WE’RE GOING BACK!
After a hugely successful inaugural ‘authors tour’ taking a select group around Vietnam to locations that featured in our book Tunnel Rats, Sandy and I are going back again in October this year – and the tour will be bigger and even better. (You can read more about the tour here). And that trip will coincide with the publication of our second book about the Tunnel Rats and other Sappers in the Vietnam War which currently has the working title Tunnel Rats 2: A Sappers War.
This second volume will describe how the Sappers – army engineers – changed their way of working, developed over hundreds of years, to adapt to the specific challenges of Vietnam. Rather than work as one big unit, they were broken down into splinter teams and mini-teams of two and attached to units of armour, tanks and infantry, to deal with booby-traps and landmines, bunkers and, of course, tunnels. But they also did the big stuff, building roads, clearing jungle, laying mines and – when the folly of one huge minefield was realised – digging them back up again. No wonder they suffered the highest casualty rate of any Australian forces in the entire war. We reckon this new book is going to be even better than Tunnel Rats, which has been a huge success for us.
Allen & Unwin published Tunnel Rats at the beginning of July 2011. It’s a major rewrite of ‘No Need For Heroes’ the first-person memoir I wrote for Sandy MacGregor about 15 years before, but updated and re-tooled as a full-blown military history rather than a personal memoir. It’s a real “Boys’ Own” adventure – only for grown-up boys – telling the story of the young Australian Army engineers who, when they weren’t having a whale of a time, often at their own officers’ expense, were the first Allied troops to go down the Vietcong tunnels and discovered their underground city.
What I love about this story – and what made me want to go back and rework it after all this time – is that these guys were not only genuinely courageous and endlessly resourceful, they had a spirit of adventure and mischief that sustained them through what was a pretty horrific time. There are plenty of outrageous stories like the time they booby-trapped their own shower block – which they had built with money from their own little casino – rather than let it fall into the hands of recently arrived officers; then there was the ‘car chase’ through the streets of Saigon in which two sappers evaded the combined might of the US, Australian and South Vietnamese military police by commandeering a tuk-tuk and, ultimately, driving it under the barrier gate of their camp.
There was the investigation of the Tunnels, of course and the discovery of the underground city – they were the first Allied troops to venture down there, regardless of who lays claim to that honour. And then there was the day-to-day engineering tasks that varied from building bridges to “de-lousing” booby-trapped rice caches, embodying their unofficial motto Facimus et Frangimus – we make and we break.
Tunnel Rats went into reprint in only its first week on sale so we are hoping for good things from it. You can listen to an interview with Sandy and me on Radio National, with Geraldine Doogue, HERE, read an extract (as a PDF) HERE, or buy the book, either as a paperback or an eBook HERE.
Last year was a big one for me on the publishing front, with three books out in quick succession. The most recent was Watto, the Shane Watson autobiography which I ‘ghosted’, starting working with Shane last year before the ill-fated Ashes series and continuing – when his busy schedule allowed it – throughout the period in which he cemented himself in as the first name on the teamsheet.
My job with a publication like this is to not get between the subject and the reader. Luckily, Shane is an intelligent and thoughtful man who truly cares about cricket. You’ll find his life story (so far) peppered with what we call ‘Drinks Breaks’ – little side issues covering everything from equipment to what it’s like to be stuck between 50 and 100.
The most important think for me was to allow him to tell his story in his voice. His sister Nicki says when she read it she could actually hear him in her head, so I guess that part worked. Apart from that, I think it’s an interesting insight into the life of a modern cricketer and the pressures of life in the spotlight. I hope everyone who reads it gets something out of it. Click on the cover to read more and maybe even buy it (Yay!!!).
My previous book, out in August 2011, was a return to an old friend, Karri, The Bouncing Koala. It’s now 18 years since Karri first bounced and he’s been toddling along merrily ever since. last year my good friend and super-talented artist Eric Lobbecke and I decided it was time to give the little chap another spin and so now we have The Koala Bounces Back.
It’s about cats and soccer (two of my passions) but there’s also underlying themes about sharing, acceptance and finding your place in the world. And if you want to look a little deeper you’ll find a message about refugees. The cats in this story aren’t wanted where they come from and they definitely aren’t wanted where they end up. So what do they do and where do they go?
The original book has been selling steadily all that time, in various formats – hardback, softcover and mini-book – and was even translated into Korean. It seems amazing but some of the first kids who ever read The Bouncing Koala will almost certainly be having kids of their own now. That’s what I call building an audience. You can buy either book online HERE.
My true crime book ‘Snitch’ (I’m nothing if not eclectic) came out at the end of March 2010 from Allen & Unwin. If you are interested, click on the cover picture and read more about it. It has been nominated for the Ned Kelly prize for true crime writing but it’s in with some pretty serious company, not least Larry Writer’s excellent (by all accounts) book “Bumper” so even if we make it to the short-list that will be quite an achievement
By the way, if you’re here looking for the Jimmy Thomson who writes about apartments, click on this link http://www.flat-chat.com.au. That’s the place to be if you want to find the most recent examples of my trouble-making and attempts at problem solving in the area of strata living. I have recently added a readers’ forum to it and it has gone nuts, with aover 10 million ‘hits’ in the last year although I’m told the significant numbers are the 6.4 million pages and the 9.6 miliion files turned over in the last year (to Marc 2012, according to Webalizer). Enhanced conerage in the Sydney Morning Herald’s online pages is pushing readership through the roof. If you live in an apartment or townhous, head on over to the FORUM where you will surely find something there to keep you informed and amused.
The only problem is that I spend so much time over there that I don’t have any time to keep this website as up-to-date as I’d like. Still, if in doubt, show a picture of kittens.
Jimmy Thomson, July 2011