Moonlite by Garry Linnell

1. First lines. 2. Published 2020 Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Australia 3. James Nesbitt Bushranger [Public Domain] via Wikimedia 4. Andrew George Scott, alias Captain Moonlite [Public Domain] via Wikimedia
About the book:

This is the true story of Andrew George Scott, the Australian bushranger known as Captain Moonlite, who in 1880 was hanged at Darlinghurst Jail after being captured at Wantabadgery Station between Wagga Wagga and Gundagai, New South Wales. With his gang of five young men, he took thirty-five people hostage at the Station after being refused work and food. When police confronted them, two of the gang and a policeman were killed.

Quotes:

“For more than two generations petty thieves, escaped convicts and castoffs of society have been taking to the bush, often on horseback. On the run in an often grim and unforgiving landscape, they live off what they can scrounge and steal, and re-emerge to find that have been transformed into legends.”

“Gold. Such a precious substance. It can be bent and beaten, and then do the same to those who seek it.”

“The martyrdom. These star-struck crowds. It is why men like Sir Alfred Stephen so abhor the cult of the bushrangers. They know that deep in the psyche of the colony is a simmering defiance of authority, a kernel of resistance and disobedience sown by generations of convicts and more than a little Irish spite towards the Empire.”

“The weight of evidence strongly supports the view that Captain Moonlite was gay. It also overwhelmingly suggests he suffered significant mental issues. Narcissism lay at the heart of his personality. He craved attention but when he finally gained it, he became flustered and exhausted by its demands. He was prone to outbursts of irrational anger and was consumed by a rigid code of honour that, while often getting him into trouble, allowed him to make sense of a world he often, clearly, found bewildering.”

My opinion:

The author has portrayed George Scott (aka Captain Moonlite) impartially, using his wide-ranging research to delve into the character of this complicated man. Eccentric characters parade through the book, making it immensely readable.

The opinion of others:
  • Canberra Times: “Linnell knows how to tell a story. He recounts with gusto Scott’s early forays in the Pacific and leads the reader into tales of his robbery in the goldfields, capture, escape, recapture and then prison romance. Scott develops a relationship with a fellow prisoner, James Nesbitt, and the two become lifelong companions. Gay bushrangers are an under-explored part of the national myth. Linnell makes the reader think about what other truths of those times might have been suppressed. Linnell renders expressively the desperation of what was not really a romantic life at all. Moonlite and gang’s last holdup seemed spurred by hunger and cold as much as anything. Linnell admits to being captivated by Scott. I was less smitten. The man comes across as an egomaniac with an anger management problem, the sort of person you wouldn’t want to meet the eyes of in a pub. Scott’s partner, Nesbitt, is scarcely more agreeable. Linnell’s vivid prose kept me going long after I stopped caring for the Captain and his partner in both life and crime. He’s an engaging narrator reminiscent in style of Peter Fitzsimons.”
  • Times News Group Garry Linnell has a Midas touch when it comes to bringing remarkable non-fiction characters to life on a page. The fascinating figures from Australia’s past are captured with such clarity it is almost impossible to believe the celebrated journalist hasn’t spent hours interviewing them in person.

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