When you know the author is a mature man with a classy Wiltshire (England) accent, it is quite a surprise to find the narrator in the prologue of his book is a teenager speaking in the Aussie vernacular. Fifteen-year-old Zac is compelled to stay with his grandfather whilst his parents are dealing with his mother’s illness. Once the awkward lad sees some value in the grandfather that he barely knows, the latter begins to tell the boy of his life.
From beginning to end, this is a fast-paced tale which tells of the grandfather, Danny McAlister’s search (when Zac’s age) for his own father, thought lost while fighting the Japanese in WWII. The story covers considerable distances, from North Queensland and the New Guinea Highlands, from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the islands in the Bismarck Sea. And it features people and professions such as pirates and fighter pilots that most people don’t encounter at their average backyard barbeque. To me it is reminiscent of the kinds of Boys Own adventures that kept boys reading long into the nights of early to mid-last century.
Danny’s experiences highlight a multitude of international social issues of the era, from sexual abuse in Australian boarding schools to the unfamiliar social norms of isolated island societies, from the criminal codes of Filipino pirates to the attitudes towards Japanese Comfort Women enslaved and consigned to the sex trade during and after the war.
The author, a former RAAF (helicopters and heavy transport) and airline pilot, not only extensively researched the historical occurrences and locations, but he also experienced many of Danny’s escapades in his Vietnam wartime service and this contributes to the passion and realism of this excellent book. McAlister’s Way is Young Adult Fiction. It is a thoroughly good yarn and I’m ready for the next in the series, Richard Marman. You’ll find Richard’s work at www.richardmarman.com