BOOK OF THE MONTH: Kaye Dobbie’s ‘Mackenzie Crossing’
I’m not a particularly intrepid person, although my Mackenzie ancestors were–some of them explored vast areas of Canada and others sailed in the South Seas. I suppose I did live for several years on a yacht built by my father. Does that count?
My brothers and I were home schooled by my mother. Her family were those same Mackenzies, early white settlers to Australia, driven from their home by circumstance and lack of opportunity. I remember they seemed to take up a lot of our conversations around the dinner table, so little surprise my latest book is called Mackenzie Crossing.
Like many writers, I was a shy child, and tended to live in my head. Our home was a farm where my father grew vegetables for market, and I had a lot of ground to roam in my own little fantasy world.
Notice the tartan skirt in the photograph. I know it’s black and white but I can assure you it’s the Mackenzie tartan. Obviously I was destined to write a book with Mackenzie in the title!
I tend to incorporate those family stories in my books. Of course I disguise them, but for me, those tales add something special. It means my books have a piece of me in them. I think so, anyway. Imagination also plays a big part of course–probably about 90% is my own creation. I seem to get most of my ideas in the shower, I’m not sure why, or in the middle of the night. That’s when my brain begins to work overtime.
My current WIP is a case in point. I went to bed in despair over a plot point, sure the whole book was irredeemable, and woke up at 3am with the story running through my mind like a movie. Amazing. I don’t know how it happens, I’m just grateful it does.
My grandfather gave me the germ of the idea for Mackenzie Crossing. He was alive in 1939 at the time of the infamous Black Friday bushfires, and I still remember him telling me how he was standing outside his house and looking over to the north, and the sky was black with the sun barely visible behind the smoke. He said it felt like the whole state was on fire.
That memory stayed with me, and it still gives me goosebumps. I suppose I was always going to write about it, I just had to find the right book.
My grandfather told a good story; his generation were all great story tellers. They liked to entertain. My father too. Here are my grandparents on St Kilda Beach in the 1920s, and my father is the little boy.
I’m not intrepid and I’m not a great story teller in the same manner as my grandfather. I’m a writer. I can’t stand up and entertain people, but I can write a book that can do the same thing. And my books are full of intrepid people. I suppose in my own way I am passing on the family traditions.
A passion for photography draws two stories together across time to Mackenzie Crossing.
Neville ‘Pom’ Darling, is on the hunt for the perfect photograph.
Skye Stewart, is searching for her long lost grandfather.
It’s 1939, and Neville, escaping an unhappy marriage and his memories of the Great War, finds himself in Mackenzie Crossing on the day of the terrible Black Friday bushfires. He meets the beautiful Georgie Mackenzie and in an instant knows that she is the subject he has been looking for. As the heat intensifies, Georgie and Pom begin to wonder if they have a future together; but first, they must survive the blaze.
Almost sixty years later, Sky Stewart returns to the area in search of her grandfather. Did he survive the Black Friday bushfires? Who is the exotic woman in the photograph she found? But when she arrives in Elysian, the closest town to where Mackenzie Crossing used to be, she finds more of her hidden past than she bargained for. A more recent past which she would prefer stayed forgotten…
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