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Reef Madness
Digging Up the Dirt on an Australian Myth
Author: Ernest Hunter RRP A$11.99 (Ebook)
Publisher: ETT Imprint Pub Date: 2022-06-01
BIC Category: Biography: historical, political & military ISBN: 9781922698285
BISAC Category2: BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Cultural Heritage


It's a tale that doesn't seem like it would be a winner; an improbable proposition of a ten-mile reef of gold in the middle of the continent, a cabal of scheming investors, a farrago of poor planning and preposterous publicity, the fiasco of the prematurely celebrated triumph of technology over unforgiving terrain, a dead prospector - and no gold. The Central Australian Gold Exploration Company had it all, and Lasseter's Last Ride was in the stores before the final chapter of the real-life debacle had closed. It was a runaway success.
Angus and Robertson sold three million copies of Ion Idriess' sixty-some books before he died in 1979. But in 1931, as he was working on what would be Lasseter's Last Ride, he was looking for an angle. In filling the gaps between the few facts with detailed descriptions of lands and people he had never seen, he found it - and promoted it - in Magic and Mystery. Idriess' fictional account of the last months of the life of Harold Bell Lasseter gave birth to a legend that has repeated in dozens of books, films, poems, podcasts, websites and exhibitions, is memorialised in the names of a highway and a casino, and has spawned searches and scams that continue nearly a century later. Idriess was probably surprised at its success and chose not to tamper with a winning formula when inconvenient material soon emerged. To do that he had to control the evidence and continued to insist on his narrative's unimpeachable adherence to fact. Reef Madness exposes how Idriess confected his first successful book and why the story of a failed prospector became a quintessentially Australian myth.

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