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
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 6th, 2018
PublisherHarper
ISBN-139780062690968
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Westerns, Cultural, Australia

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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  • Julie
    January 1, 1970
    Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth is a 2018 Harper publication. Absorbing coming of age tale of two brothers who took different paths in the harsh scrublands of Australia in the 1800’s- When Billy and Tommy find their parents brutally murdered and their sister barely clinging to life, they make an uneasy bargain with the rich landowner, their father had not trusted, to hunt down the man accused of killing their family.There is a horrible backstory that leads up this chain of events, as t Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth is a 2018 Harper publication. Absorbing coming of age tale of two brothers who took different paths in the harsh scrublands of Australia in the 1800’s- When Billy and Tommy find their parents brutally murdered and their sister barely clinging to life, they make an uneasy bargain with the rich landowner, their father had not trusted, to hunt down the man accused of killing their family.There is a horrible backstory that leads up this chain of events, as the boy witnessed something they probably shouldn’t have, which involved racism, and outright cruelty. Now they find themselves aligned with those same people on a quest that fuels their hate filled agenda. The journey will prove to be a hard one, where both boys will take a side, one will follow the corrupt path, believing himself superior, stronger, and determined to get his share of the pie, while the other will follow his heart, his own moral code and his principles, refusing to sacrifice his convictions, even though his feelings forge a wedge between them. The Australian landscape, the dry, parched land, creates a harsh backdrop that sets the mood and tone of the story perfectly. This coming of age tale is a poignant story, as well as one steeped in historical details, and examines the brutal realities indigenous Aborigines suffered through at the hands of white men who felt themselves superior, smarter, and entitled. The story is quite violent and not for the faint of heart. There are several intensely uncomfortable passages in the book, that offended my sensitive nature, forcing me to put the book aside from time to time. I can’t remember how or why this book caught my attention, but at some point, I’d put it on hold on it at the library. I can only guess that someone recommended it to me or I added it because of my love of historical fiction. However, this book also falls into the western category, which I have read sparingly and is certainly not a genre I would have chosen ordinarily. However, the story is very thought provoking, and despite the brutal nature of the tale, is very absorbing, and suspenseful. Tommy is a character I found myself worrying over and wishing I could reach through the pages and give him a word of encouragement or maybe a little motherly nurturing. It’s too bad we have more people in this world who think like his brother, but that makes Tommy stand out all the more, and in my book, he was a true hero. The story well written, very vivid and realistic, and a very impressive debut novel! 4.5 stars
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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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  • Faith
    January 1, 1970
    This book is a coming of age story, a western, a depiction of Australia's racist past and a really good book. Blurbs generally oversell, but in this case I believe that the comparison of this book to the work of Philipp Meyer and Cormac McCarthy is justified, although I liked this book a lot more than I liked "The Son" by Meyer. In 1885 Tommy (14) and Billy (16) McBride live on a Queensland cattle ranch with their sister Mary (11) and their parents. They are in the midst of a drought and their c This book is a coming of age story, a western, a depiction of Australia's racist past and a really good book. Blurbs generally oversell, but in this case I believe that the comparison of this book to the work of Philipp Meyer and Cormac McCarthy is justified, although I liked this book a lot more than I liked "The Son" by Meyer. In 1885 Tommy (14) and Billy (16) McBride live on a Queensland cattle ranch with their sister Mary (11) and their parents. They are in the midst of a drought and their cattle are starving and worthless, the family's credit is used up and the father has a fraught relationship with their wealthy neighbor John Sullivan who has managed to amass most of the land in the area. Sullivan has a teenaged wife who is more possession than wife. The McBrides have only two Aborigines workers left, long-time employee Arthur and the new hire Joseph. During a cattle muster, the men encounter the lynched remains of two Aborigines from Joseph's clan and he leaves the McBrides, after an argument, to tend to their burial. Shortly thereafter, the boys come home to discover the dead bodies of their parents, their wounded sister and Joseph's gun which is left at the scene.Billy lies and says that he saw not only Joseph but a group of Aborigines fleeing from the crime scene. This damning statement is the catalyst for a manhunt consisting of the sadistic Inspector Noone, who is in charge of native police troops, Sullivan and the McBride brothers. Sullivan and Noone have reasons for their actions that are unrelated to the McBride murders. The group goes on a spree of killing and raping the natives they encounter along their way to Joseph's clan. This is a story of unbelievable cruelty, violence, greed and bigotry. Almost everyone in this book is detestable, with the most significant exception being Tommy. Tommy and Billy return from the rampage physically and emotionally damaged, estranged from each other and vulnerable to further treachery. A somewhat satisfying example of rough justice is eventually meted out. The book concludes with a coda set in 1904. It's a very credible ending to the story. Tommy, Billy, Noone and Sullivan are all interesting characters. This is the second book I've read this month about Australia's past and this one was much more direct about it. It's hard to believe that this is the first book by this author. It was a very compelling and well written book. I'd be happy to read anything else he writes.
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  • Jennifer Lynn Harrison
    January 1, 1970
    ***UPDATE***--- I have decided that I simply enjoyed this book too darn much to leave it as a 4 star rating, and want to tell the world I hereby give it the fabled '4.5' rating! (Alas, the uneven ending can't allow the full 5). Also, I liked this book enough that I need to take some real time, return to this page and write a much longer, full, detailed review. This book has earned one. --Jen from Quebec :0) (Feb 27th, 2018)WOW! For a debut novel, this book was incredible. I have a LOT to say abo ***UPDATE***--- I have decided that I simply enjoyed this book too darn much to leave it as a 4 star rating, and want to tell the world I hereby give it the fabled '4.5' rating! (Alas, the uneven ending can't allow the full 5). Also, I liked this book enough that I need to take some real time, return to this page and write a much longer, full, detailed review. This book has earned one. --Jen from Quebec :0) (Feb 27th, 2018)WOW! For a debut novel, this book was incredible. I have a LOT to say about it, but for now, I will just say this: if you like history, stories about racism, colonialism, family, sibling rivalry, and the ultimate in right/wrong + good/evil, you need look no farther than this book. --Jen from Quebec :0)
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    This book (IMO) is THE BEST book I think that I’ve read so far in 2018. With that said, this book won’t be for everyone. I’m a western type of girl. I love western movies and tv! This is a different type of western set in 1880’s Australia. The writing is fantastic!! The story is heartbreaking but so poignant. The characters come alive with raw emotion and ego! Often situations are difficult to read but necessary for the time and life of the book.GREAT debut!! Look forward to many more Mr. Howart This book (IMO) is THE BEST book I think that I’ve read so far in 2018. With that said, this book won’t be for everyone. I’m a western type of girl. I love western movies and tv! This is a different type of western set in 1880’s Australia. The writing is fantastic!! The story is heartbreaking but so poignant. The characters come alive with raw emotion and ego! Often situations are difficult to read but necessary for the time and life of the book.GREAT debut!! Look forward to many more Mr. Howarth!! I’m definitely a new fan!!
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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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  • Roger Brunyate
    January 1, 1970
     The Devil in the Mind Men fear that which is alien, that which they cannot control. Hence most are afraid of certain animals, predators, those they cannot tame. In this country that would be snakes, dingos to an extent, but mostly the wild native. It is remarkable really, to see how afraid you all are. They have become like the Devil in the minds of white men. Goodreads has you choose shelves for books you review. I am making a new one for this, Top Ten 2018 maybe; of course, it is provisional  The Devil in the Mind Men fear that which is alien, that which they cannot control. Hence most are afraid of certain animals, predators, those they cannot tame. In this country that would be snakes, dingos to an extent, but mostly the wild native. It is remarkable really, to see how afraid you all are. They have become like the Devil in the minds of white men. Goodreads has you choose shelves for books you review. I am making a new one for this, Top Ten 2018 maybe; of course, it is provisional as yet, but I am pretty sure it will still be there in December. This brutal story of settlers, sharecroppers, and frontier justice on the edge of the Outback in 1880s Queensland also clearly goes on my Australia-NZ shelf—it has the sharp ring of authenticity—but in fact it was written by a Brit who only spent six years of his life Down Under. I am also putting it on my Bildungsroman shelf, although its main action takes less than a year, because its main character, Tommy McBride, learns the moral lessons of a lifetime during the few weeks surrounding his 15th birthday. And I was considering starting another one, Good Books I Hated, but that would only apply to the first half, so instead I shall explain.The jacket blurb has it right with phrases like "the brutal realities of life," "seductive cruelty of power," "a story of savagery and race, injustice and honor," and most certainly in the comparison to Cormac McCarthy. If I did indeed have a “Good Books I Hated" shelf, all McCarthy’s books would be on it. And this is recognizably the same world as, say, Blood Meridian, 19th-century frontier country where a thin veneer of legality provides cover for vigilante atavism. It took almost 100 pages, however, for the book to get moving; before that, it was more depressing than violent. Ned McBride farms a subsidiary holding leased from the big landowner of the region, John Sullivan. While Sullivan’s vast ranch seems to prosper in all conditions, McBride’s is hit badly by the drought, and those cattle that do not die outright can be sold only for glue. He has a wife and young daughter at home, and is assisted in the fields by two native men and his teenage sons, Billy and Tommy. At 16, Billy is eager to prove himself a man, but it is the observant, questioning Tommy who is the main focus; the heart of the book is his coming-of-age.This element does not really kick in until around page 90, when a sudden act of violence changes the entire course of the novel. Before this, I admit, I was about to write it off. Could the misery get any worse? But the tragedy opens a new dimension in which escalating violence is matched by increasing moral nuance. I was hooked. But to explain more, I have to at least hint at the nature of this pivotal event. It is not a big spoiler, but some readers may prefer not to know.(view spoiler)[The brothers return from a brief excursion to find that the farm has been brutally attacked. Evidence suggests that the culprit is a young native stockman who had been let go. Billy and Tommy call upon Sullivan for help, and now new qualities emerge. The landowner, whom we had thought of as a tyrant, now becomes quite sympathetic, and his wife is an angel of compassion. Sullivan prevails upon Inspector Edmund Noone of the Queensland Native Police to search for the presumed culprit among his tribe of nomadic aboriginals, the Kurrong. The boys had glimpsed Noone once before at the head of his band of black manhunters—"naught but killers and thieves," as he himself says. But once again, we are forced to reevaluate previous impressions. Noone turns out to have a philosophical bent and not a little education. The passage I quoted at the start continues:I think they are unnecessary. Mankind has moved on. I don't suppose any of you have read Darwin, but he makes the case very well. As a race the negro has fallen so far behind the rate of human evolution that for the most part they are unsuited to the civilized world. We have seen it everywhere, the Americas, Africa, the Indies, tribes who left to their own devices have advanced little further than apes. Your native Australian is no different. Darwin saw it for himself, visited these very shores. They are a doomed species, gentlemen. Those who won't adapt or be trained will be gone by the century's end.The moral re-evaluation will continue to the end of the book. People previously thought heartless will display surprising gentleness. In others, the veneer of apparent civility will crack, revealing the latent savagery beneath. It is here that the differences between the brothers will most clearly emerge. Billy, the elder, is prepared to take appearances as reality in his eagerness to join the adult club where shared prejudices are worn as a badge of membership. Tommy, though, continues to question, and cannot help seeing the natives as people too, especially when they take as prisoner a naked young girl of about his own age. But Howarth does not leave it there, as a simple antithesis between good and evil. The pragmatic Noone recognizes the strength behind Tommy's idealism, forming a strange bond between the moral opposites that for me was the growing fascination of the novel. Yet not quite opposites: though Noone is a killer, he is neither dissolute nor unprincipled; and Tommy's innocence cannot last for ever.I have one other shelf to put this on, Mysteries, kinda. We do not know who attacked the McBride farm; the evidence is far from conclusive. At the time, it hardly seems to matter; the outrage is merely the pretext for a travesty of justice that hardly requires evidence. But as the novel reaches its dramatic end (leaving aside the rather anticlimactic epilogue), the question of responsibility becomes very important indeed. (hide spoiler)]I obtained a free copy of the book through the Amazon Vine program.
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  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    “. . . they’ve the Devil in them, Tommy, they’re naught but killers and thieves.”Doings and undoings, survival, war, blood, and loss set in motion.An unsettling relevant timeless tale coming out of Australia.Tommy and Billy were fourteen and sixteen years old caught in a web of doings, some done complicitly in the whirlwind of there minds in the blood and thunder of events. The fates of the two brothers and a community of people a hook in the narrative, the justices and injustices upon the page “. . . they’ve the Devil in them, Tommy, they’re naught but killers and thieves.”Doings and undoings, survival, war, blood, and loss set in motion.An unsettling relevant timeless tale coming out of Australia.Tommy and Billy were fourteen and sixteen years old caught in a web of doings, some done complicitly in the whirlwind of there minds in the blood and thunder of events. The fates of the two brothers and a community of people a hook in the narrative, the justices and injustices upon the page successfully evoke feelings of discomfort and emotions on what men did and do, questioning savagery and its real roots, the blood upon the soil and the cycle of violence and hate, and ultimately the endurance of the human heart at conflict with itself with events transitioning.This narrative ticks for me one of the purposes of storytelling of which an author E.L. Doctorow mentioned.“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”Themes handled with great telling and memorable characters like that of past and present masters writers John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Flannery O’connor, James Lee Burke, Joe Lansdale, and Cormac McCarthy.Excerpts and review @ https://more2read.com/review/killers-thieves-paul-howarth/
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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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  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    Somewhat slow start but gains speed. Nasty and violent characters....thus the title is perfect. Superb, debut novel.
  • Mark
    January 1, 1970
    “The frontier crossing turned Tommy's gut. Their passing from settled land to wild. All his life he feared it, the uncharted west, looming like a shadow on the edge of the world.”It is 1885, Queensland, in the Australian outback. The McBride family are struggling to survive on a drought-ridden piece of land. There are two teenage sons and a younger daughter. When tragedy strikes the family, the sons are set adrift and take refuge with John Sullivan, a local, rich, landowner. Sullivan is convince “The frontier crossing turned Tommy's gut. Their passing from settled land to wild. All his life he feared it, the uncharted west, looming like a shadow on the edge of the world.”It is 1885, Queensland, in the Australian outback. The McBride family are struggling to survive on a drought-ridden piece of land. There are two teenage sons and a younger daughter. When tragedy strikes the family, the sons are set adrift and take refuge with John Sullivan, a local, rich, landowner. Sullivan is convinced that the crime was committed by avenging aborigines and hires a posse to track down the perpetrators. The brothers are allowed to come along, on this nightmarish hunt, shedding their boyhoods, as they share and hold witness to violence and racial genocide, on this bloody crusade.This is a well-crafted and powerful work, with echoes of Cormac McCarthy, capturing the moody and brutal landscape, of an unforgiving frontier. What a strong and accomplished debut. 4.5 stars
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  • Dax
    January 1, 1970
    A predictable result, but that doesn’t hurt the enjoyment of this novel. Crisp writing accompanied with clipped dialogue. Noone and Tommy are great characters and their interactions carry this novel (well, that, and all the terrible bloodshed). It’s fun to watch Tommy develop from boy into a man who has seen and participated in some terrible stuff. A fun and excellent read.
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  • Roy
    January 1, 1970
    3.5*Read this one for bookclub. As much as I appreciated the language and the themes, the story itself felt like something I'd come across too many times before. The characters were great as well, especially the dynamic between the brothers.
  • 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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  • Nikola
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsYou can also find this review on my book blog. What attracted me to this book was that it’s something different from what I usually read. I wanted to challenge myself and discover a new genre to see how I will perceive it.The year is 1885, the location Queensland, Australia where racial tensions and land-owning have become big issues. We meet Tommy and his brother Billy who live with their parents and sister Mary on land which their father takes care of, they live a somewhat normal lif 3.5 starsYou can also find this review on my book blog. What attracted me to this book was that it’s something different from what I usually read. I wanted to challenge myself and discover a new genre to see how I will perceive it.The year is 1885, the location Queensland, Australia where racial tensions and land-owning have become big issues. We meet Tommy and his brother Billy who live with their parents and sister Mary on land which their father takes care of, they live a somewhat normal life but all that is about to change when coming from horse-riding they find their parents dead in their own home. Their sister Mary is injured so they decide to take her to John Sullivan, a wealthy land-owner, in seach of help. Both brothers want to find out who murdered their parents and why so they seek help from Sullivan who brings in the mysterious Inspector Noone and they begin their journey.I have to admit that I have struggled with the first hundred pages of this book because the author went on to describe the lives of both Tommy and Billy into great detail which I didn’t find that necessary – having said that I would’ve cut the book by at least 60-80 pages. I waited for something interesting to happen and by the page one-hundred-and-something I have been revived and sucked into the wild world of both brothers in Queensland. From that point the story became much more interesting but I still felt that it dragged at times with a few details. From page two-hundred the story becomes so compelling that you can’t stop reading because you want to find out more and more. I didn’t feel for most of the characters because they weren’t good people but I did have a soft spot for Tommy, who was kind and intelligent. I love how the author created the ‘drifting apart’ of the two brothers and exactly that enriched the story even more. It’s the 19th century so we see the racial tensions and how awfully people of colour were treated and I have to admit that reading these parts was hard because even though this story is fictional, these things happened in real life. The conclusion to this book was satisfying but a bit melancholic. Even though this is a debut you can see that the author has great skills and great imagination.Only Killers and Thieves is a story about two brothers who, struck by deaths of their parents, enter a very dangerous world and begin to drift apart from each other set in the 1885’s Queensland, Australia.I would like to thank the publisher (Pushkin Press) for sending a copy of this book my way in exchange for an honest review. All opinions written here are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.
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  • Robert Intriago
    January 1, 1970
    An Australian Western that has everything that an American counterpart has with exception that the natives being killed are Aborigines and not Native Americans. Beautifully written with some well-developed characters. The descriptions are so vivid that you feel at times you are participating in the action. That action tends to be brutal and the descriptions very raw. The story revolves around the coming of age of two brothers who have suffered a major tragedy. In the pursuit of vengeance they ma An Australian Western that has everything that an American counterpart has with exception that the natives being killed are Aborigines and not Native Americans. Beautifully written with some well-developed characters. The descriptions are so vivid that you feel at times you are participating in the action. That action tends to be brutal and the descriptions very raw. The story revolves around the coming of age of two brothers who have suffered a major tragedy. In the pursuit of vengeance they mature but their characters take different paths.
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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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  • Stephanie
    January 1, 1970
    I read a lot of historical fiction but this is the first that I have read that is set in Australia and also the one with the biggest impact. It is set in Queensland in 1885 at a troubling time with the white settlers determined to remove the Indigenous Australians from the land that they want for their own. I had heard of the horrific events that had happened but I had never heard of the role that the Native Police played.It is a fascinating book to read, often upsetting, often sickening but it’ I read a lot of historical fiction but this is the first that I have read that is set in Australia and also the one with the biggest impact. It is set in Queensland in 1885 at a troubling time with the white settlers determined to remove the Indigenous Australians from the land that they want for their own. I had heard of the horrific events that had happened but I had never heard of the role that the Native Police played.It is a fascinating book to read, often upsetting, often sickening but it’s also humbling and shows the different ways of coping with grief. Both Tommy and Billy cope in different ways,Billy is determined to be just like the men they are with, and he wants to prove himself and Tommy is determined not to be.There is some violence, you couldn’t really expect anything else with a book like this, but it’s almost like being in the background. It does happen, sometimes with graphic descriptions, but most of the novel focuses on the increasing differences between the two brothers and the volatile situation in the group. There are more horrible people than nice ones, some could show compassion and understanding but then they would show their true colours in other ways. The second part of the novel which is only short shows that attitudes don’t really change but there was a chance to make amends.It is an important piece of fiction, brilliantly written with plenty of compassion and understanding. Highly recommended and I’m sure it will be one of my top books for 2018.
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  • Lois
    January 1, 1970
    Almost 4.5. Quite timely, in a way, given That Man the President's address to the Coast Guard Academy and how we 'tamed' the country. This is the saga of two brothers growing up much too fast in the Australian outback at a time of Native people's genocide and the toll it takes. Not at all a happy story but very well written and evocative and deeply human
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    I made it half-way and had to stop. It was SOOOOOOOO boring. It is also loaded with the "n-word". It is totally not for me.
  • Jackie Law
    January 1, 1970
    “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.”“Remember, he will breed also. He will produce a dozen heirs, all with this hatred in their blood.”“It is laughable, the ignorance of the educated classes, sitting in their parlours and their clubs. The blacks don’t want to integrate. They want us to leave. So either we domesticate them or we kill them”Only Killers and Thieves, by Paul Howa “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.”“Remember, he will breed also. He will produce a dozen heirs, all with this hatred in their blood.”“It is laughable, the ignorance of the educated classes, sitting in their parlours and their clubs. The blacks don’t want to integrate. They want us to leave. So either we domesticate them or we kill them”Only Killers and Thieves, by Paul Howarth, is set on the frontier lands of Central Queensland, Australia, near the end of the nineteenth century. Much of the local area has been claimed by a white man, John Sullivan, whose grandfather first cleared it for the raising of cattle. Sullivan has expanded, taking over settlement after settlement, intent on driving out the indigenous population. To this end he calls on the Native Police Force, employed by the Queensland government, to disperse those who remain. The local force is led by Inspector Noone whose methods are pitiless. He is widely feared.The McBride family live on a neighbouring settlement. When the story opens the region is suffering a lengthy drought and the teenage McBride boys, Billy and Tommy, are out hunting for food. Against their father’s orders they stray onto Sullivan territory where they observe Noone and his men with captive natives. They are discovered and warned away.Unlike the cattle kept by Sullivan, which have somehow remained healthy, the McBride livestock are dying. When those that remain are rounded up for selling they do not raise what is needed to provide for the coming year. Tommy watches as his father clashes with Sullivan, who he once worked for. Although the boys are required to help – their father can no longer afford to employ other men – they are given no explanation for the animosity with their neighbour.All this is set aside when Tommy and Billy arrive home late one afternoon to discover that their parents have been killed. With their little sister grievously injured they turn to Sullivan for help. A native is suspected so Noone is called in. Sullivan coaches the boys in how they should testify thereby making them complicit in the ensuing retribution. Leaving their sister in the care of Sullivan’s young wife they ride out beyond the land claimed by settlers.This is a vivid evocation of a bloody period in Australian history. It is also a story of family and the challenges faced by pioneers. With their parents dead the teenage boys are left in a precarious situation. Sullivan and Noone offer them a type of protection but it costs the boys dear. Billy looks up to the wealthy Sullivan as a success his father could never hope to emulate. Tommy sees things differently.Rarely have I read such a powerful account of the racial oppression and abuse perpetrated by those at the forefront of white man’s empire building. It is vivid and disturbing yet never overplayed for effect. The reader is not spared the graphic detail yet the account remains nuanced and balanced. The inhumanity is sickening, and based on fact.Although a work of historical fiction the story is written as an adventure and a thriller. The tension throughout makes it a compelling read. Each character is rounded and believable, earning their place in the narrative and adding to the readers depth of understanding. Even the most horrifying of actions are portrayed with explanations, the skewed personal justifications for brutal acts of terrorism.An impressive debut and a timely exploration of the potential impact of dehumanising an entire people. This is an engaging and satisfying read.
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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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  • Kimberley
    January 1, 1970
    Paul Howarth can spin a tale. There’s no denying his ability as a writer, but the chosen content was tough to read—no matter how much historical truth there is to back him up. Tommy and Billy are forced to grow up quickly after discovering their parents murdered, and their younger sister left for dead, on their modest homestead.From there, Howarth takes the reader on a twisted, despicable, bounty hunt for the “killers and thieves” that left Tommy’s family devastated. However, as the story unfold Paul Howarth can spin a tale. There’s no denying his ability as a writer, but the chosen content was tough to read—no matter how much historical truth there is to back him up. Tommy and Billy are forced to grow up quickly after discovering their parents murdered, and their younger sister left for dead, on their modest homestead.From there, Howarth takes the reader on a twisted, despicable, bounty hunt for the “killers and thieves” that left Tommy’s family devastated. However, as the story unfolds, Tommy is the only one with enough sense to question the things which don’t make sense—questions that lead to trouble for him and a growing distance between him and Billy. Billy, driven by the desire to have a better life than his father was able to provide, takes easily to the lifestyle and ways of the man who threatened his family’s livelihood—John Sullivan. Sullivan, a rich landowner, has designs on “cleaning his own land” by ridding it of “the blacks”; his hatred of which drives him to hunt them “for sport” and employ a man of the law to help him do so—Noone.Noone (I spent half the book pronouncing him “no one”) is intelligent, and he used said intelligence to enhance his ignorant racist ideals: believing himself not only an agent of the law, but a man whose doing his duty to make sure Darwinism is employed in a swift manner where “the blacks” are concerned. Between Sullivan’s ignorance, Noone’s twisted notions, Billy’s pathetic fawnings, and Locke’s (Sullivan’s lackey) downright trashiness, I couldn’t decide whom to hate more. A few times I stepped away from the story because it was simply too despicable and unnecessarily gratuitous for my taste.By the end I wondered if the author’s intent was to show how undeniably racist the time was, or present the hard choices “good white men” were forced to make if they wanted to survive.In the end, I appreciated the writing, hated the story.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    Now *that* was a brutal book to read, but it was beautifully written, in a style that felt perfectly suited for the stark setting. Set in the Australian outback at the end of the 19th century, centering around one family’s conflicts with crooked and powerful neighbors, cruel and aggressive Native Police aiming to eradicate the aboriginal people, the killing drought, and with each other. One poor judgment leads to another, foolish choices end in bloodshed, one brother makes justifications and fee Now *that* was a brutal book to read, but it was beautifully written, in a style that felt perfectly suited for the stark setting. Set in the Australian outback at the end of the 19th century, centering around one family’s conflicts with crooked and powerful neighbors, cruel and aggressive Native Police aiming to eradicate the aboriginal people, the killing drought, and with each other. One poor judgment leads to another, foolish choices end in bloodshed, one brother makes justifications and feels no remorse while the other feels crushed by it all. Tommy’s description of feeling beaten and trapped within a sick cycle of corruption, death, and destruction: “Dumb as bloody cattle: a cow finds herself in a dried-up paddock and doesn’t think to leave, next thing she’s been hollowed out by the dingos and finished by the birds.”Can people really change? Is remorse useful or does it make a person more redeemable? Is a person’s character or morality decided in a moment, or in a series of brief, defining moments? Is killing ever justifiable if someone(s) in a culture write down laws allowing it? Is a sleazy trade off or life-and-death choice forgivable?Toward the end we see messy second chances take shape, a little retribution, and an attempt at a changed existence—but the haunting memories of the past creep in relentlessly.I keep thinking about this one. Disturbing and a mind churner.
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  • Sara floerke
    January 1, 1970
    Compelling. Exciting. Sensationalized. I know people use the word "gritty" a lot, but Howarth's writing makes the Australian geography come alive in a way in which I swear I've got dust in my teeth and my eyes are squinting from the sun's glare. And I feel like I've been wearing the same grimy, stiff clothes for three weeks. He also somehow is able to capture a 15 year old boy's thoughts and emotions, conveying pain, sorrow and sadness without taking on the voice of a 30 year old writer. Not onl Compelling. Exciting. Sensationalized. I know people use the word "gritty" a lot, but Howarth's writing makes the Australian geography come alive in a way in which I swear I've got dust in my teeth and my eyes are squinting from the sun's glare. And I feel like I've been wearing the same grimy, stiff clothes for three weeks. He also somehow is able to capture a 15 year old boy's thoughts and emotions, conveying pain, sorrow and sadness without taking on the voice of a 30 year old writer. Not only did I feel like I needed a shower, I also was sad and carrying that sadness with me.I didn't give it five stars however because I was missing an understory or metaphorical profundity that I find in my five star books. Maybe I just missed it. Maybe I just have to sit on this for a while.
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  • Katherine
    January 1, 1970
    I am not generally a fan of westerns, or of violent books, so I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this one. I ended up enjoying it more than I expected. There are beautifully written parts of this book and I loved how the location is described. I really felt immersed in the setting - the dry heat, emptiness and the desolation. Such a hard place to try to survive. I found the violence in the book very hard to read, but I enjoyed seeing Tommy's character develop and evolve. Noone's character I found I am not generally a fan of westerns, or of violent books, so I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this one. I ended up enjoying it more than I expected. There are beautifully written parts of this book and I loved how the location is described. I really felt immersed in the setting - the dry heat, emptiness and the desolation. Such a hard place to try to survive. I found the violence in the book very hard to read, but I enjoyed seeing Tommy's character develop and evolve. Noone's character I found fascinating and, of course, disturbing. He is the perfect villain - sanctioned by the law, able to see into your motivations, intelligent, and able to twist scientific reasoning to justify his actions. Such a complex character.
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  • Threasa
    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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  • Lillian
    January 1, 1970
    Paul Howarth has quite an impressive command of language. This is a story that has come to us many times in other iterations yet the author has populated this novel with some intriguing characters. Individually, they all seem to represent some facet of human nature. There is one central character in particular who just may be the frightening part of all of us and is what makes this more than just another western.Only Killers and Thieves is an engaging novel with some memorable characters, not th Paul Howarth has quite an impressive command of language. This is a story that has come to us many times in other iterations yet the author has populated this novel with some intriguing characters. Individually, they all seem to represent some facet of human nature. There is one central character in particular who just may be the frightening part of all of us and is what makes this more than just another western.Only Killers and Thieves is an engaging novel with some memorable characters, not the least of which is Australia itself, captivating always.Thank you HarperCollins for introducing me to this author.
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