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About the book
  • Published: 1 November 2010
  • ISBN: 9781742741505
  • Imprint: Random House Australia
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

When Colts Ran

Shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and the Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature

Shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and the Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature

In this sweeping epic of friendship, toil, hope and failed promise, multi-award-winning author Roger McDonald follows the story of Kingsley Colts as he chases the ghost of himself through the decades, and in and out of the lives and affections of the citizens of 'The Isabel', a slice of Australia scattered with prospectors, artists, no-hopers and visionaries. Against this spacious backdrop of sheep stations, timeless landscapes and the Five Alls pub, men play out their fates, conduct their rivalries and hope for the best.

Major Dunc Buckler, 'misplaced genius and authentic ratbag', scours the country for machinery in a World War that will never find him. Wayne Hovell, slave to 'moral duty', carries the physical and emotional scars of Colts's early rebellion, but also finds himself the keeper of his redemption. Normie Powell, son of a rugby-playing minister, finds his own mysticism as a naturalist, while warm-hearted stock dealer Alan Hooke longs for understanding in a house full of women. They are men shaped by the obligations and expectations of a previous generation, all striving to define themselves in their own language, on their own terms.

When Colts Ran, written in Roger McDonald's rich and piercingly observant style, in turns humorous and hard-bitten, charts the ebb and flow of human fortune, and our fraught desire to leave an indelible mark on society and those closest to us. It shows how loyalties shape us in the most unexpected ways. It is the story of how men 'strike at beauty' as they fall to the earth.

  • Pub date: 1 November 2010
  • ISBN: 9781742741505
  • Imprint: Random House Australia
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

About the Author

Roger McDonald

Roger McDonald was born at Young, NSW, and educated at country schools and in Sydney. For many years he has lived on farms (no farm animals except poultry and a corrugated iron sheep these days) in southern NSW, with intervals spent in Sydney and New Zealand.

His first novel was 1915, winner of the Age Book of the Year, and made into an eight-part ABC-TV series (available on DVD and “looking like a bleached-out relic of a forgotten age when they just happened to have television,” he says). His account of travelling the outback with a team of New Zealand shearers, Shearers' Motel, won the National Book Council Banjo Award for non-fiction. His internationally bestselling novel Mr Darwin's Shooter, was awarded the New South Wales, Victorian, and South Australian Premiers' Literary Awards. The Ballad of Desmond Kale won the 2006 Miles Franklin Award and South Australian Festival Prize for Fiction. A long story that became part of When Colts Ran was awarded the O. Henry Prize (USA) in 2008. A companion novel, The Following (2013) attracted readers as a eulogy to country life at the close of a hard era. McDonald maintains a writing interest with a new book every three or so years and has eight titles in print with Penguin Random House. His other novels are Slipstream, Rough Wallaby, Water Man, and The Slap.

As a writer with “a sure, steady command of how the Australian bush looks, smells and feels, in each season and in all types of weather” (Mark Thomas, Canberra Times) McDonald once swore “never to do water or grass”, but with his tenth novel, A Sea-Chase, he upends all that and goes to sea.

“Writing about the sea came as a revelation,” says McDonald, “partly the result of going to New Zealand every summer and sailing, starting with a 12ft dinghy and trying to keep up with Kiwis whose second nature off the rugby field is on the water. Partly too A Sea-Chase is inspired by lone sailing accounts, starting with sports’ autobiographies and ranging through to the diaries of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which leave no reader in doubt there’s a spiritual dimension involved. Precise sea language glistens like freshly applied paint wherever it’s used, but also, I had to, in this story, keep hold of the driest, remotest pinch of Australian dirt and spread it into the Southern Ocean. How this feeds into the story, in fact makes it happen, was powerfully gratifying to me as a writer.”

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Praise for When Colts Ran


“‘Roger McDonald is a riot… He combines a love of intrigue and high adventure with a defiant, lyrical, vigorous way of telling. Here are art and excitement, mixed to magnificent strength… a full-blooded, pulsing tale… A SMH critic wrote of [McDonald] that he had a ‘’subtle understanding of human motives and a clear eye on human savagery”, and it’s still going, this gripping insight, in this latest novel.’ - Stella Clarke, The Australian”

“‘…[an] exhilarating fable… a rollicking extravaganza that tells a ripping yarn… But it is the language – witty, colourful and evocative, extravagant at times, lyrical at others, a style that makes sentences rear up and gaze at themselves by means of cunning adverbs, adjectives and often unusual syntax – that sustains the novel and reminded me of the virtuosity those old authors sought to cultivate.’ - Andrew Riemer, The Sydney Morning Herald”

“‘…pitched to almost visionary intensity… written to be read at a breakneck pace, a looping, half-wild portrait of a world where wonder and squalor lie hard against each other… cascading energy and radical fervour… underpinned by a poet’s understanding of the natural world. It is a world where meaning infers in every detail, and an intimate understanding of the land and its textures is revealed again and again, deepening the resonances of the novel’s broader aspirations.’ - James Bradley, The Bulletin”

“‘This is a rollicking good read. The writing is beautiful, too; funny and energetic, grand and intimate.’ - Australian Book Review”

Awards & Recognition

  • Prime Minister's Literary Awards

    Shortlisted • 2011 • Prime Minister's Literary Awards

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