Broken Hill

A Sunburnt Country
Photo of Mutawintji National Park by Beppie K used under a Creative Commons license.

Jack Hodgins, Over 40 in Broken Hill (McClelland & Stewart, 1992).
A travelogue by Hodgins, a Canadian novelist, who took a road trip with Australian writer Roger McDonald. The two planned to drive in McDonald’s one-ton truck through the outback of New South Wales and Queensland, initially to do some research on sheep shearers for a book McDonald was writing (which turned out to be Shearers’ Motel), and then to visit McDonald’s brother on a cattle ranch and lastly to do some camping. In the event, record rains and floods interfered. I picked up this book because I love Shearers’ Motel, and hoped Hodgins would shed more light on that book, but he skipped most of McDonald’s interviews with shearers. Instead, he gives the sort of perspective on the small towns between the long stretches of bitumen in the interior of these two provinces that it takes a foreigner to provide.

Here is biographical information on Hodgins. Wayne Grady wrote this review. Here is more about others of Hodgins’ books. And here is his website.

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Sheep shearing
Photo by Magic Foundry used under a Creative Commons license.

Roger McDonald, Shearers’ Motel (Picador, 1992).
Wrestling with a yearning he is hard put to explain, in1989 McDonald left his family and farm to be the cook for sheep-shearing crews, a position for which his ancient 1-ton truck was a bigger asset than his inexperience counted against him. As the “cookie,” he prepared several meals a day for a half-dozen or more shearers for stints of a week or twoat remote sheep stations across New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. Shearers are a crusty lot, and his account is full of terrific characters with names like Davo, Quinn, Wade, Bertram Jr., and Louella. Many of them are Kiwis, Maoris come over to a vast, dry, red-rock country to earn a dollar. I just adore this book, and if it’s hard to track down a copy, rest assured that it’s worth it. It won the 1993 Banjo Award for Non-Fiction.

Here is Wikipedia’s page on McDonald. Perry Middlemiss posted the synopsis from the dustjacket and the book’s first paragraphs. In 2003, Libby Robin reviewed Wood: The Asutralian Story; she says it’s not as good as Shearers’ Motel, but her review gives some sense of the Australian wool industry.

Buy it now at If that link no longer works, you might try Boomerang Books or another Australian bookseller.