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Australia’s Trail-Blazing First Novelist – John Lang

Australia's First Novelist

(5 customer reviews)
Authors: Sean Doyle
06/Nov/2023
Biography, Memoir, History
224
Paperback
153mm x 210mm
9781923004382
$24.99

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‘What a life! What a story! Superbly researched and wonderfully crafted, this book makes a life long gone, live and breathe again. As one fascinated by the growth of the national identity, without ever realising how much Lang had to do with moulding it, I was surprised and enthralled by Doyle’s account.’ – Peter FitzSimons AM, bestselling history author, journalist, TV and radio presenter

Book #5 in the Shot of History Series

‘Writer, journalist, barrister, larrikin’

Who was the first Australian novelist?

John Lang, born in a Parramatta pub in 1816 with the convict ‘stain’ upon him, was a singular character. The first native-born person to have a novel published, he was also a newspaperman, a classical scholar and translator, barrister, celebrity, jailbird … enigma. He was hugely energetic, capable and original, but he also had his demons.

A larrikin polymath who refused to be bound by convention, Lang didn’t just want his allotted portion – he wanted all of it. He got a lot of it, too, but not the chalice of immortality.

Lang was a serial pioneer. In literature, he also wrote the first ‘detective novel’ in English, the first convict-system satire, the first Indian travelogue by an Australian, and he created the template for the bush novel. In journalism, he was the first Australian to launch and run a newspaper overseas. And in law, he was the only barrister to ever defeat the mighty East India Company in an Indian courtroom.

So why have we never heard of him?

This long-overdue biography explores answers to this revealing question as it tracks Lang’s rise from those humble beginnings to fortune and fleeting fame. Author Sean Doyle tells the riveting story of Lang’s remarkable life and times across three continents in the age of Empire, when the modern world was young …

Sean Doyle

Sean Doyle

After completing a History and Literature (Hons) degree at Sydney University, Sean Doyle took to the Asian, especially Indian, road. His travels over the years have produced two Indian memoirs: Beyond Snake Mountain: A journey in Rajasthan and Night Train to Varanasi: India with my daughter. Formerly an English-language teacher and a travel journalist, Sean […]

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5 reviews for Australia’s Trail-Blazing First Novelist – John Lang

  1. What a life! What a story! Superbly researched and wonderfully crafted, this book makes a life long gone, live and breathe again. As one fascinated by the growth of the national identity, without ever realising how much Lang had to do with moulding it, I was surprised and enthralled by Doyle’s account.’

  2. ‘A necessary and valuable addition to literary history: the story of John Lang, a largely forgotten founding figure of Australian – and Anglo-Indian – letters. A satirist whose pen got him into all sorts of trouble, Lang’s rollercoaster life was infused with ironies and an underlying bittersweetness, amplified by his early death. His achievements were many, and promised so much more. Doyle, like his subject, wears his scholarship lightly: biography, historical saga and literary appreciation are woven seamlessly through this overdue book.’

  3. An exceptionally well-crafted biography of a dazzlingly colourful yet largely forgotten character from Australia’s past. Thanks to Sean Doyle’s meticulous research and accessible style, John Lang has finally found the recognition he deserves.’

  4. I’ve read your book with great pleasure – my favourite holiday read of the summer. Terrific story, beautifully told. Clearly a great deal of research behind it. Congratulations.’

  5. A terrific read. Brilliantly researched and superbly written. I could not have enjoyed it more and I can’t help but wonder why Lang is not included on the Writers Walk in Circular Quay…perhaps he will be now that Sean Doyle has enlightened us all on one of Australia’s literary pioneers!

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