Marooned on Pitcairn by A C T Marke. Frogmouth Press, Low Head, Tasmania. 419 pages. ISBN 9780645029611. $25 plus $5 postage from the author at email@example.com
TUMBY BAY - This is the sixth book in Andrew Marke’s series featuring his repressed hero, Temlett Conibeer, negotiating the world with his strange Victorian era sensibilities.
I suspect that it might be the last in the series because it traces the history of the hapless Temlett from his childhood in Somerset, England, right through to his final days in a retirement village in Tasmania.
Along the way all the characters in the previous books are revisited in one way or another with added twists and turns and a new supporting cast.
The Temlett Conibeer books are definitely an acquired taste and a difficult form to pin down. Some readers dismiss them out of hand but others don’t mind them at all.
This sixth book, although wider in scope, follows the same pattern as the others.
The tale is woven with many barely relatable asides in much the same way as an elderly, absent-minded uncle might wander about on a subject while reciting his reminiscences.
That elderly uncle, in this case represented by the author, very obviously mixes much of his own experience into the narrative. Telling what might have really happened and what has been invented makes for interesting guesswork.
The experiences of Temlett in Papua New Guinea is a recurring theme.
The author worked for many years as a malaria control officer in the Department of Health in pre-independent Papua New Guinea.
One of his real-life offsiders was the late David Wall, who contributed to PNG Attitude in its early days and appears in the book under his own name.
The title of the book is somewhat misleading because Temlett’s brief stranding on Pitcairn Island is only a small part of the overall narrative.
Its connection to what happens afterwards doesn’t quite come off as a defining episode in his later progress.
Consistent with the other books in the series, Temlett’s cack-handed and bizarre attempts to find love is also an amusing recurring theme.
For me the main attraction of this book and all the others is the Papua New Guinea connection and the light that is cast on pre-independence days.
A C T Mark presents many interesting riffs, for instance, on the booze and conversation hubs found in the country clubs that proliferated in most districts in those days.
Like Marke's other books, this one is nicely produced and printed with few typos but perhaps a lack of editorial oversight.
If you’ve read the other books, however, this one is a must read.