21 August 2014

Excerpt Thursday: NARGUN by Ian Lipke

This week, we're pleased to welcome author Ian Lipke with his latest novel, NARGUN. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. The author will offer a free print copy of Nargun to a lucky blog visitor from Australia.  Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.

For many the turbulent history that shaped early Australia has been forgotten. The victorious wrote the history books, and the voices of the vanquished were silenced. The invasion and conquest of the land and the near genocide of the indigenous people were events that rarely receive mention.

Ellie Matthews' academic research drew her to the culture and history of the first inhabitants of Southeast Queensland. One day she receives a poorly written letter that causes her to drive over rough roads to meet with an old aboriginal man who tells her the story of Nargun, a man of the forgotten Galanga people, one of the greatest aboriginal warriors of his day, a war chief caught up in the collision between two cultures and two worlds. In Garunna's tale, we hear of an almost forgotten race…the awful clash of white and black cultures…the story of the spirited leader and his fight for his people. We hear about the women who loved him and the men who followed him.

In Garunna’s story, Nargun, a prince among men, once more leads his people into battle while, at the same time, revealing the path of forbidden love that rewrites Ellie’s own history.  
**An Excerpt from Nargun**

Chapter One

A single footprint pressed into the ground, clear evidence that someone had crept along the stony ridge towards the small stream that trickled from the foothills of the Brimstone Ranges. No member of Nargun’s clan had left such a mark. None of the children came this way, yet the footprint was that of a child. Curious, Nargun studied the area around the print with great care and interest. Throughout most of his sixteen summers he had been taught by Guterangi, the master tracker, to read the story of the bush. He crouched and lowered his face until it almost touched the ground. He sighted along the surface and immediately spotted a tiny scuffing of dirt such as might have been made by a kangaroo or bush wallaby. He knew he would have disregarded it, if he had not seen the child’s footprint nearby. Guterangi would be pleased with his clever reading of the signs.

Casting wider in search of an explanation, he picked out the faint suggestion of a concealed track. A small party had passed this way, one that did not want to be observed, too few to be hunters, certainly no war party. The presence of a child made that impossible. Instinct and tribal law required him to investigate these unfamiliar signs, but Nargun also knew that he would have to inform the clan of his actions and whereabouts. Therefore, he placed several small rocks on the path and used a sharpened stick to point the direction he intended to travel. He knew that when the guards came to relieve him they would read his signal. Checking that his war club was secured at his side, his axe and spears easily available to him, his mind alert for danger, he set out to identify the strangers travelling across his land.

There was something about these tracks that made him uneasy. For a moment, he wondered if the signs had been placed for him to find, a test perhaps, but he dismissed the idea as unlikely. Nargun opened his nostrils to the light breeze as he had been taught when trying to detect a scent. He smelt nothing but wattle and gum tree. He listened, but apart from the chirping of crickets and the snuffling of some larger animal, which he quickly identified as a wild pig, there was nothing unusual to suggest that there was any danger near at hand. He took particular note of the position of the sun. It had traversed a large part of the sky on its daily journey to bed with the mountains in the west. Nargun quickly reasoned that the intruders could not have entered Galanga lands during the daylight hours. Even the laziest of the guards would have sighted a party crossing into their territory in daylight.

Nargun paused for a moment but then shrugged off as foolish the notion that the intruders might be visitors from the spirit world. Although such ghostly figures always preferred to move through the country at night, they were never known to leave signs of their passing. It made sense that the makers of the tracks must have entered under cover of darkness and lain hidden in the scrub until they had taken the decision to move in the slowly fading light of day. He tracked steadily onward, sharp eyes picking up the occasional overturned leaf that should not have settled on that particular stony ridge, his spear ready to do battle if the occasion presented itself. Soon the direction of the travellers’ path became clear.

The shadows were lengthening. A wagtail and a bluish-green parrot fluttered through the bushes in that lethargic way they had of resting during the afternoon heat before feeding again as night began to fall. Nargun’s quarry was heading towards the creek that trickled from the base of mighty Beerwah, the mother of all mountains. Nargun realised the intruders were searching for a place to camp for the night. He moved in total silence towards the creek, his heart thumping loudly in his chest. The signs now showed that he was on the trail of a party of three, a man, a woman and a child. The care with which the tracks were hidden suggested the skilled presence of a woman.

What would Guterangi do? Nargun thought, as visions of his younger days spent learning the craft of the bush under the old man’s strict discipline, flashed through his mind. I couldn’t have spotted them unless they’d made the mistake with the footprint. They were careless. That may cost them their lives.

A light breeze touched his cheek and went on to stir the dust on the rocky ridge. Silver-tipped leaves in the light scrub land nearby whispered among themselves, but Nargun could not understand what they might be saying. Hmm … now the strangers wander from the easy path… are they weary, I wonder? They’re not stupid – their tracks are too well concealed for the most part. Well, they won’t escape me. He thought of the great stories that would be told of his courage and his prowess as a reader of signs. He scratched his head and murmured aloud. “There’s something odd about this track… what are they doing?”

A mud lark, startled by Nargun’s movement, complained loudly at being so rudely interrupted as she began feeding. Moving quickly away from the noise, Nargun dislodged a rock, and he cursed his carelessness. Guterangi would have punished that foolish mistake, he thought, and was pleased his old teacher was not with him. “Pee-wee, shh,” Nargun whispered to the fluttering bird. “You want to tell everybody about me?” He waited until the lark had become accustomed to his presence before moving on slowly.

The creek was very close now. Nargun crouched and scanned the scrub ahead. It was near to nightfall and he strained in the gloom to catch any sign of his quarry. There! A tiny flicker of light, such as that given off by a camp fire well concealed in the dense undergrowth. He crept closer, very close, ever cautious not to alert his foes to his presence. He made his way like a wraith, silent and unchallenged. His keen nose picked up the faintest trace of wood smoke, and he paused. He was more alert than he had ever been.

A feeling, a sense of immediate danger, suddenly washed over him. There was danger here.

Additional Material:

About the Author

Ian Lipke became a teacher of primary children in 1958, transferring to secondary schools in 1964. He has taught in schools in remote and metropolitan areas of Queensland, Australia. He left school teaching in 1977 to lecture at the University of Queensland and at Queensland University of Technology. Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, he was a deputy principal at several high schools, before retiring to manage his own tutoring business. In 2006, he returned to postgraduate studies through research at the University of Queensland. His whole life has been devoted to academic studies, which he very much enjoys.

He has co-written two textbooks for older school children, a novel called Nargun that depicts aboriginal-white confrontation in early nineteenth century Queensland, and at the time of writing was president of the University of the Third Age, Brisbane. While carrying out his administrative duties, he has written and published a crime novel called Lest Evil Prevail. A third novel, Family Matters, has been accepted for publication. His books are available for purchase at www.booklocker.com.

In addition to his administrative responsibilities he coordinates the ‘words’ section of M/C Reviews, a highly commended online journal that is the brain-child of Dr Axel Bruns of Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane. In 2014, he conducted a seminar on the self-publishing industry, an area that he has made his own.

Ian has a wife, two children, and two grandchildren.