BLACKWATER MOON - B. Michael Radburn

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Blackwater Moon
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Book Synopsis

Andy Walker, son, lover and an ex-soldier, knows tragedy is only ever a heartbeat away.

When an inmate escapes from the prison farm upriver and abducts Nathan, a child Andy has vowed to protect after losing his own son years before, Andy Walker discovers that the escapee is a dark figure from his past, the devil who changed his life, the man who introduced him to 'The Game'.

Book Review

BLACKWATER MOON is the second book from Australian author B. Michael Radburn, although this has more of a crime fiction / thriller focus. Atmospheric, emotional, poignant and tightly controlled, both books from Radburn mark him out as an author to be watched.

The story is built around Andy Walker, a young boy, in a small Australian country town who starts out in life with challenges. An alcoholic and abusive father, a mother who eventually throws in the towel and takes up drinking to kill the pain, Walker is lucky enough to meet a man who teaches him to row, who acts as a mentor. Alas, another adult that Andy meets on his journey is another damaged human being, a man all too willing to give in to his own demons.

This is not the first book I've read recently that uses a small town / young boy / war intervention theme, although it is set more recently, and the war involved is the Vietnam conflict. Both these books have, at their core, a strong sense of loss, of struggle, and of the potential outcome of background and circumstance. BLACKWATER MOON also includes that idea of a mentor, of the one person that can step into a young boy's life and make a difference which adds a level of hope, the possibility of a positive in a life which is set reeling by the actions of others. Then there's the character of Andy Walker. A young boy from a difficult background, in danger of being shaped by a dreadful experience, beaten down again and again by events, timing and things outside his control - Walker struggles to build a life. But there's more to the book than that, the story is also looking into the eyes and mind of a damaged man. A man who acted with impunity, seemingly unseen by a small community, a man who has made starkly different choices.

The tension in BLACKWATER MOON is multi-level - an external threat, the "Game" and its perpetrator, the internal threat of what life has done to Andy Walker. There's some fascinating observations of what it must be to be a victim, to succumb to the terror, or find a way to deal with it, go on, live a life.

Needless to say, BLACKWATER MOON is clever. It's sad, uplifting, poignant, worrying, touching and provides more than a little insight into life, love and the whole damn thing. Sure the ending is a bit sentimental, but by that stage the characters and the reader have been in the wars. A bit of schmaltz is exactly what a lot of readers are going to need by then.

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