use as she will until she finds herself more involved than she had intended. We hear of the crusty old sheep farmers and the new class of labourers who know their own worth; of priests and tradespeople, and of the aborigines, some primitive, some a good deal abler than their white fellows. The climax of the story comes with the rediscovery of gold where it is least expected, and the triumph of the true spirit of the town.

“Miss Cusack writes in a tradition of social comedy that is familiar to all who enjoy classics of provincial life. Picnic Races is a refreshing book, written with intimate knowledge of, and warm affection for, the Australian people.” (available from the State Library of NSW as an ebook, if you are a member).

Hillendiana cover 2Donald Friend – HillEndiana,  A Collection of Hillendiana comprising vast numbers of facts & a considerable amount of fiction, concerning the goldfield of Hillend…

[and the title continues] … and Environs with the Results of many years of intensive and arduous Historical Research together with copious Notes, Quotations from the works of Esteemed and Learned authors also Scurrilous Verses & Ballads, numerous strange anecdotes & true stories related by respectable Eyewitnesses embellished with Many Illustrations by Eminent Artists and a commentary both Grave and Ribald, Accurate and Untrustworthy.

What more can one say? The title tells it all. Some stories even have a small amount of truth. First published by Sydney: Ure Smith, in 1956, there have been a number of editions. Now out of print but readily available on the secondhand market. See our index to this work in our Index database.


Death in the morning coverHarry Hodge – Death in the morning.

Here is the Australian thriller you’ve been waiting; for—a thriller more real and more powerful because its setting is Australian. Mr Harry Hodge will be applauded by lovers of crime fiction for this vigorous and hair-raising narrative. One murder—then another—and the gradual unfolding of a diabolical scheme to wreck the administration of a great country. A monomaniac, driven by lust for power, has laid his plans with fiendish cunning. Wealthy and respected, he plots secretly to become dictator in a country bred to democracy. Nor would he hesitate to barter that country to foreign powers to retain his control. This is the thrilling story of a national disaster averted by the courage and shrewdness of a few brave men. The author skilfully introduces romance and real humour to brighten his sinister tale. Jimmy Dixon is a sturdy and attractive hero and his romance with the beautiful and talented Valerie is charmingly handled. The stalwart ex-pugilist, Brogan, provides comedy in plenty.

How could you not be enticed to read this work, published in 1938 by Angus &Robertson? Hard to get hold of, but keep an eye out in the secondhand market.


Paper Daisies coverKim Kelly – Paper Daisies
by Kim Kelly

As 1900 draws to a close, Berylda Jones, having completed her university exams for entry to medicine is heading home to Bathurst for Christmas. Tragically, ‘home’ is where she and her beloved sister Greta live in terror, under the control of their sadistic Uncle Alec.

But this summer Berylda has a plan – borne out of desperation – to free herself and Greta from Alec for good, if she can only find the courage to execute it.

Then, on New Year’s Eve, just as Alec tightens his grip over the sisters, a stranger arrives at their gate – Ben Wilberry, a botanist, travelling west in search of a particular native wildflower, with his friend, the artist Cosmo Thompson.

Ben is at first oblivious to what depravity lies beyond this threshold and what follows is a journey that will take him and Berylda, Greta and Cosmo, out to the old gold rush town of Hill End – a tumbledown place with its own dark secrets – in search of a means to cure evil and a solution to what seems an impossible situation.

Against the tumultuous backdrop of Australian Federation and the coming of the Women’s Vote, Paper Daisies is a story of what it means to find moral courage, of a crime that must be committed to see justice done and a sweet love that grows against the odds.


The Touch coverColleen McCullough – The Touch

Loosely based on a setting very similar to Hill End this work tells the story of a young Scottish lass Elizabeth Drummond, a sixteen-year-old girl living under the oppressive rule of her father. She is shipped from Scotland to Australia to meet her intended husband, Alexander Kinross.  Within a day she is married to Kinross, a wealthy entrepreneur and successful gold miner in Hill End, whom she immediately realizes she will never love.

During his internal struggle with Elizabeth’s lack of affection, Alexander continues a true love affair with Ruby Costevan, a witty, humorous former prostitute-turned-hotelkeeper. Because the whole town knows of the affair, it’s not long before Elizabeth discovers the truth about Ruby. Ironically, Ruby & Elizabeth develop what becomes perhaps the most important relationship in the book and which endures throughout its course. The novel deals with complex family difficulties and the laborious relationship between Elizabeth and her older daughter Nell, and the rape and decline of her younger daughter Anna, yet manages to maintain a believable sense of hope & humor. The novel spans the main characters’ adult lives, and is constructed through alternating 3rd-person points of view, allowing the reader inside the minds of each of the principals – Elizabeth, Alexander, their children, Ruby, and Ruby’s son Lee Costevan – as well as other minor characters who help propel the plot.


Holtermann's Nugget

Gunter Schaule – Holtermann’s Nugget

When mining magnate, pioneer photographer and public benefactor, Bernhardt Holtermann died prematurely at the height of his success, the speculation and rumours started.

Some who knew Bernhardt closely had guessed the true nature of his relationship with Victoria, his children’s beautiful governess. They enjoyed the lavish parties and genteel soirées given by Harriet – Mrs Holtermmann, but some believed they detected an edge of tension under the formal cordiality between herself and Bernhardt.

Had she tired of being patient with her husband’s attentions to Victoria, or had Victoria tired of waiting for the divorce which would release her lover to become her husband?

Holtermann’s Nugget is an historical novel based on the life of the successful 19th century miner and businessman, the pioneer photographer, Bernhardt Holtermann. Bernhardt came to Sydney as a young man, to avoid conscription and the restrictive life of Hamburg in the 1850s.

Having made his fortune in gold mining at Hill End, Holtermann became famous as one of the most successful businessmen in Sydney during the early 1880s. His tireless drive for building his new country and showing Australia off to the world with magnificent panoramic photographs took him to international trade fairs in Philadelphia and Paris.

Bernhardt’s untimely death on his 47th birthday adds romance and intrigue to this novel of an adventurous life. Holtermann’s main bequest to the nation are his magnificent photographs which won for him international acclaim, and for Australia, international recognition.

Copies of this book are available to purchase on our bookshop.


Miners Right CoverRolf Bolderwood (Thomas Alexander Browne)

The Miner’s Right, as ‘A Tale of the Australian Goldfields’, is the counterpart of Boldrewood’s bushranging classic, Robbery under Arms . Written out of the author’s immediate experience as Goldfields Commissioner at Gulgong in the 1870s, it also casts back to the Chinese riots at Lambing Flat, to the robbery of the gold-escort at Eugowra, and to some aspects of the Eureka stockade. While these events are set in the romantic framework of the nineteenth-century novel, the democratic sentiment of the time is reflected to a greater degree than Boldrewood himself could have realised. The Miner’s Right is both an example of the colonial romance, and an account ‘from the life’ of conditions on the Australian goldfields in a time of social and political change.