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  • Published: 22 August 2023
  • ISBN: 9780143778073
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $22.99


The untold story of Johnny Day, Australia’s first international sports hero – a tale of mishap, adventure, chase, chance and luck – from one of Australia’s finest writers.

At the age of ten, a small boy from Ballarat named Johnny Day became Australia’s first international sporting hero. Against adult competition he wooed crowds across continents as the World Champion in pedestrianism, the sporting craze of the day.

A few years later, in 1870, he won the Melbourne Cup on a horse aptly called Nimblefoot, winning the hearts of British royalty and Melbourne’s high society. And then he disappeared without a trace.

Robert Drewe picks up where history leaves off, re-imagining Johnny’s life following his great Cup win. In doing so he brings us an adventure story, a coming-of-age classic, a man-hunt, a thriller – but most of all, a rollicking good yarn.

Johnny Day is a character who couldn’t be invented, but in the masterful re-imagining of his life Robert Drewe shows storytelling at its best, and lays claim to Johnny Day’s rightful place in Australia’s illustrious sporting history.

  • Published: 22 August 2023
  • ISBN: 9780143778073
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

Robert Drewe

Robert Drewe is the author of eight novels, four books of short stories, two plays, two memoirs and four other works of non-fiction. His work has been widely translated, won national and international prizes and been adapted for film, television, theatre and radio.

Also by Robert Drewe

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Praise for Nimblefoot

Drewe’s imaginative leaps – involving real and made-up historical characters – are full of droll humour, in this tremendous achievement of a book.

The Guardian

A gallivanting feat of historical resurrection.

Sydney Morning Herald

This is a book of abundance. A true picaresque – episodic, rambling, with the central character acted upon rather than agentic, buffeted by fate.

Australian Book Review

A playful, meandering novel whose vivid vignettes offer an exuberantly detailed and often idiosyncratic portrait of a historical figure previously lost to popular memory.

Weekend West

Awards & recognition

ARA Historical Novel Prize

Longlisted  •  2023  •  Best historical novel

Margaret and Colin Roderick Literary Award

Shortlisted  •  2023  •  Margaret and Colin Roderick Literary Award

The Voss Literary Prize

Shortlisted  •  2023  •  Awarded to the best novel from the previous year.

Western Australian Premier's Book Awards

Shortlisted  •  2023  •  Premier's Prize for Book of the Year