Well, it’s here at last – The Five Star Republic, part one of the City of the Sun series, has been released in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. It’s been a long road for us. Like all other writers, we’ve been heavily impacted by the pandemic. Our plans for face-to-face launches in Melbourne and Canberra were first put on hold, then postponed, and finally cancelled altogether in the face of lockdowns and State border closures. Even local events in Victoria have had to go on semi-permanent hold.
So now Andrew and I are focused on developing new skills in the online world. Stay tuned for the virtual launch!
Meanwhile, this seems a good opportunity to share a little of the back-story to Five Star.
This is a novel firmly grounded in the history of its time: the Eureka rebellion; the overland telegraph; and the solar-powered steam engine.
It is a story grounded in the extraordinary energy of Victoria’s early business community—especially the Americans who came from California, drawn by the discovery of gold.
Victoria became a separate colony in 1851. It was given a temporary administrative structure, and invited to draft a constitution. Few people now realise that the version first submitted would have removed the right of the British government to veto local legislation. It would, in effect, have made Victoria independent.
After a brief debate at Westminster (reported in Hansard of the time), the clause was quietly removed.
In our counter-factual history, the defeat at Eureka stands. But some of the key American figures brought together by that event form a business partnership that maintains the energy and vision of the early gold-rush period. When the communication revolution of the telegraph coincides with a global economic crash, the same group drives a movement for independence—a simple reinstatement of that original, vital constitutional clause.
And the first major project proposed for the new nation combines Australia’s limitless solar resource with a brand-new technology: John Ericsson’s solar-powered steam engine.
Research for The Five Star Republic has taken us to multiple collections in Australia, the UK, and the USA. In late 2019 our last port of call was Washington DC, to access State Department archives that included reports and correspondence from the US Consul in Melbourne at the time of Eureka, James Tarleton (suspected by the then Victorian administration of playing a key role in the miners’ uprising). We broke the seals on material sealed for decades.
And then we headed back to the UK, and to Australia—narrowly ahead of the arrival of COVID.
The Five Star Republic is the first book in the City of the Sun series. Helios: The City of the Sun and Pacific Federation will continue the story of the independent Victorian republic and its nascent solar industry.