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douglas mcphillips
The Lifestyle and Adventure of Ace McDice, Stretch Deed & moonshine Melody
The lifestyle and Adventure of Ace McDice, Stretch Deed & Moonshine Melody tells a fictitious tale of three devil-may-care wild men of the Australian bush during the last days of the era of the Bushrangers and the Gold rush at the end of the 19th century. It tells of each character's lifestyle and their united bent as wild men of Australia's west who set upon a plan to rob the Sugar and Tea Express. How the plan manifested and what drove them to an apparent reckless course in gaining the never to be found out robbery reward is a colourful story. The plot tells of the life they led before and after the robbery, but in life, gaining wealth by devious means always seems to bring later regret ultimately. Well, at least for read-on.
Poet, singer, and songwriter McPhillips’s spirited novel tells the story of three devil-may-care wild men of the Australian bush at the end of the 19th century, during the days of the Gold Rush. The gang spends their days gallivanting across the continent in search of gold and adventures, as shanty towns become municipalities. The companions earn their keep with periodic bouts of gambling and robbery, and they face marshas, chain gangs, and other hazards, all as the Aboriginal tribes don’t fully “understand the fascination of the white man and Chinese for the yellow metal.” McPhillips draws on history and the western genre for both adventure and to explore national identity and mythmaking, plus the moral question of whether gaining wealth by devious means ultimately brings regret.

True to form, the plot is alive with action, horses, prospecting, and crimes committed in the name of gathering resources, with a distinction drawn between civilization and the rugged world the protagonists inhabit. McPhilips’s action is sharp and clear, but he also digs deeper, illuminating characters' states of mind, which makes for some beautiful prose. McPhillips’ writing often resembles a kind of oral storytelling, where the plainspoken language, oratorical flourishes, bursts of clarifying history, and stories within stories can make you feel like you’re listening to a fable rather than reading words on a page.

McPhillips covers the history of bushmen and aboriginal peoples in welcome detail, both in introductory material and the story proper. Readers expecting a simple story about three heroes may be put off by the layered narratives, mythic touches, and abundant historical context. But McPhillips's writing will keep adventurous readers hooked, and those who manage to get past the information overload are in for some really interesting facts and stories surrounding Australia’s history. Lovers of Australian history will enjoy this book, which is as informative as it is lively.

Takeaway: The wild story of bushrangers from Australia’s gold rush, with an emphasis on history.

Comparable Titles: Jane Smith, David Hill’s The Gold Rush.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: B