Only Killers And Thieves by Paul Howarth
A story of two brothers on a trail of revenge
Queensland, 1885. It is a scorching day in Australia’s deserted outback when Tommy McBride and his brother, Billy, return home to discover a devastating tragedy.
Distraught and eager for revenge, the young men set out in search of the perpetrators. They are soon forced to seek help from their ruthless neighbour John Sullivan, and the Queensland Native Police an armed militia infamous for hunting down Indigenous Australians. The retribution that follows will embroil the brothers in a heart-breaking injustice, uniting them in a battle for survival, and forever tearing them apart.
My Review ~
Only Killers And Thieves is set in 1885 Queensland, Australia. I will confess that I don’t read many westerns despite being a big fan of historical fiction. So, I most definitely found this title to be very unique in its themes and characters.
I never thought I’d enjoy a western!
The title opens with the McBride brother’s Tommy (14yrs) and Billy (16yrs) hunting in a drought. The boys trespass on John Sullivan’s land leading to a dressing down from the native mounted police, Inspector Edmund Noone. Where they also witness two mutilated and burned bodies Noone has hung from a tree. The two victims are black men and this causes tension when the boys relay the story to their father…
‘Using black to hunt other blacks. It’s disgraceful’
We become aware of the racial tensions that exist in the historical era. The brother’s entitlement to their land, despite being of Scottish/English/Irish descent.
Their father is disgusted at the crimes, which causes Joseph to leave his employment and seek to move on. However, he fears a war developing with John Sullivan. So, he is willing to over look the murders to keep the peace.
That is until he receives a note from Sullivan…
‘I’m waiting Ned’
The McBride brothers return one day, to find their father dead. Their mother assaulted and killed and their sister barely killing to life. The brothers instantly blame Joseph, who recently left their employment, as they rush to pin the blame on someone. The brother’s seek help from John Sullivan, with Billy embellishing their story stating he saw Joseph present at the scene. But can the boys trust John Sullivan?
Why are they so quick to turn their backs on Joseph?
‘Being a wage slave ain’t much better than being a black fella’
The racial prejudices of John Sullivan and the era in general may shock the reader. But they are historically accurate for the colonial history. Sometimes I think the harsh reality of this era, has almost been completely whitewashed from history.
With Billy swept up in the horrors of violent racism. Has he sold his soul to the devil?
The brother’s pick different sides, will this be their downfall?
Prejudice, anger, violence and revenge. 4*