Albert of Adelaide by Howard L. Anderson, Allen & Unwin, $26.99.
Animal Farm meets The Magic Pudding with a little bit of Ned Kelly charisma in this delightful and surprising adult tale set in the Australian desert. Our protagonist is a duck-billed platypus who has escaped from the Adelaide zoo to try to discover the “Old Australia” he has heard so much about, where animals roam free and all is natural harmony.
Albert is naive, charming and impossibly engaging, and soon becomes the most unlikely action hero you’ll encounter. On his seemingly foolhardy pilgrimage, he first meets Jack, a wombat with a kind heart, a dangerous addiction and a dark past, who introduces Albert to drinking and gambling in the pioneer town of Ponsby Station. What happens next sparks an action-packed outback western, complete with guns and bushranging, as Albert comes up against brutish, racist kangaroos and wallabies, alcoholic smart-arse bandicoots, a fame-loving wrestling Tasmanian devil and dingoes at first menacing and vicious, who later turn strangely spiritual.
This is a debut novel from Vietnam veteran Howard L. Anderson and it bristles with thrilling imagination as well as taking on serious issues, from prejudice and fear to true mateship and the nature of pure evil.
On his journey, Albert also discovers what drives him, a desperately sad early memory of his own mother’s death and the first time he was overcome by an emotional force and moved to serious violence.
Be prepared for a few tears in the final chapters and the sense that Albert is just beginning on his journey of self-discovery. This has to be the start of a series. At least, I hope so.
About the Author: Howard L. Anderson
Born in Denver, Colorado, 69-year-old Howard L. Anderson flew with a helicopter battalion during the Vietnam War, worked as a scriptwriter in Hollywood and as legal counsel for the New Mexico Organised Crime Commission before he wrote this novel.
Having spent time here, he says his tale was inspired by “Australian folk music and, of course, the platypus, who is very different than any other animal.” And the other animal characters? “They combine the traits of a lot of people I know, including myself,” he says.
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