Journal: 003, On the Road Again


This is Monday night, meant to be the end of my first day owner-drivering, but Dragan had an ’emergency’ on Saturday and called me in to work early – I almost never say no when I’m asked to work: first you knock back jobs, then you don’t get offered is a ‘rule’ engraved on my heart, or on my anxiety gene – while I was driving son Lou to the airport. Still one daughter, Psyche, with one day left of her holiday with us, but she gave me permission and off I went. Hopefully I’ll make it up to her with a trip to Darwin.

An odd, diverse, needed holiday, spent getting permits etc in place for the truck, and my back, a few visits to the physio to get it into place (successfully), a week with all the kids in town for the first time in a few years, babysitters in place for the grandkids and a night out in the city with ex-ML & the kids and their favourite cousin (Hi Cait), a couple of days in Melbourne with mum, coinciding with Michelle Scott Tucker’s book release – boy, is she (justifiably!) excited.

But, as I said, work. So no time for a leisurely setting up, just chuck in the bedding, tuckerbox, a few days’ fruit and veg, tools, work clothes. Hook up and go. Fuel up; run one trailer to Kewdale road train assembly area (near the airport a few km from the CBD); go back for a second, hook them up (pic above). It’s already late; head out of town and over the Bindoon hills. Sleep near New Norcia. Hook up a third trailer at Wubin, the northern edge of the wheatbelt, on the Great Northern Hwy, before the scrub and desert that stretch north forever. Destination Karratha, 1,500 km up the coast but 1,800 km by this inland route.

The first breakdown of my new career occurs an hour out of Wubin. The left hand steer tyre blows as I’m pulling out of a parking bay and the left side of the truck settles almost to the road. My first reaction in any breakdown is to despair, then to phone someone and share my despair, and only then to begin working on a solution. It has given me a reputation for being unmechanical – which is true – but ignores the fact that I generally get going again.

Unluckily the first 300 km out of Wubin is out of phone range – no towns, no mines – so I despair on my own. Until I see that I can jack the truck up by reaching my arms through the wheel arch and using blocks and two jacks to progressively lift the axle high enough to get the wheel off and the spare on. There are other problems, in particular the wheel nuts are too tight, but other drivers stop to help, and eventually it’s all done.

And that’s the key, “other drivers stop to help”. I’ll write a longer post one day about truck drivers and the Australian Legend, but suffice it to say for now that as long as long distance truck drivers preach and practice ‘stopping to help’ the old ways of the bush aren’t dead.

Because Dragan got me going late on Saturday, because of the time lost broken down, because my bloody airconditioner is out of gas, tonight I’m comfortably ensconced in a motel and I’ll unload in the morning.

I was going to write a ‘literary’ post about this trip, about the old towns Roebourne and Cossack that Daisy Bates came to 110 years ago and that Karratha replaced, but I’ve written about them before (here) so I’ll just mention my favourite artist, whose works of Indigenous-Impressionist grasslands I can’t afford, Marlene Harold of the Roebourne mob, Yinjaa-Barni (here). Not forgetting that tomorrow I’ll be unloading on the Burrup Penninsula, a gallery of Indigenous rock art with a history in millenia to match the Louvre and Notre Dame’s centuries, and as much significance, except in the minds of mining-mad Western Australians.


When I pulled up tonight I was three quarters of the way through Prime Cut, a Western Australian crime fiction novel. I wouldn’t give away the ending in any case (see this very interesting Daily Review article about ‘spoilers’) so this is as good as time as any for a mini review.

I don’t know Alan Carter but I’d be surprised if he’s not an English migrant resident in WA. The story begins with a double murder in England coinciding with Sunderland’s surprise win in the 1973 FA Cup then moves to the WA south coast, Kim Scott country, in the 2000s.

The protagonist is DSC Cato Kwong, demoted to the Stock Squad (investigating stock, ie farm animal, theft) for taking short cuts in a murder investigation. He is called to Hopetoun, coastal hamlet become thriving dormitory town for the new BHP (here called Western Mining) nickel mine outside Ravensthorpe 50 km inland, where an old very ex-girlfriend Tess Maguire is sergeant in charge of a two-person station.

Her offsider is Indigenous and there is a nod to the Cocanarup Massacre and the possibility of a non-white history for Hopetoun and Ravensthorpe.

A body, or at least a torso is washed up on shore – discarded by a frenzy of sharks – and subsequently a matching head washes up as well. Meanwhile a retired ex-copper from Sunderland now living in Busselton (also south of Perth but on the west coast) becomes aware of an old murder in Adelaide almost identical to the Sunderland one and of sightings of the principal suspect in WA.

The two streams of investigation come together (inevitably), a policeman is murdered on the jetty at Hopetoun  …

If you want to know whodunnit or if Cato has it off with Tess then you’d better ask me on Weds when I’ve had some driving time to listen to the end. Though I did mean to say that the reading is for the Association for the Blind, WA and that sometimes their readings are a bit flat. However, in this case their reader, Jim Malcolm, an Australian of British extraction by the sound of him, is a natural and does a good job.

Recent audiobooks

Mark Billingham (M, Eng), Time of Death (2015)
Alan Carter (M, Aust/WA), Prime Cut, Fremantle Press, 2011 (Audio edition: Association for the Blind of WA, 2012)

Currently reading

Krissy Kneen, An Uncertain Grace, Text, Melbourne, 2017
Cixin Liu, The Dark Forest, 2008 (translated Joel Martinsen, 2015)





15 thoughts on “Journal: 003, On the Road Again

  1. LOL Bill, how did you know I was struggling with a review of a book that makes spoilers problematic?
    That article and the researchers have IMO missed the whole point… when asked did you enjoy the film/book as much when you saw/read it the second time, and the answer was yes, that tells me that this so-called research was one of those online surveys where the answers are virtually predetermined. “Yes” or “No”, but no option for “Yes, but”…
    Yes, of course you enjoy a book or film more the second time because you can see how events/plot points lead up to a surprise twist. But part of what we enjoy is *remembering the delight* of seeing that twist for the first time and admiring the way it was so cunningly constructed. That surprise is a genuine pleasure in today’s jaded world where so often we have seen it all before. It’s the pleasure of that dawning realisation that an author/scriptwriter has done something really clever that is denied to others by those who’ve had that pleasure and want to tell everyone about it.
    I try very hard not to spoil that pleasure for those who read my reviews – and it makes the review much harder to write. Perhaps being blasé about spoilers is just another example of lazy journalism…
    OK, off my soapbox now, and off to write the review…


    • It’s a good soapbox to be on. I think the recent discussion around Claire Coleman’s stunning debut illustrates just how important a (unrevealed!) twist can be. And I agree about the different pleasure that comes from re-reading, though, if I don’t take notes I’m just as likely to come unawares on plot twists the second time round as well. The only place I have a problem is in ‘discussing’ a book rather than reviewing it, as the ending necessarily forms part of that discussion.


  2. Bill: Your reference to Roebourne stirred a memory of a visit two days ago to the Old Gaol Lock-up in Hunter Street in Newcastle – now an exhibition space – the current exhibition “justiceINjustice” – dealing with notorious cases of injustices of/by police and sentencing courts – both. The Lindy Chamberlain case, the Eddie Russell case, the Kathleen Folbigg case, the Cornelia Rau case – et al – a co-operation between the later investigative lawyers – and artists – each working on setting up cells to display a particular response to the cases. The one which struck me was the murder by police in front of the Roebourne pub/in the local police station of John Pat. A terrible story of off-duty drunken cops giving him a coward’s hit over the head with a bottle then kicking him – then removing him – not to a hospital but to the police station and leaving him in a cell to die. Hideous! Good luck no more breakdowns or flat-tyres!


    • Thanks for that reminder – I was out of WA during the years of John Pat’s death, the complete exoneration and reinstatement to full duties of the police involved, and the Royal Commission. Roebourne has an unhappy history, the old stone jail is testament to that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a largely indigenous town these days.
      Thanks too for the good wishes, I’m afraid there’ll always be breakdowns and flat tyres though engines and tyres are far more reliable than they used to be.


  3. I’m loving these posts so much Bill – I know being on the road is work for you but reading about it is fascinating for me. (I did laugh when you said you’re not mechanical – whaaaaat?!)

    Will be very interested to hear your thoughts on An Uncertain Grace – not a book that I ‘liked’ but one that I thought was challenging, memorable and incredibly creative. I’m still thinking about parts of it.

    Safe travels!


    • Glad you’re enjoying my ‘journal’. I’ve tried plenty of careers but driving is the one that suits me best. As for ‘mechanical’ I have a theory about people like me who are good at schoolwork and guys who may be a lot less so but are clearly naturals at driving and fixing trucks.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Okay, I must confess I was googling and so needed to read part of your post to my husband. Why was I giggling? Because I have no idea what on Earth and audio book for a blind person would be! Is it any different from a regular audio book??

    My dad drove trucks for a while, and I can say confidently that the trucker rule about stopping is alive and well in the States.

    “My first reaction in any breakdown is to despair, then to phone someone and share my despair, and only then to begin working on a solution.”–this speaks to me and confirms why I like you 😂


    • I think audio books were started in Australia by Societies for the Blind in Qld and WA. But the early readers were volunteers – worthy but dull.
      Glad to hear that about US truckies. I like you for lots of reasons, one being that you read to your husband. Ex-ML once read to me for three days while we drove across the Nularbor: 3,500 km. The kids always travelled well and had their own occupations in the back seats.


      • Oh! We have audio books for blind individuals here, too. I just remembered I knew a guy who would read math books into a tape recorder for minimum wage so students with disabilities could do their homework. I’ll be his reading skills were terrible.

        I sure read a lot of campy fantasy novels to him. We accidentally (?) got into a series of four fantasy books that are terrible, but we both want to know what happens next anyway. I’d like to read some literary fiction to him next, perhaps Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.

        I’ve found that motorcycle and trucker culture are fairly similar in the U.S. Do you have a lot of motorcyclists in Australia? Seems like it would be hot as hell. Contrary to popular perceptions, you can sweat to pieces on the back of a bike.


      • Maths texts! Going backwards and forwards, making sure you got it, would be a nightmare. Don’t often say it about the world’s favourite author but JA after ‘campy fantasy’ might be a let down.
        We have bikies and they’re involved in trucking – their trucks have more bling and the drivers have ponytails.


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