In a novel of sweeping narrative power unequaled since her own beloved worldwide bestseller "The Thorn Birds," Colleen McCullough returns to Australia -- this time with the story of its birth. At the center of her new novel is Richard Morgan, son of a Bristol tavern-keeper, devoted husband and loving father, sober and hardworking craftsman. By the machinations of fate and the vagaries of the 18th-century English judicial system, he is consigned as a convict to the famous "First Fleet," which set sail, bearing, as an experiment in penology, 582 male and 193 female felons sentenced to transportation, in May of 1787 for the continent that Captain Cook had discovered only a few years earlier. The word "epic" is overused, but no other word can do justice to one of the most grueling and significant voyages in human history or to the courage of the convicts whose sufferings were not ended but had only just begun when they set foot on Australian soil at Botany Bay on January 19th, 1788. Of those convicts, Richard Morgan stood out, not only for his strength and his calm determination to let no man bully him, but also for his intelligence, his fair-mindedness, his common sense, and his willingness to help others. To these qualities must be added a certain innate dignity that hinted, even in the most terrible conditions, at a life marked by tragedies that would have broken most men. In Richard Morgan, Colleen McCullough has created one of her most compelling characters. We see through Morgan's eyes the two worlds in which the story takes place: that of 18th-century Bristol, where Morgan was born and expected to live out his life, and that of a convicted felon sent to settle ahostile new world. When the book begins, Richard Morgan is a contented man -- happily married, with a child he adores. Then, piece by piece, his idyll crumbles until he finds himself led into an ambiguous relationship with a beautiful young woman, whose dissolute protector seeks vengeance on Morgan to protect his own skin. He endures the agonies of bereavement and financial loss, incarceration in prison and aboard the notorious "hulks," then the horrors of the journeys to Botany Bay and Norfolk Island, where he finds against all odds a new love and a new life. Richard Morgan's story is true, but in making Morgan the central figure of her novel, Colleen McCullough has created a hero whom no reader will ever forget; she has written not only a great adventure and a powerful love story, but also a book that combines the elements of "Tom Jones" and" Mutiny on the Bounty." "Morgan's Run" is great fiction, full of drama, passion, history, love, and hatred, full-blooded and totally engrossing, a stunning work that is at once rich entertainment -- and a revelation.
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Take a long voyage deep into the 18th century with Colleen McCullough, a novelist for readers with a big appetite for historical slices of life. In Morgan's Run, her mild-mannered hero is a Bristol tavern owner's son with a God-given gift for crafting the Brown Bess flintlock musket. This is handy, because England plans to employ it to put down the mutinous American colonies. McCullough knows this firearm right down to the last flange and frizzen spring--how its .753-inch ball shatters bones and butchers bellies and how you have to work up a mouthful of spit, then bite the paper containing the powder to moisten and rupture it before firing. And like a master gunsmith, McCullough assembles all the elements necessary to give the novel flash and impact: rogues and heroes, salty dialect, period detail, vicious intrigue, comic relief, betrayal, and unexpected romance.
She also knows just how her master of the crafts of tavern-keeping and musket-making would fit into the vast mechanism of history as the American victory wrecks Britain's economy and forces the crown to send convicts elsewhere. Richard gets a job with a rum distillery, but his sharp-eyed efficiency undoes him: one day he finds "a number of pipes hidden among festoons of spider-web," one of which is diverting 800 gallons a week to dodge taxes, a hanging offense. He unwisely reports this, which lands him in a net of corruption. Soon he is sentenced to various convict ships anchored in England, and then to a slave ship bound for Botany Bay in the new penal colony, Australia. But save your pity! Richard rises to the terrible occasion. "Prison had given him a star to steer by, and his own will had swelled sails he did not even know he possessed."
Though McCullough doesn't quite reach the literary heights of Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander or Robert Hughes's The Fatal Shore, she shares some of their virtues. Morgan's Run is a good old-fashioned adventure novel with the unflagging energy and raffish cast of an action movie. She considered calling it Morgan's Dirty Dozen, and it would have lived up to that title, too. --Tim AppeloAbout the Author:
Colleen McCullough was born in Australia. A neuropathologist, she established the department of neurophysiology at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney before working as a researcher and teacher at Yale Medical School for ten years. Her writing career began with the publication of Tim, followed by The Thorn Birds, a record-breaking international bestseller. She lives on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific with her husband, Ric Robinson.
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