The Sacrifice

Published by Allen and Unwin in 2008

This is the book I'm probably most well known for. It sold out of its first print run but is still available through my shop, or from me at comic cons and book fairs. 

It began life as a short story called Death And The Maiden in about 2001, set in WW2 Melbourne about a freshly minted Australian soldier on his last night of leave before setting sail to war, convinced he would not return alive. So he wants to do three things he'd never done before: eat a first class meal, get drunk and get laid by paying for it. Nothing goes to plan. 

From this seed spun this tale of Robert Wells, a committed pacifist and socialist from the upper classes, who with his like-minded friends, despairs at the drum beat of war in 1939. One thing they all determine upon: they would not enlist in another imperialist folly as their fathers had twenty five years before. As the story progresses through 1940 and 1941, the gravity of the war changes as does their resolve, especially for Robert, whose strong sense of duty and moral probity is undergirded by Catholic guilt at his lapse in faith. 

There's more to it than that of course. This book is not about the movers and shakers of history, but those who are moved and shaken by history.  Decisions are made by national leaders focussed on the chess pieces of some geo-political board game, rarely ever considering the impact those decisions have on those who live in their country, whose only interest is to make a decent living, keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. In Robert's case, he felt that as much as the war was no business of his (and he had an exemption from Manpower for being in an essential industry, so therefore not compulsorily sent to work in the citizens military forces), there comes a point where one must take responsibility or forfeit self-respect. That is, put ones body on the line for what you believe in.

The Second World War impacted society at every level, in profound ways. While the war barely scratched Australia as a battlefield, the imposition of a total war economy meant that every part of Australian life came under the control of the Federal government in order to facilitate its war effort. Food, clothing, manufactured goods, services, able-bodied people became resources marshalled to further the war effort, backed by a completely state-controlled media (but privately owned) that massaged compliance to the order of the day. 

When I worked on this book, it became evident to me that the story really couldn't conclude with Robert sailing off to war, but to go further: follow his active service, then also upon his return, told to head back into civil society and carry on as if nothing had happened, that he (and everyone else who saw overseas combat in particular) was the same as before. Hence the concept of the Robert Wells Trilogy. Book two would be The Fight; book three, The Return

Since the publication of The Sacrifice in April 2008, I have been asked a $1 question: when's the next book coming out? Well... it isn't. I did indeed spend more than two years researching, writing and producing layouts for a 330 page graphic novel for The Fight. It would have taken probably two and a half years to draw, and would have been out by now, and I'd probably now be drawing The Return, aiming to have it published sometime by 2018. 

While writing and researching The Fight, I was also preparing The Return, since the middle book in a trilogy has to continue the story from volume one, but prepare the ground for volume three. I became a lot more interested in what happened post war, and where Robert would wind up. In short, one thing led to another and I now have a volume that is still related to The Sacrifice, but is no longer a sequel. It follows Roberts daughter, Andrea, as an army nurse in Vietnam. Don't ask when this will be out. I've already spent three years on it and it's a bigger struggle than the trilogy ever was. 

Theoretically, I could pick The Fight out of the bottom drawer and put it back on the drawing board, so I can't rule out that I might do that. I probably won't, but I have to consider its value in relation to the rest of my life: how many books can I realistically do in the time left. If I get my act together; it hasn't been very together for a long time.