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Catherine Jinks

Fourteen-year-old convict Tom Clay lives in a shepherd’s hut in the bush, protecting his master’s sheep from wild dogs.

When a vicious fellow shepherd returns to ensure there are no witnesses to his crimes, the bush-crafty Tom and his hapless mate Rowdy face a life-and-death battle to survive.


Back in England, fourteen-year-old Tom Clay was a talented poacher. In 1840, in the British colony of New South Wales, Tom finds himself convicted and sentenced to work as a shepherd. Surrounded by violent and dangerous men, Tom must use his wits and his poaching skills to survive in the bush. A dramatic chain of events has brought a fellow shepherd, the terrifying and vicious Dan Carver, back into his life. Accompanied by his loyal dog Gyp and the new Irish man, Rowdy, Tom is soon on the run, fighting for his life.

Catherine Jinks’ latest book is a bleak portrayal of life in the Australian colonies. The novel covers only a few short days in the Australian bush, and moves at a breakneck speed that matches the panic and movements of the protagonist. Alongside the elements of colonial history, we also begin to understand the chain of events back in England that led to Tom’s conviction and sentencing to labour in the distance colonies. At times, some of the people from Tom’s past seem almost reflected in some of the people he has met in the bush of New South Wales. Without going into too much detail, Jinks also ties in elements of the genocide that was perpetuated against Indigenous peoples by colonial farmers. She depicts a violent colonial landscape. Shepherd is the latest edition to the Australian outback horror genre and will appeal to readers of Jock Serong and Garry Disher.

Julia Gorman works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton and Readings Kids.

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