The Roving Party
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"[An] exceedingly powerful debut. Wilson's compelling story carries us through forest and over plains, leaving a trail of dead men."
—Alan Cheuse, The Chicago Tribune
1829, Tasmania. A group of men—convicts, a farmer, two free black traders, and Black Bill, an aboriginal man brought up from childhood as a white man—are led by Jon Batman, a notorious historical figure, on a “roving party.” Their purpose is massacre. With promises of freedom, land grants and money, each is willing to risk his life for the prize. Passing over many miles of tortured country, the roving party searches for Aborigines, taking few prisoners and killing freely, Batman never abandoning the visceral intensity of his hunt. And all the while, Black Bill pursues his personal quarry, the much-feared warrior, Manalargena. A surprisingly beautiful evocation of horror and brutality, The Roving Party is a meditation on the intricacies of human nature at its most raw.
country. I followed you, he said. Bill was weeping. He held his son’s shoulders close and in that grip he knew this was the right and true of the world, this warmth of bodies, this tightness of throat. Bill held his son and sobbed with sweet relief. It was over. He was freed. He raised the boy high to his shoulders where he gripped the ochred ropes of hair on his father’s head like the reins of a carthorse. Together they walked. … The birdlife that rose with the sun chattered
felt its reverberations in the solid earth beneath him. Pigeon stepped outside into the weather and walked through the rain, bending his head into the breakwind. He grinned at Bill and Black Bill grinned back. Come eat, old man, he said. Not in there. You want grub? Bill shrugged. Pigeon crossed through the gale and when he re-emerged he had in one hand the billycan and in the other a portion of damper and he set them before the Vandemonian. Batman say you
along hollow iron. By now Manalargena had re-entered the trees and when they stood to fire he was nowhere to be seen. They scanned the weave of alpine scrub along their sights. To follow him into that realm was a near thing to suicide. Bill looked about at the Dharugs but there was no appetite for the chase written upon their faces. So he slung his firearm and wheeled away from the trees. The dead man lay staring up at the sky. A hole was punched through him which revealed his ruptured rib
near the coal glow and the shells at her throat chattered as she raised her jowled arms towards the sky. She said the moon sat wrongly. Bill looked up but there was nothing beyond the press of limbs and leaves, nothing but the night itself. weeta mayangti byeack, he said. She told him to look again and when he gazed upwards the cloud cover dispersed and there was a ponderous moon as white as the rolling eye of a convulsive. Black Bill studied the awful sight then turned his
Then the headman eased off. This is finish. You go. Go now. Manalargena stood up and paced back out of reach. The Vandemonian gasped air as he rolled onto his side. The wild men ringing around him with spears and waddies and seal clubs called on him to stand and fight. He raised himself to his knees. But even as he felt for his knife in the sand a shot boomed out on the salt marsh. The headman slumped. Fiery red stipples appeared along his leg where buckshot had entered the flesh and he