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Only Killers and Thieves: A Novel
by Paul Howarth

Published: 2018-02-06
Hardcover : 336 pages
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Two brothers are exposed to the brutal realities of life and the seductive cruelty of power in this riveting debut novel—a story of savagery and race, injustice and honor, set in the untamed frontier of 1880s Australia—reminiscent of Philipp Meyer’s The Son and the novels of Cormac ...

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Introduction

Two brothers are exposed to the brutal realities of life and the seductive cruelty of power in this riveting debut novel—a story of savagery and race, injustice and honor, set in the untamed frontier of 1880s Australia—reminiscent of Philipp Meyer’s The Son and the novels of Cormac McCarthy.

An epic tale of revenge and survival, Only Killers and Thieves is a gripping and utterly transporting debut, bringing to vivid life a colonial Australia that bears a striking resemblance to the American Wild West in its formative years.

It is 1885, and a crippling drought threatens to ruin the McBride family. Their land is parched, their cattle starving. When the rain finally comes, it is a miracle that renews their hope for survival. But returning home from an afternoon swimming at a remote waterhole filled by the downpour, fourteen-year-old Tommy and sixteen-year-old Billy meet with a shocking tragedy.

Thirsting for vengeance against the man they believe has wronged them—their former Aboriginal stockman—the distraught brothers turn to the ruthless and cunning John Sullivan, the wealthiest landowner in the region and their father’s former employer. Sullivan gathers a posse led by the dangerous and fascinating Inspector Edmund Noone and his Queensland Native Police, an infamous arm of British colonial power charged with the "dispersal" of indigenous Australians to "protect" white settler rights. As they ride across the barren outback in pursuit, their harsh and horrifying journey will have a devastating impact on Tommy, tormenting him for the rest of his life—and will hold enduring consequences for a young country struggling to come into its own.

Recreating a period of Australian and British history as evocative and violent as the American frontier era, Only Killers and Thieves is an unforgettable story of family, guilt, empire, race, manhood, and faith that combines the insightfulness of Philipp Meyer’s The Son, the atmospheric beauty of Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist, and the raw storytelling power of Ian McGuire’s The North Water.

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of February 2018: Set in 19th Century Australia, Only Killers and Thieves is a soaring debut. When teenage brothers Billy and Tommy McBride set out to hunt the scrub around their ranch, they stumble upon a terrible scene: a lynching of two native aboriginals. Later, when they return to their home, they find that their parents have been murdered. The signs point to it being an act perpetrated by their aboriginal stockman, Joseph, and the boys are soon drawn into a hunt for him. But as they travel under the direction of land baron John Sullivan and Inspector Edmund Noone, who leads the Native Mounted Police, the boys are drawn into a revenge hunt that divides them. One brother seeks justice; the other sees justice being undone. Everything about this novel is alive—the characters, the setting, and the language. The scenes and scenery last in your mind like the best westerns. And this book deserves that comparison. -- Chris Schluep for the Amazon Book Review

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