Only Killers and Thieves
Two adolescent brothers are exposed to the brutal realities of life and the seductive cruelty of power after a tragedy shatters their family in this riveting debut novel—a story of savagery and race, injustice and honor set in the untamed frontier of 1880s Australia—reminiscent of Philipp Meyer’s The Son and the novels of Cormac McCarthyAn epic Western, a tough coming-of-age story, and a tension-laden tale of survival, Only Killers and Thieves is a gripping and utterly transporting debut that brings to vivid life a colonial Australian frontier that bears a striking resemblance to the American West in its formative years.It is 1885 and the McBride family are trying to survive a crippling drought that is slowly eroding their lives and hopes: their cattle are starved, and the family can no longer purchase the supplies they need on their depleted credit. When the rain finally comes, it’s a miracle. For a moment, the scrubland flourishes and the remote swimming hole fills. Returning home from an afternoon swim, fourteen-year-old Tommy and sixteen-year-old Billy McBride discover a scene of heartbreaking carnage: their dogs dead in the yard, their hardworking father and mother shot to death, and their precocious younger sister unconscious and severely bleeding from a wound to her gut. The boys believe the killer is their former Aboriginal stockman, and, desperate to save Mary, they rush her to John Sullivan, the wealthiest landowner in the region and their father’s former employer, who promises to take care of them.Eager for retribution, the distraught brothers fall sway to Sullivan, who persuades them to join his posse led by the Queensland Native Police, an infamous arm of British colonial power whose sole purpose is the “dispersal” of indigenous Australians to “protect” settler rights. The group is led by the intimidating inspector Edmund Noone, a dangerous and pragmatic officer whose intellect and ruthlessness both fascinates and unnerves the watchful Tommy. Riding for days across the barren outback, the group is determined to find the perpetrators they insist are guilty, for reasons neither of the brothers truly understands. It is a harsh and horrifying journey that will have a devastating impact on Tommy, tormenting him for the rest of his life—and hold enduring consequences for a young country struggling to come into its own.Set in a period of Australian and British history as raw and relevant as that of the wild frontier of nineteenth-century America, Only Killers and Thieves is an unforgettable story of family, guilt, empire, race, manhood, and faith that combines the insightfulness of Philipp Meyer’s The Son with the atmospheric beauty of Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist and the raw storytelling power of Ian McGuire’s The North Water.

Only Killers and Thieves Details

TitleOnly Killers and Thieves
Author
ReleaseFeb 6th, 2018
PublisherHarper
ISBN-139780062690968
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Cultural, Australia, Young Adult, Coming Of Age, Westerns

Only Killers and Thieves Review

  • Will Byrnes
    January 1, 1970
    The guilt is collective, the responsibility shared. In a hundred years no one will even remember what happened here and certainly no one will care. History is forgetting. Afterward we write the account, the account becomes truth, and we tell ourselves it has always been this way, that others were responsible, that there was nothing we could have done. Australia, 1885, drought-stricken central Queensland. The McBrides struggle to scratch a living from their parcel of land, raising bony cattle, The guilt is collective, the responsibility shared. In a hundred years no one will even remember what happened here and certainly no one will care. History is forgetting. Afterward we write the account, the account becomes truth, and we tell ourselves it has always been this way, that others were responsible, that there was nothing we could have done. Australia, 1885, drought-stricken central Queensland. The McBrides struggle to scratch a living from their parcel of land, raising bony cattle, and listening, always listening for the siren song of rain. Tommy (14) and Billy (16) are out hunting a bit too far afield for something, anything, to add to the family menu when they see the local bigshot, John Sullivan, his assistant, and some native troopers engaged in a nefarious activity. The boys’ father had warned them about staying away from Sullivan’s land. But their witness sparks a tragic sequence of events that leads the boys on a life-altering quest for vengeance, led by none other than the untrustworthy Mr. Sullivan. Colonial Oz has a lot in common with the westward expansion of the United States. Not least among these similarities are a sere landscape, and thus challenges for any seeking to make a living from the land, and the inconvenient presence of prior inhabitants. As in the USA, the locals did not fare well once the invaders set their sights on their turf. The “dispersal” of the native people is a core element of Only Killers and Thieves. Paul Howarth (and two close associates) - image from his FB pageThe chief baddie here is John Sullivan, the largest local landowner, a person with no limits to his avarice and no moral qualms to guide his actions. He has brought in a team of Native Mounted Police, led by the frightening but intriguing Inspector Edmund Noone. Cop? Bounty hunter? Horseman of the apocalypse? Whatever. You do not get in this man’s way. A crime is committed, evidence suggesting the perpetrator might be an erstwhile native employee of the McBrides. Sullivan and Noone lead a group of troopers and the two boys in pursuit.Australia is a vast place, fodder for the imagination, like ancient maps that filled in unexplored parts of the blue with “There be dragons here.” Father had a surveyor’s map showing their selection and the surrounding land, everything to the north, south, or east. The lines only went so far west then faded into nothingness; the interior blank. A place where one comes face to face with physical challenges, a venue in which hard moral choices must be made, and where character, one’s personal unknown interior, is both sculpted and revealed. The landscape is a character here. It has moods and expresses itself dramatically. A dark god perhaps rendering judgment on the acts of men with sand storms that can kill in diverse way. The land also serves as a powerful external manifestation of emotional turmoil. “Might have only dust in it,” Locke said. “We could ride right through.”“Or might not,” Noone replied. “Might be a sandstorm, blind the horses, strip the skin from your bones. You’re welcome to stay, Raymond. Please do. But the rest of you, back to that shit-pile of a house we found this afternoon. Locke began protesting but Noone didn’t wait. He turned his horse sharply, gave it both spurs; the horse bared its teeth and took off like it had been shot. Noone didn’t check who was following, though all of them did. Pushing their horses desperately, frantic backward glances as they rode. Tiny little figures on the darkening plain, the wall of earth behind them, its shadows lengthening, swallowing all before it, and gaining. Like the advance of the end of the world. Like Cormac McCarthy, Howarth intertwines scenes of extreme horror with writing that is rapturous. But all the imagery and content would be for nothing if we did not care about Tommy McBride. A decent young man put into indecent situations. You will love him and feel for the moral torment he endures as he works through his doubts in struggling mightily to find truth, and follow the righteous path. He is forced by dire events to grow up in a hurry. Four days ago the world had been one way, now it was twisted another way around. He couldn’t get his bearings. Didn’t know for certain where anyone stood. What he’d always taken as definite now felt flaky as the soil on the ground. As Tommy binds us to the story, it is Edmund Noone who captures our attention. He is an extremely dark presence, but shows moments of perception and humanity, seeing Tommy’s talents, and the failings of others. All heads turn when Noone crosses the page. He personifies the cold genocidal brutality of the west invading aboriginal Australia, carrying out the dispersal campaign through which natives were massacred, mirroring the annihilation of native peoples in the USA. This is the core point of the book. He presents his case to Tommy as stripped down truth, reminiscent of CCA Chairman Arthur Jensen reading the riot act to Howard Beale in the stunning film, Network, although with a more outback wardrobe, fewer words, and a lot less bombast. (I hear it delivered as slow burn rather than the Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God blast of the Network scene.) “Listen,” Noone said. “Listen to me now. I’m going to tell you what will happen if we were to let that man live. He will hate us. Not only you and I personally, but all white men. He will become like a tick on the back of a beautiful horse, biting and gnawing and burrowing into the very fabric of this country we are trying to build. He will hunt us, all of us, we will never be safe in our homes. Your families, should you have them, will not be safe. Your children, your grandchildren, will not be safe. Remember, he will breed also. He will produce a dozen heirs, all with his hatred in their blood. There are plenty of other works this book calls to mind. Lonesome Dove for the moral challenges and struggle with responsibility, Cormac McCarthy’s various works for their depiction of western violence and violation, and their richness of language, and The Son for its epic depiction of the savage displacement of one civilization by an invading other. It is a powerful and moving portrayal of a very dark period in Australian, in human history. I cannot say how much attention this period and these atrocities receive in the local history books, but if that telling is in short supply, I hope that this book will help revive the memory. It is a time that should never be forgotten, an era of criminality on which a future was constructed. That it is Paul Howarth’s first novel is amazing, encouraging us to look forward to many future triumphs from him. Only Killers and Thieves is the first great book of 2018. You must read this. Review – September 22, 2017Publication scheduled – February 6, 2018=============================EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author’s Twitter and FB pages, although the FB page does not appear to have been updated since 2014. I expect there to be some on-line updating as publication date approaches. A local magazine is referenced both in the epigram and by one of the characters being a regular reader. If you get a hankering to see what The Queenslander looked like, issues from the way back have been digitized and can be seen here.An interesting wiki on the Australian Native Police A fascinating article from The Guardian by Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore on Horror in the outback: Jane Harper, Charlotte Wood and the landscape of fearYou might also pick up a few words new to non-Australian eyes. Bunyip, coolibah and bilby pop to mind.
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  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    Oh my. Where should I begin? Perhaps here: it is not yet 2018 and this book has already earned a secure place on my Best of 2018 list. It is a searing indictment of racism, and injustice, a glowing tribute to the part of us that struggles to remain human in the worst of circumstances, and a riveting testimony to the power of the writer.I’ve seen this book compared to Philipp Meyer’s The Son and the works of Cormac McCarthy, but to me, the most apt comparison is to Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow R Oh my. Where should I begin? Perhaps here: it is not yet 2018 and this book has already earned a secure place on my Best of 2018 list. It is a searing indictment of racism, and injustice, a glowing tribute to the part of us that struggles to remain human in the worst of circumstances, and a riveting testimony to the power of the writer.I’ve seen this book compared to Philipp Meyer’s The Son and the works of Cormac McCarthy, but to me, the most apt comparison is to Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Like Flanagan’s book, this one is savagely beautiful and tells a tale of how one young man comes of age, only to discover all he has lost. I loved Narrow Road so coming from me, this is high praise indeed.Only Killers and Thieves takes place in the nineteenth-century Australia. where two brothers in their mid teens, Billy and Tommy, arrive home to discover a tragedy of senseless proportions. Not knowing where to turn, they rely the only person they know who they believe can help them — John Sullivan, a ruthless and wealthy landowner, who is determined to help them get the revenge they seek. Together with Inspector Noone and his Native Queensland Police, their aim is nothing short of the genocide of the native Kurrong tribe. And these men without a conscience will do everything in their power to use the young brothers’ personal tragedy to their own despicable ends. Paul Howarth – I can’t believe he is a debut writer – refuses to sugarcoat his story, and some of the scenes are so brutal and heartbreaking that I actually needed to pause and catch my breath. The exploration of how Tommy, the more sensitive of the two brothers, undergoes his journey into his personal heart of darkness is wrenching and real.The key theme – the development of Tommy’s moral core and conscience – is stunningly rendered and harkens back to the old question: what makes us human? How do we sustain a sense of empathy and righteousness when our society enfolds us into an umbrella of collective guilt? As Paul Howarth writes, “The only question is the individual’s willingness to act. The rest is veneer, formality, perception…words.”This is an astoundingly good book and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to be an early reader. It is not a book I will forget anytime
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  • Cynthia
    January 1, 1970
    Only Killers and Thieves is a personal reading highlight for 2017. The blurb on the back of the cover compares Howarth to Philipp Meyer and Cormac McCarthy. I’ve become leery when I read such comparisons because I’ve been disappointed so many times and though I haven’t read Meyers I have read Cormac McCarthy and loved his writing. In this case the comparison of Howard’s to McCarthy is apt in that they both write on the edges of what is almost too horrifying to think about but the language is so Only Killers and Thieves is a personal reading highlight for 2017. The blurb on the back of the cover compares Howarth to Philipp Meyer and Cormac McCarthy. I’ve become leery when I read such comparisons because I’ve been disappointed so many times and though I haven’t read Meyers I have read Cormac McCarthy and loved his writing. In this case the comparison of Howard’s to McCarthy is apt in that they both write on the edges of what is almost too horrifying to think about but the language is so beautiful and truth piles up onto truth so you keep reading.Billy and Tommy MacBride live in Australia’s outback with their parents and younger sister. When a tragedy occurs they allow themselves to be complicit with some unscrupulous characters. Since they are 16 and 14 they might be forgiven for how they take revenge....forgiven by others but maybe not to themselves. Killers and Thieves is not easy reading but it’s valuable and rewarding.Howarth is British but lived in Australia became a dual citizen, then he moved back to the UK. I know some people consider this doesn’t give him street creed in writing about the horrors that occurred between immigrants and the aborigines but to me his writing is imminently valid.Thank you to the publisher for providing an advance reader’s copy.
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  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    I just finished Only Killers and Thieves, and I’m heartbroken to be at the end. I was hesitant to read it, because it's clear by reading the description that this wild west saga set in 19th century Queensland will be violent & cruel which is not my favorite. Even though there is brutality which is painful to read, this is a gorgeous story. I was especially impressed by how convincingly the different characters were written. Tommy is a teenager searching for himself and a place to belong in t I just finished Only Killers and Thieves, and I’m heartbroken to be at the end. I was hesitant to read it, because it's clear by reading the description that this wild west saga set in 19th century Queensland will be violent & cruel which is not my favorite. Even though there is brutality which is painful to read, this is a gorgeous story. I was especially impressed by how convincingly the different characters were written. Tommy is a teenager searching for himself and a place to belong in terrible circumstances, and I was completely wrapped up in his story. Even though his experiences ripped my heart out, there was so much beauty is his perspective even in hellish circumstances. Noone is a tremendously complex villain, and he added depth because even though he was full of violence and his actions were disgusting, he saw through everyone and knew what motivated them and I couldn’t help respecting him in some kind of twisted way.A perfect ending is so rare. Often a good book ends up disappointing by the end, but this bittersweet end was perfect in my opinion, and I read the last paragraph several times. I loved this book. It goes on my favorites shelf.
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  • Marilyn
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth in a goodeads give away in exchange for an honest review. To be fair, I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy reading this book when I first read what it was about. However, once I started reading it I had a hard time putting it down. I didn't know much about Australia's history during this time period. Paul Howarth did an excellent job describing the terrain of the Australian outback during this time. The characters he created were believ I received a copy of Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth in a goodeads give away in exchange for an honest review. To be fair, I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy reading this book when I first read what it was about. However, once I started reading it I had a hard time putting it down. I didn't know much about Australia's history during this time period. Paul Howarth did an excellent job describing the terrain of the Australian outback during this time. The characters he created were believable and complex.The story begins in Central Queensland, Australia in 1885 where two brothers Billy, 16 years old and Tommy, 14 years old were out in the bush trying to capture something for their family to eat. A severe drought had plagued their land for over a year and the family and their farm were suffering. The boys were sent by their mother to find something that could kill that would be worthy of eating. It was during their search that the two boys wandered onto the land of John Sullivan, one of the richest men in the region and their father's former employer. Sullivan caught them but let them go with just a warning. This chance meeting became the catalyst for remainder of the story.Then one day it began to rain. The MacBride family began to feel hopeful that they could save their farm and starving cattle. After the rain finally stopped, Tommy and Billy decided to go to a favorite water hole to swim. When they returned home they were greeted with the biggest tragedy of their young lives. Both of their parents had been killed while they were out enjoying their swim. Their younger sister, Mary had been wounded but was still alive. Both of their dogs had been killed. Lying on the porch, near their dead father, was the gun of a hired black native who had left their farm only a short while ago. Both boys assumed that Joseph, the hired black man, had killed their parents. On instinct, Billy took charge. He and Tommy gathered up Mary and rode to John Sullivan's house for help. Tommy, immediately questioned Billy's motives. John Sullivan and their father were far from friends. Tommy knew his father did not like Sullivan or trust him. Sullivan offered to take the boys in and care for their sister. Tommy did not trust his intentions. Billy was determined to get revenge for his parent's death. Both brothers believed that their former Aboriginal stockman, Joseph, was the killer. Sullivan was quick to offer help and organized a posse led by Inspector Edmund Noone, a ruthless and determined man, and accompanied by the Queensland Native Police. Tommy, wrestled with the decision of staying with Mary to make sure she did not die or die alone or going with Billy and the rest of the posse to get revenge for his parent's death. In the end, Tommy decided to leave Mary in the hands of Mrs. Sullivan and go with Billy and the others to revenge his parent's death. The results and horrors Tommy experienced from that trip across the isolated outback haunted him for the rest of his life. My emotions were on high gear throughout the story. This is a must read. I highly recommend this book.
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  • Bonnie Brody
    January 1, 1970
    This amazing book takes place in late nineteenth century Australia in a remote location that is barely settled and has suffered drought for so long that everything is covered with a coat of dust. The McBride family has been trying to make a go of ranching but things are looking very bleak. One day the two boys, Tommy and Billy McBride, go out for a ride and come home to find their parents murdered and their younger sister Mary very close to death from gunshot wounds.Tommy and Billy take their si This amazing book takes place in late nineteenth century Australia in a remote location that is barely settled and has suffered drought for so long that everything is covered with a coat of dust. The McBride family has been trying to make a go of ranching but things are looking very bleak. One day the two boys, Tommy and Billy McBride, go out for a ride and come home to find their parents murdered and their younger sister Mary very close to death from gunshot wounds.Tommy and Billy take their sister to the nearest ranch, owned by a man named John Sullivan, an arrogant racist and unsavory character. He owns most of the land around and there have been some issues between Sullivan and the McBrides. The boys feel like Mary can only be saved by seeing a doctor. However, Sullivan sends his veterinarian up to see her with a promise that he'll get the local doctor in later. Sullivan is convinced that the McBride's ranch hand, a member of one of Australia's indigenous tribes, is the murderer. Tommy is sure that Arthur, a ranch hand who has been with them for years is innocent. However, he is unsure about the new ranch hand, Joseph, who was not to be found after the murders.The boys, along with Sullivan and a band of 'Native Police', made up of indigenous men and led by a corrupt and sadistic man named Noone, set out to find Arthur and Joseph. Their aim is to seek vengeance for the murders.This is a story of what comes between brothers to alienate them from one another. It is also a tale of racism, survival, and loyalty. The sense of place is so real, I could feel the dust in my nose. The characterizations were spot on and the narrative carried me away from page one until the end. This is one of the best books I've read this year.
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  • Kathleen (QueenKatieMae)
    January 1, 1970
    Only Killers and Thieves is an incredibly dark and powerful novel set in the terrible beauty of the Australian Outback, specifically Queensland, an endless desert plain, blistering hot and prone to year-long droughts. While the frontier wars between the European immigrants and the Aboriginal tribes were intense, the massacres in Queensland were the bloodiest. It was a dark and violent time when even the most honorable people did terrible things and Paul Howarth's novel perfectly captures the rac Only Killers and Thieves is an incredibly dark and powerful novel set in the terrible beauty of the Australian Outback, specifically Queensland, an endless desert plain, blistering hot and prone to year-long droughts. While the frontier wars between the European immigrants and the Aboriginal tribes were intense, the massacres in Queensland were the bloodiest. It was a dark and violent time when even the most honorable people did terrible things and Paul Howarth's novel perfectly captures the racial injustice and genocide against the natives of Australia.The story takes place at the end of the nineteenth century and is centered on Tommy and Billy, brothers in their teens whose family is struggling to raise cattle in territory that can only be described as god forsaken. Drought-ridden for the past year, the cattle, and the family, are starving. Without rain, they must rely on the trickle from a distant waterhole. Sullivan, the man in the property next to their station prospers. His cattle are fat. His clothes are clean. The boys' father and Sullivan have a history that is never discussed but is obviously hostile. Unlike Sullivan and most white immigrants at that time, the boys' father does not mistreat his black workers nor agree they are dangerous animals and should be eradicated, like the dingoes.A family tragedy sends the boys running to Sullivan's station for help. He believes the blacks are to blame and hires Inspector Noone of the Native Mounted Police to find the responsible tribe and bring justice to the boys' family. Followed by a ragtag group of native police, Noone is feared by the blacks, as Noone's idea of justice is quite similar to Sullivan's, violent and horrific and immoral. As Noone leads them deep into the desert lands, the reader cannot help but feel the same intensifying dread that chews at Tommy. He knows the lies that brought them all into the desert and cannot help but feel responsible for what happens.Clearly the younger brother, Tommy, is the conscience of the story. He has compassion for the natives; he questions injustice and unmerited behaviour towards others. Too many underestimate him. But, he is still forced to make choices, horrible choices that tear at his soul. Brother Billy does not want to end up like their father, an impoverished angry drunk, he wants to become rich like Sullivan and inevitably his choices appall Tommy. It's heartbreaking.Noone, well read and articulate, patient and intelligent, is a monster with a badge. But he is one of the most complex and well-written monsters I have ever read. He's bloodthirsty and violent but sometimes his words alone are the most frightening part of his character. While his actions horrified me, I was still mesmerized and couldn't look away, couldn't stay away, even after I threw the book across the room I needed to know what happened next.And I needed to see if just one character, just one, would redeem himself.Throughout the book, terrible people do terrible things to one another, and those scenes are brutal and shocking and pull no punches. What we read is what actually happened to the Aborigines. No question, the whites abused and enslaved and massacred and raped them. This is not a book for anyone who is triggered by such horrors. Even I had a hard time.Howarth's writing is strong and beautiful and he wrote an intense book that will stick with you for days. His characters are well written and as Tommy breaks your heart, Noone will rivet you. Even when he is at his worst, you will not be able to look away.Highly recommended.
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  • Mary Lins
    January 1, 1970
    “Only Killers and Thieves”, by first time novelist, Paul Howarth, has been compared to Philipp Meyer’s, “The Son”, and Paulette Jiles’, “News of the World”; masterpieces both, I’d also say that it has a “whiff” of Steinbeck’s, “East of Eden”, and though it is beautifully written and an arresting tale, it’s is not quite up to these lofty comparisons.Set in the harsh edge of the Australian Outback of the late Nineteenth century; comparisons to the American West and the relationship between the whi “Only Killers and Thieves”, by first time novelist, Paul Howarth, has been compared to Philipp Meyer’s, “The Son”, and Paulette Jiles’, “News of the World”; masterpieces both, I’d also say that it has a “whiff” of Steinbeck’s, “East of Eden”, and though it is beautifully written and an arresting tale, it’s is not quite up to these lofty comparisons.Set in the harsh edge of the Australian Outback of the late Nineteenth century; comparisons to the American West and the relationship between the white settlers and the native population are quite apt. Howarth tells the story of two teenage brothers, Billy and Tommy, who are faced with horrors forcing personal decisions that will determine what kind of men they become.The story/plot/twist is far from unique, and I can’t quite decide if Howarth knows that his readers will have figured things out LONG before Billy and Tommy do, or if he thinks we will be surprised. I BARELY “bought” that Billy and Tommy didn’t see all the signs – they were young and in a state of shock so I suspended disbelief – but surely Howarth knew that his readers understood all along what was happening and what was going to happen. The only real "mystery" is what the denouement will be after the predictable climax. Howarth is a talented writer to watch; his descriptions, of both beauty and horror, are almost poetic.
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  • Threasa Jenkins
    January 1, 1970
    I won this book on Goodreads, and it is a very good book. Mr. Howarth takes a very disturbing story from 1880s Australia to tell us. Two teenage boys go swimming one day. When they come back, their parents have been killed, and their sister is barely hanging on. They get help from a landowner who didn't get along with their father. Billy, the older brother, tells the man that the blacks killed his parents. The rest of the book shows how horribly the Aborigines were treated. I sure hope things ha I won this book on Goodreads, and it is a very good book. Mr. Howarth takes a very disturbing story from 1880s Australia to tell us. Two teenage boys go swimming one day. When they come back, their parents have been killed, and their sister is barely hanging on. They get help from a landowner who didn't get along with their father. Billy, the older brother, tells the man that the blacks killed his parents. The rest of the book shows how horribly the Aborigines were treated. I sure hope things have changed a lot for the better. Will there be a sequel, Mr Howarth?
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  • Veronica
    January 1, 1970
    It's been a while since I read this and honestly I still think about it so often. It's not the type of book I usually read but I loved every part of it.
  • Charlotte
    January 1, 1970
    This is a dark and powerful novel set in the Australian Outback. It was a dark and violent time when even the most honorable people did terrible things.The story takes place at the end of the 19th century and is centered on Tommy and Billy, brothers in their teens whose family is struggling to raise cattle in a bad territory. With no rain for the past year, the cattle, and family, are starving. Without rain, they must rely on the small amount of water from a distant waterhole. Sullivan, the man This is a dark and powerful novel set in the Australian Outback. It was a dark and violent time when even the most honorable people did terrible things.The story takes place at the end of the 19th century and is centered on Tommy and Billy, brothers in their teens whose family is struggling to raise cattle in a bad territory. With no rain for the past year, the cattle, and family, are starving. Without rain, they must rely on the small amount of water from a distant waterhole. Sullivan, the man on the property next to their station prospers. His cattle are big. His clothes are clean. The boys father and Sullivan have a history that is obviously hostile. Unlike Sullivan, the boys father does not abuse his black workers.A family tragedy makes the boys go to Sullivan's station for help. He believes the blacks are to blame and hires Inspector Noone of the Native Mounted Police to find the responsible tribe and bring justice to the boys family. Noone is feared by the blacks, because he is racist.Tommy, is the conscience of the story. He has compassion for the natives; he questions injustice and undeserved behaviour towards others. He is forced to make horrible choices that tear at his soul. Brother Billy does not want to end up like their father, a poor, angry drunk, he wants to be rich like Sullivan and inevitably his choices appall Tommy. Noone is a monster with a badge. He is one of the most complex and well written monsters I have ever read. He's bloodthirsty and violent, sometimes his words alone are the most scary part of his character. Even though actions sickened me, I was still couldn't stop reading. All through this book, terrible people do terrible things to one another. Those scenes are brutal, shocking, and hold nothing back. This is not a book for anyone who is triggered brutality.Howarth's writing is strong and beautiful. He wrote an intense book. His characters are well written. Tommy breaks your heart, Noone will enthrall you. Even when he is at his worst, you will not be able to stop. I would recommend this book.
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  • RMazin
    January 1, 1970
    This is a violent, coming of age chronicle of Tommy McBride. He is the youngest son in the McBride family, working a small ranch in the Queensland outback of the 1880s. The land is rough, the outlook for success bleak. When the brothers, Billy and Tommy, return to their homestead from a day’s outing, they are met with a horrific scene. Shortly after, both McBride brothers are then taken under the wing of John Sullivan, the neighboring landowner who their father has always held to be less than a This is a violent, coming of age chronicle of Tommy McBride. He is the youngest son in the McBride family, working a small ranch in the Queensland outback of the 1880s. The land is rough, the outlook for success bleak. When the brothers, Billy and Tommy, return to their homestead from a day’s outing, they are met with a horrific scene. Shortly after, both McBride brothers are then taken under the wing of John Sullivan, the neighboring landowner who their father has always held to be less than a man.They are then co-opted into a hunt for those who may have perpetrated this crime against their family. Sullivan, his henchmen, and the native police led by Noone are determined to use this tragedy to their own advantage. Their hunt is relentless as they seek out native populations with a feral vengeance. The writing is visceral in describing heinous deeds, yet fearfully beautiful in describing an unforgiving landscape. It is Tommy who eventually realizes what he is becoming in this search for retribution and what he is losing of himself. This is powerful writing of a history of revenge, racism, self-aggrandizement, and finally self-awareness. Although Tommy is the conscience of the story, he is pitted against the evil machinations of Noone, one of literature’s more despicable villains. At once, sympathetic, sadistic and learned….he is an outback Richard III in terms of manipulation. This is a first novel but indications are that more excellent work will be forthcoming from Paul Howarth. Highly recommended.
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  • Sue
    January 1, 1970
    First my disclaimer: I won this book on Goodreads. I will give it a fair review.This was a truly well-written book. It’s ostensibly an historical fiction novel set in the Australian outback in the late 1800s. However, it’s much more than that. The story line is about two teenage boys and their fight to find the people responsible for the murder of their family and what that journey does to each of them. As much a part of the story is the reality of living in the Australian outback. The descripti First my disclaimer: I won this book on Goodreads. I will give it a fair review.This was a truly well-written book. It’s ostensibly an historical fiction novel set in the Australian outback in the late 1800s. However, it’s much more than that. The story line is about two teenage boys and their fight to find the people responsible for the murder of their family and what that journey does to each of them. As much a part of the story is the reality of living in the Australian outback. The description provided by Howarth is detailed and brings the outback to life like I’ve never read before. The scrub landscape, the drought and the ever present heat are constants that affect the white settlers and how they live their lives as much as or possibly more than their own dreams, desires and personalities.Fair warning. This is not an easy book to read. There is no joy, no happiness in this book. First the drought, then the loss of the boys’ family, how the aborigines are treated, the aftermath of the boys’ quest. It’s all difficult and depressing to read. Despite the depressing, difficult nature of the book; I was fascinated. I read it all in a few days.I would recommend this book for those who want to know more about the early settlement of the Australian outback, those who like to read coming of age stories, those who like American westerns, and those who are specifically interested in how the Australian natives were treated.
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  • Kim McGee
    January 1, 1970
    It takes a rare writer to find the beauty in brutality whether it is from nature or the people living there but this is exactly what Paul Howarth does when he tells the story of two teenage brothers in the 1880's Australian outback. After they come home to find their family savagely murdered and their younger sister near death, they take her to the neighboring wealthy landowner. The brothers are invited to join the vigilante group who are going out to hunt down the men responsible and anyone els It takes a rare writer to find the beauty in brutality whether it is from nature or the people living there but this is exactly what Paul Howarth does when he tells the story of two teenage brothers in the 1880's Australian outback. After they come home to find their family savagely murdered and their younger sister near death, they take her to the neighboring wealthy landowner. The brothers are invited to join the vigilante group who are going out to hunt down the men responsible and anyone else who gets in their way. The landowner and the Inspector who is leading the witchhunt seem certain that the crime was committed by the boy's old Aborigine stockman. They are more than happy to find guilt in any indigenous Aborigine they find and eliminate them from the landscape as well. Tommy and Billy have not had an easy time trying to ranch in this unpredictable harsh land which has pushed them to grow up early. Nothing could have prepared them for this group of violent hard men and the hatred, racism and violence they would be invited to participate in as they search for justice. The beauty and savage landscape of the Australian outback blends seamlessly with the violence and hatred of the settlers against the native Aborigines to portray one absolutely stunning western saga. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.
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  • Ronald Koltnow
    January 1, 1970
    Australia and the American West have much in common: they are both frontiers and the histories of both are fraught with racial tensions, with conflicts between the settlers and the indigenous people. One of the great cattle drive movies is the 1946 Australian film THE OVERLANDERS. About 20 years ago, Harper Collins published Greg Matthews's brilliant Australian western THE WISDOM OF THE BONES (it's set between the world wars, but it's as western as it gets). SLOW WEST, one of the best western fi Australia and the American West have much in common: they are both frontiers and the histories of both are fraught with racial tensions, with conflicts between the settlers and the indigenous people. One of the great cattle drive movies is the 1946 Australian film THE OVERLANDERS. About 20 years ago, Harper Collins published Greg Matthews's brilliant Australian western THE WISDOM OF THE BONES (it's set between the world wars, but it's as western as it gets). SLOW WEST, one of the best western films of recent years, was made in New Zealand (close enough). In Paul Howarth's debut novel ONLY KILLERS AND THIEVES, two brothers learn the reality of life on the frontier and the horrors of genocide. In a variation on THE SEARCHERS theme, Billy and Tommy McBride return home to a scene of slaughter. Have the aboriginal natives been rebelling or is this some sort of vendetta? With the assistance of the neighboring cattle baron and the head of the Native Police, Billy and Tommy go on a ride of vengeance. The novel is far from original, but Howarth copies the best. Noone, the policeman, is reminiscent of the Judge from McCarthy's BLOOD MERRIDIAN. Arthur, the elderly Aborigine who befriends Tommy, may as well be called Jim. Still, Howarth shows great promise. His next novel may strike new ground.
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  • Vanessa
    January 1, 1970
    This is an interesting story of living in Australia in the 1880s. After a long drought and the hardships that result when there is no water or food for cattle, there is a rain storm. Two boys go to a nearby swimming spot and come back to find their family slaughtered. Their powerful neighbor convinces them to blame the natives and they go off in search of revenge. The younger boy, Tommy, begins to question everything about the situation and especially the motives of this powerful man that they h This is an interesting story of living in Australia in the 1880s. After a long drought and the hardships that result when there is no water or food for cattle, there is a rain storm. Two boys go to a nearby swimming spot and come back to find their family slaughtered. Their powerful neighbor convinces them to blame the natives and they go off in search of revenge. The younger boy, Tommy, begins to question everything about the situation and especially the motives of this powerful man that they have aligned themselves with. I thought this was an interesting perspective on a bit of history that I am not overly familiar with. I recommend this to anyone that likes a good story or who likes to learn about other cultures and a bit of history.As an aside, this book went to Maryland with me for the holiday and did not make its way back. I'm curious about who will read it next, but I will probably never know (unless my aunt happens to read it).
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  • Kristin
    January 1, 1970
    An absolutely vicious debut novel, “Only Killers and Thieves,” by Paul Howarth is a dark and violent coming-of-age story of the McBride brothers, Billy and Tommy, set in the late 1880’s Australian Outback. After discovering the slaughter of their family, the McBride boys, one eager, one reluctant, join with local land baron, Joseph Sullivan to hunt down and massacre the Aboriginals responsible. During their brutal battle for vengeance, the brothers are soon forced to choose between right and wro An absolutely vicious debut novel, “Only Killers and Thieves,” by Paul Howarth is a dark and violent coming-of-age story of the McBride brothers, Billy and Tommy, set in the late 1880’s Australian Outback. After discovering the slaughter of their family, the McBride boys, one eager, one reluctant, join with local land baron, Joseph Sullivan to hunt down and massacre the Aboriginals responsible. During their brutal battle for vengeance, the brothers are soon forced to choose between right and wrong, power or weakness and a future of servitude working for Sullivan to pay off their father’s debt. Their loyalty torn apart, Tommy deserts the hunt, desperate to seek the truth of his parent’s murder. Will Tommy find the strength to exact the revenge he initially didn’t seek, or will he cave to the seductive sirens calling from Sullivan’s camp?
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  • Valentina
    January 1, 1970
    This is a brutal story, but one that is beautifully told. The characters, especially Tommy and Noone, are truly realized, brought to life for the reader. It is important to get through the first thirty pages or so. They are a bit on the slow side, but once you do pass that threshold, a stunning story unfolds.I will warn that there is a lot of violence in this novel. Of all kinds. If you are triggered by explicit fight scenes, assaults, descriptions of carnal violene, don’t even think of picking This is a brutal story, but one that is beautifully told. The characters, especially Tommy and Noone, are truly realized, brought to life for the reader. It is important to get through the first thirty pages or so. They are a bit on the slow side, but once you do pass that threshold, a stunning story unfolds.I will warn that there is a lot of violence in this novel. Of all kinds. If you are triggered by explicit fight scenes, assaults, descriptions of carnal violene, don’t even think of picking this book up. Some scenes are really, really tough to read. But the beauty of Howarth’s writing, the descriptions of the landscape that is as brutal as the plot, will captivate anyone.I highly recommend this one.
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  • Maja Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    Instead of summarizing the plot, I want to talk about that this book is about. This book is about race, it is about racism, it is about witch-hunting and brutality and egoism. In these ways, this book is more timely than ever, even if it is set in the Queensland outback of the 1880s. We watch in horror as Tommy McBride, the youngest son of struggling family, finds himself seeped in tragedy. The tragedy is then used by evil men to seek out revenge on a native population not at fault. What Tommy g Instead of summarizing the plot, I want to talk about that this book is about. This book is about race, it is about racism, it is about witch-hunting and brutality and egoism. In these ways, this book is more timely than ever, even if it is set in the Queensland outback of the 1880s. We watch in horror as Tommy McBride, the youngest son of struggling family, finds himself seeped in tragedy. The tragedy is then used by evil men to seek out revenge on a native population not at fault. What Tommy goes through, growing up and realizing what he has become in the name of revenge. Paul Howarth has written a stunning first novel and I highly recommend the read. Thanks to Howarth and Harper for the chance to read an advanced copy of Only Killers and Thieves.
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  • Roxanne
    January 1, 1970
    This is a Goodreads win review. This book is set in Australia when it was a frontier in the 1880,s comparable to when our USA west was being settled. It is about when Australia is a colony and they have a very bad drought, but when they finally get rain the two brothers go swimming and come home to find dead parents and they know for sure who killed them. They join up with a not too nice wealthy landowner and they set out to to erase the indigenous people because they think thier landrights are This is a Goodreads win review. This book is set in Australia when it was a frontier in the 1880,s comparable to when our USA west was being settled. It is about when Australia is a colony and they have a very bad drought, but when they finally get rain the two brothers go swimming and come home to find dead parents and they know for sure who killed them. They join up with a not too nice wealthy landowner and they set out to to erase the indigenous people because they think thier landrights are more important. This has long lasting effect on the brothers. This is a good book, I enjoyed reading it.
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  • Jo
    January 1, 1970
    As the synopsis says, it's about the "assimilation" of the native peoples of Australia. Substitute the North American Natives for the Aboriginals and you can easily fill in the blanks. Murder, land grabs, broken treaties, slavery, all in a thinly veiled bid to take what the original landholders had. None of it was pretty. This story was harsh, brutal, unforgiving. After the first half, I started skipping parts of it because it was so hard to read. It's well told, but a tough read. I am grateful As the synopsis says, it's about the "assimilation" of the native peoples of Australia. Substitute the North American Natives for the Aboriginals and you can easily fill in the blanks. Murder, land grabs, broken treaties, slavery, all in a thinly veiled bid to take what the original landholders had. None of it was pretty. This story was harsh, brutal, unforgiving. After the first half, I started skipping parts of it because it was so hard to read. It's well told, but a tough read. I am grateful for the opportunity to have read it.My thanks to the author/publisher; won in a giveaway on Goodreads.com.
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  • Carole Knoles
    January 1, 1970
    Recently I found myself in a place where I had a hard time settling on a book. I’d pick up a book, read a few pages, and set it down not because it was a bad book but just not the right book at that moment. Then I opened Only Killers And Thieves and was immediately swept up in a Wild West like tale set in Australia. It brought to mind works by Cormac McCarthy or Philipp Meyer. Excellent Book!
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  • Jk
    January 1, 1970
    I received an Advance Reader's Edition of this book for free via the Goodreads Giveaways program and would like to thank everyone involved in making that happen.I really can't think of any words that will do this novel justice. It is stark and devastating, yet also hauntingly beautiful. This is an astonishing debut and I cannot wait to see more from Paul Howarth!
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  • Liz
    January 1, 1970
    This is a powerful book. It is beautifully written with such gripping detail that it draws the reader into each scene. The inhumanity, brutality and despair left me saddened and remorseful. This is a story that I will remember for a long time. I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway for this honest review.
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  • Creager
    January 1, 1970
    When two brothers find their family murdered in the 1885 Australian outback a traumatic tale of revenge sets forth. With one supposed clue the brothers turn to a man vilified by their father for help and thus unleash the full force of whitefella power. In the name of God or by right of Darwin, man will justify their actions and in Only Killers and Thieves brothers, Tommy and Billy, must live with theirs.The revenge of True Grit meets the oppressor's moral culpability of Underground Railroad, Onl When two brothers find their family murdered in the 1885 Australian outback a traumatic tale of revenge sets forth. With one supposed clue the brothers turn to a man vilified by their father for help and thus unleash the full force of whitefella power. In the name of God or by right of Darwin, man will justify their actions and in Only Killers and Thieves brothers, Tommy and Billy, must live with theirs.The revenge of True Grit meets the oppressor's moral culpability of Underground Railroad, Only Killers and Thieves is a very distressing and uncomfortable read.
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  • Shannon
    January 1, 1970
    Set in 1885 in Australia, Only Killers and Thieves is a dark book about racial conflict. It was a difficult book to read, I am not fond of violent stories and this one had several events that are difficult to imagine. But it was worth reading and will be one the stays with me. I won this book in a Goodreads' giveaway, but the opinion is all my own.
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  • Pam Flynn
    January 1, 1970
    Only Killers and Thieves is set in the Australian outback during a time of drought & hardship. The characters are authentic & draw the reader into their difficult world of survival & life as circumstances twist and turn.
  • Erica
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway. The release date in US is February 6, 2018. Thank you to the publisher for the free copy and to the author for such an engaging read. I thought the writing was impeccable. The story grabbed at my heart and I didn’t want it to end.
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  • Kristen Beverly
    January 1, 1970
    Wow... this is another wow book for me. I’m on a roll! It’s about two brothers in the late 1800’s who set across Australia in order to get revenge. One brother is sure he wants it, the other isn’t. It’s a fantastic read- one that I didn’t want to end!
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  • Barbara Senteney
    January 1, 1970
    I tried reading this but do not like the story, I am bored, and am DNFing this book at page 37. Too slow for my taste, I cannot go on.
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