154 x 233 x 25mm
"If you're going into the bush, I mean really going, then you need a good hat - wide-brimmed, well-balanced."
He picked one up from the pile inside the truck, and waved it with a sinuous motion before my eyes: "A hat like this one. Now this is my own design - the "Honest John" - the swagman's friend. Best hat there is in the world."
I inspected it as he held it out, and a ghost of suspicion was born inside me.
"You may not know it," he went on, "but bushmen are very particular about their hats. That colour - that brown - is what we call tan-bark. It's very popular with head stockmen on the big stations. The man at Wave Hill buys them from me. I have them specially made up, by Akubra. You'll see them everywhere. You can tell them by the bright feather in the hat-band. And they've got my name inside them too in gold letters."
I knew, at that moment, knew for certain he was having me on. I laughed, put on a knowing expression, and flipped the hat over as he held it. And there it was - "Akubra - Honest John" - in stamped gold capitals inside the crown.
Funny and knowing, and terrifically well-written, 'Wings Of The Kite-Hawk' is a set of linked journeys into the Australian landscape: its past and present, its people and its half-remembered secrets. In each chapter, Nicolas Rothwell takes a precursor and follows him. Not all the guides are great explorers of the past (Leichhardt, Sturt, Strehlow and Giles), but anthropologists and Hell's Angels; rodeo riders and Aboriginal artists.
Vivid characters weave in and out of the story, intersecting, leading him on. Conversations move through light, laughter and sadness, while the overlapping explorations examine the different states of mind and heart that affect us all: love, loss, friendship, fear.
Reminiscent of Bruce Chatwin's 'The Songlines', 'Wings Of The Kite-Hawk' will seduce and enthral and force you up from the comfy chair into the four-wheel drive.