Book 1: Bloodlines
‘Between Bondi and Byron Bay, Pete crossed tracks with a rogues’ gallery – surfers, itinerants, brawlers, the lost – all of them lovingly hand-painted by Pete’s pen. His short vignettes in Bloodlines are visceral, teeth rattling, funny and even true, and they stretch from then to now and this horizon to that, from the poetic to the poignant to the hilarious.’ Sean Doherty
Book 2 : Lineage
To open the pages of a book by Peter Bowes is to enter a quintessentially Australian world, but one that is also universal. We all know these people, see them on the streets, meet them, avoid them, want to know more about them.
Book 3: Generations
Bowes continues to entertain, move and surprise us with his subtly acute observations of life in all its manifestations. His writing is often at its most affecting when documenting the lives of those who otherwise come and go as we pass them by with barely a second glance.
The Bookmaker from Rabaul
This is a book that doesn’t want to be pigeonholed. In part it is crime fiction because there is an unexplained death to which this book provides an imaginary backstory. It is equally a tale of espionage and counter espionage that brings in the security services of Australia, the UK, the USA and the USSR. And it is the story of the war in Southeast Asia and its aftermath. John Looker
I read The Bookmaker from Rabaul several years ago after I discovered your blog. Even though some time has now passed since I read the book, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of your writing. The labyrinth of puzzles and mysteries appealed to every aspect of me and it was a rare book that compelled me to turn the pages over as fast as possible to see what lay waiting for me next and to find out the next resolution. I also enjoyed the undercurrent of humour intermingled amongst the pages and I appreciated the phenomenal amount of research that went into the writing. It was genuinely one of the top 10 novels I’ve ever read.
The Next Headland
Six-year-old Toby has to leave the only home he’s ever known to go and live with his grandfather Tom in a remote part of the New South Wales coast near Moutrey Point. Fourteen hours away by train, the south coast’s towering seas, ferocious storms and swirling seabirds are all unimaginable to a small boy who knows only creeks and shallow dams.
Reviews for the Bloodlines Trilogy
‘At last a collection of Pete Bowes’ story telling mastery’
I have been reading and delighting in Pete Bowes’ stories since I first encountered them as “Larry Stories” on Don Norris’s Real Surf web site many years ago. Amongst occasional surf reports Larry or Pete would post these reflections on life that had the capacity to deck you and have you sit slack jawed at the excruciating pathos they so often contained. These are magical stories but not for the faint-hearted. The beautifully nostalgic tales of early years at Byron are balanced with the chilling reflections of predatory beach-side adults in Patience. His narrative is there to cast across us the full suite of human emotion and his understated, crisp writing brings it home with unique power. Beyond the Break did me in in 3 pages. Typical of Pete’s way. He doesn’t spare the pretentious, the bullies, cowards or superficial, amongst others. What a rare treat to work one’s way through this collection.
A five-star review from James on Amazon.
‘Tried a sample and enjoyed that and so bought the book’
I came across this book by chance, tried a sample and enjoyed that and so bought the book. It offers 90 or so short stories (very short, many of them) written in a direct and economical style. I’ve found wry humour, clever little plots, and flashes of pathos – plus various characters from parts of modern life I don’t know.
The Sample gives the flavour of the stories, but no sample can tell you how well a book has been formatted for Kindle. Sometimes I’ve been exasperated by deficiencies in navigation or glitches with the text. No problems here. The publishers (Bennison Books) have got the software sorted.
I have a folder on my Kindle for books that I like to dip into when I have 5 or 25 minutes to spare: old favourites for the most part that I can pick up and put down, plus short stories and poems. This book has found its niche in that folder. There are times when you want to fling Bertrand Russell or James Joyce aside and try something quick and diverting, and Bloodlines does the job for me.
A five-star review from johnsteven on Amazon.
‘From poetic to poignant to hilarious …’
‘Between Bondi and Byron Bay, Pete crossed tracks with a rogues’ gallery – surfers, itinerants, brawlers, the lost – all of them lovingly hand-painted by Pete’s pen. His short vignettes in Bloodlines are visceral, teeth rattling, funny and even true, and they stretch from then to now and this horizon to that, from the poetic to the poignant to the hilarious.’
HarperCollins author, Sean Doherty
Sean is the author of My Brother’s Keeper, and MP: The Life of Michael Peterson, both published by HarperCollins. Sean is currently Features Editor of Surfing World, Australia’s oldest surfing magazine, and Senior Writer for Surfer magazine.
‘A sense of humour and joie de vivre …’
‘If you believe his Facebook profile, he’s a very old surfer, born on June 13th, 1910. He is also an accomplished writer. Obviously one of his favourite topics is the sport of kings, but you can, and hopefully will spend hours reading his other musings on pretty much anything that has caught his fancy over the course of his life. The list is long. I find Pete intriguing, because if he really is 102 years old, he has an intellect that is still as sharp as a tack and a sense of humour and joie de vivre to go along with it. I’m sure he’s enjoyed a few TGIFriday parties over the years! To your health, Mr. Bowes!’
Dave was a co-founder of Surf Europe Magazine, Marketing Director for Quiksilver Europe, President of the ASP Europe from 2007-2010 and has been a freelance event commentator and journalist in surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding and other action sports since 2003. He’s also an editor for EpicTV.
I love the way Pete puts his stories together of incidents and characters that have crossed his path over the years along the coastlines of Australia. Very enjoyable and some recognisable locations and experiences enhance the book.
A five-star review from Peter M Bellanto on Amazon.
‘Stimulating and refreshing’
‘Peter Bowes writes interesting and thought provoking observations of life. Some of his stories are sad, some stimulating and all interesting. His writing style is unique and his use of the English language is not dissimilar to that of writers such as Cormac McCarthy et al. A fascinating book. I look forward to reading his next and subsequent books.’
A five-star review from Keith Parker on Amazon.
‘If you read only one book this year, it should be this one.‘
Although I majored in English Literature when I was at university I rarely read books anymore. Since they invented families, the internet, emails, surfing, motorcycle riding, friends, drinking and so on it is such an effort to concentrate on anything as time consuming as reading a book. And I’ve read so many of them they mostly seem the same to me now. With fiction in particular I find myself just not caring what the authors think or write anymore. I generally picture them as unattractive fat pale middle aged people wearing track suits with unkempt hair and too many cats who have not showered for several days sitting in their gloomy houses desperately typing away. But not Peter. Peter’s book is interesting and entertaining and funny.
I first found Peter’s work on the internet, where he was causing trouble on a surf report web site, infuriating other reporters and patrons alike with masterfully and originally composed accounts of events often peripherally related to surfing but rarely dealing with the actual surf conditions that day. From time to time there were massive arguments about what to do with Larry, as he was then known, often because of the difficulty or irritation his long stories could cause those trying to simply check the surf quickly, as opposed to reading 750 words on a Byron Bay abattoir or the surfing hierarchy in Bondi mid-last century.
Peter was a dangerous intellectual in that world, and I loved the way he used the internet to expose people to his work who would otherwise never come across it, whether they liked it or not. He was and is however also an incredibly talented writer who draws from a vast body of influences but has his own unique and unmistakable style. He is never boring and always entertaining. He paints a fascinating world drawn from his life experience with masterful composition and perfect comic timing. If you read only one book this year, it should be this one. It is certainly the only book I have read this year.
A five-star review from Alex R on Amazon.
‘Loving this book’
I am loving this book. So many memorable lines and stories.
Roy from Realsurf
Peter Bowes the thinking surfers writer and literary landscape gardener ,one senses salt dripping from his cracked brow as he bends over his keyboard, a never empty glass of darkened rum of to the side, smoke curling lazily around a treasured room it littered with the flotsam of a life well ridden , the Australian cultural landscape is well blessed by chaps of this cut and by god we demand more …sir.
To read Peter Bowes, is calming, it is. A time and place, with all its problems, contradictions, sadness, a real full sadness, a loss, that will never be replaced.
But, this guy is an impressive golden child, that is what Mark Twain would’ve have said. They would have laughed together, these men.
Enjoyed a snap shot of coastal Australia and its inhabitants that is gone forever. Thank you for taking me back to a time when anything was possible.
Pete, such a way with words. I am going to buy your book but I agree with Rottmouth that it should be sold as a hard copy. Your writing is one of the few things addressing the ocean and surfing that is actually worth paying a few dollars for and having something to display. Your works are short, concise, unpretentious and perfect for quick entertainment that works on many deeper levels without looking like it’s trying way too hard (like you just picked up your first philosophy for dummies book and can’t wait to share it with everyone). Good luck you old codger
I’m really stoked to be featuring your writing in SW. I’ve had a great time reading through it this past few weeks. I grew up at New Brighton, went to Mullum High, had my first New Years in Byron that year people were diving off the roof of the Orient onto the pavement and the bikies blocked the ambos from getting in. I think I was 15. Great night. I guess I feel something very familiar within your words. Hope that’s cool. It’s an embarrassingly rich body of work you’ve got there
I dig it a lot.
Vaughan Blakey, Editor Surfing World.
By the way, if anyone wants to read some real quality (surf) writing, the abovementioned Pete Bowes has been putting it down between the sticks for years.
He’s too much of an old school gentlemen to blow his own trumpet in someone else’s living room but if this isn’t an instant banning offence I’m more than happy to do it for him.
He’s our very own Chekhov of the surf world.
It is this inclination that led me to more than usually appreciate a recent repost on SurfMatters of one of Peter Bowes offerings in relation to George Greenough. Peter is one of the great writers on surf related matters so I make no apology for quoting a large chunk of it that particularly appealed to me.
Paul Gross, Surfmatters blog.
And finally, from the baddest bastard on the planet (at the time)
This brief post is meant to celebrate a comment I nearly posted on another surf blog sometime ago regarding my old friend Pete. If memory serves correctly, this is what I had intended to say (to be surely turned into bait for moderator’s with frisky fingers and tender flesh):
“While I appreciate Peter Bowes as someone who has contributed more to writing whilst sharpening his favorite quill than I ever will over the course of my life, he lends his talents to a site (Kurungabaa) that is particularly “Professor Icon;” another tiresomely overwrought and over thought endeavor. As my father always said, ‘trying to restrain the passion of genius is like trying to muffle an orgasm.’ This bloke could be spending his life making readers wail with each scribble, as he did here:
Now that was some epic verbal caterwauling. Why can’t he wag his lyrical boner to his own voluminous volition? I guess he’s all about stroking those bookish whiskers… and the frumpy lunch-lady armed Velma-looking gals.
Not that I wouldn’t do Velma over Daphne, though; any day…hence my proliferation at this miserable site.”
Well, ladies and gents… that comment can now be expunged to the sookling vortex swirling in the chasm of mediocrity betwixt the ears of Nick Carroll.
Instead, I present to you a free man:
Reviews for The Next Headland
“I truly enjoyed Peter Bowes new book. Bennison Books is marketing it as a children’s book, and I think it works well for that purpose, but adults are going to enjoy it as much as any child would.
What I liked most is Bowes’ portrait of New South Wales through the eyes of Toby, an orphaned six year old who, because of a car accident, ends up moving to a remote part of New South Wales to live with his eccentric grandfather. The book is built out of incidents: a large shark swimming beneath the dinghy Toby and his grandfather as they fish in their dinghy, a wild storm that threatens to blow a metal roof into the sky, a search for a gold mine where a wild dingo lurks, threatening a small boy who rarely wears shoes, but the incidents build and build into a story that culminates in an ending sure to melt your heart.
What is especially appealing to a midwesterner is the wildlife portrayed in the story, the strange kinds of fish, such as a trevally, the half dingo, half dogs that are residents at the cabin where Toby and his grandfather live, pythons and other snakes, bloodworms, and wallabyes, among a host of birds, some, like the sea gull, familiar, others, like the cockatoo and parrots, more exotic, at least to my knowledge. The aborigines in the story, like Monty, are also wonderful to meet.
This is not Harry Potter, filled with pulse-pounding adventures. Rather, it is a portrait of people and a place that brings alive just how unbelievable our planet and all of the wildlife, flora, fauna, fish, and humans are. The story, in the end, gets to you, climbing to a place in your spirit that makes you say to yourself, “yep, I’m really glad I read this.”
Tom Davis. Amazon review.
“It’s a life-affirming story of a tough grandfather taking on responsibility for an orphaned grandchild he scarcely knows – his protective love and the six-year old’s growing familiarity with the characters and environment of a remote Australian coast. Totally unsentimental, utterly convincing.
I bought the book because I’ve enjoyed previous work from Peter Bowes but I rather expected to have to skim through quickly, thinking it was principally for children. I soon slowed down to soak up the detail.
I also found that it can be appreciated on different levels. An adult for example will interpret small actions not explained and infer a whole world of dangers and uncertainties; a child will miss these but follow the small boy’s discoveries in an exciting environment.”
What for example was the dog that came to drink right next to the boy out in the wild, and why did the grandfather go into the bush soon after? And who exactly is Monty?
He tells a good story in an easy voice, does Peter Bowes.”
Reviews for The Bookmaker From Rabaul
This is a book that doesn’t want to be pigeonholed. In part it is crime fiction because there is an unexplained death to which this book provides an imaginary backstory. It is equally a tale of espionage and counter espionage that brings in the security services of Australia, the UK, the USA and the USSR. And it is the story of the war in Southeast Asia and its aftermath.
It is not a ‘literary’ novel but it is a well-wrought page turner with well-researched background colour and a convincing narrative. Nothing would induce me to spoil the plot but I would advise readers to have patience. The early chapters move about from Hong Kong to Singapore to Indonesia and beyond, introducing a wide cast list and there are many puzzles: who are these people, what are they doing and how do they connect? This is no simple whodunnit. But Peter Bowes is an accomplished writer of short stories and his short chapters paint such convincing scenes that the story slowly comes together like a jigsaw.
There is also a lengthy afterword which sets out what is known about the actual body on the beach and which shows just how baffling was the evidence. It’s quite fun to look back at Peter Bowes’ story to see the use he has made of the many bewildering clues.
The author’ style is accessible: conversational but literate. There is suspense but also wry humour. I plan to read it again some time, possibly on a long haul flight – the time will pass very quickly.
Interesting take on a most interesting true story. Fiction first. Followed with facts. One not muddled up in any way by the other.
Great book with a fictional take that then includes all the facts! For anyone interested in this great mystery- A “must read”!
Emcee, Amazon Review
A Pointillist painting of a Novel
I read this right after it came out on Amazon and have been thinking about how to respond ever since. What I finally decided was that The Bookmaker from Rabaul is a lot like a a pointillist painting. In this case the dots are made from passages that create a moment, an incident, and an emotion. The story itself is not always clear until you keep reading. Then, as you go along, everything comes into focus, and the tale, and even some of its major themes, become clear.
In the end I enjoyed this book. It left me with a feeling of discovery. Who was the Bookmaker from Rabaul? The Rubaiyat? What does that have to do with a story of an Australian as the chaos of retreat from Hong Kong consumes the character’s world?
The focus of the book changes and changes, building up the pointillist tale. And then they end up on a beach, a mystery as deep as the Rubaiyat itself. And we know what happened. We can look back and see the entire canvas spread out in front of us.
Tom Davis, Amazon Review.