Wandering Words with Fox Rogers
They were interesting times in Queensland in the 1970s. Neighbouring states, viewed its political landscape, culture and climate as somewhat of a ‘backwater’ scene. John Caruso catches up with a local author whose new book tells a few of those yarns through the eyes of its main character, Max Wanderer.
Alan ‘Fox’ Rogers is a fascinating character. Our paths first crossed when he was head of the disaster management committee for the newly-amalgamated Sunshine Coast Regional and I was managing the local ABC radio station. The origin of his nickname was the source of much speculation and eventually when I recorded an episode of our podcast, Everyone Has a Story, I discovered that this much respected local government public servant earned his nickname while entertaining kids at a children’s play area he helped construct, part of a rock music festival in New Zealand a whole lifetime earlier.
The title of Fox’s episode is A Life Well Lived, and from that ‘well lived life’ comes a new book, Wanderer!
“I told people when I was retiring that I was going to write a novel and I’ve had the idea of doing so since I was seven or eight years of age,” he said. “When I left school, I wrote poetry and a couple of short stories during my hippy travelling years and then my writing really revolved around council credit reports.”
A sense of purpose, a reason to get out of bed each day is something that many who are newly retired realise very quickly is key, however for Fox a cancer diagnosis meant he simply couldn’t do a lot of the things he’d planned to do.
“I had a lot of time on my hands between operations, chemo and radiation. I couldn’t swim, walk or garden so I started writing,” he said. “I’d had a few ideas over the years of what the book might be about, and I started examining my family history.
“My grandfather was born in England, my father was born in India, I was born in Columbia in South America, my son was born in New Zealand and my grandson was born back in London about ten miles from where my grandfather was born. I thought that could be an interesting story examining those five generations.”
Delving back in time required much research and it wasn’t something Alan wanted to do. A memoir on his own life however presented as an easier option.
“In about six months I had about one hundred thousand words which I gave to a writer/publisher friend of mine and his feedback was that it read like an extended council report – however he told me it had potential,” Fox laughs.
“It took me about two months to come to terms with that piece of criticism and I realised I had to inject some emotion into the story. I completed another draft and then thought, this isn’t working as a memoir because a lot of it was a haze, and I couldn’t really remember everything that happened to me back in the 1970s.
“Another friend suggested I turn the book into a novel, that way if I couldn’t remember certain details, I could just make the story up.”
The story developed organically with little planning.
“Max Wanderer is the main character and he’s an outsider who arrives in Brisbane in the early 70s. It’s a tumultuous time with Joh Bjelke-Petersen as state premier, Gough is Prime Minister, the Vietnam War is happening, and at that time Brisbane
was very much a big country town.
“One of the devices I came up with to help record events along the way was for Max to have an interest in photography,” says Fox.
A motorhome road trip with wife Ellen to far North Queensland at the start of Alan’s retirement in 2019 helped jog his memory.
“We didn’t re-visit all the places I had been to 50 years earlier however the trip allowed me to touch base with a few important places where I absorbed the light and general feel of certain locations and that helped because I wasn’t relying on my memory so much,” he said.
Irrespective of how many books Fox sells, Wanderer is more about leaving a legacy behind for his children, grandchildren and family.
“I have three brothers and a sister who were a lot younger at the time when I set off on my travels, so they’ve never known much about those adventures, and their perspective on certain events were different to mine,” he says.
“This alone has created a lot of interesting family conversations and none of these conversations have been damaging to relationships, they’ve all been positive. Plus, a copy of Wanderer goes to the Parliamentary Library, the National Gallery and the State Library of Queensland, and that fills me with a lot of pride.”
Growing up, Christine had been captivated by her mother’s exquisite collection of shells and natural specimens inside a carefully-curated and stored treasure chest she had inherited from her late father.
Each of the five draws revealed a most spellbinding collection of shells, gems and artefacts arranged in painstaking order. Her grandfather had recognised the importance of protecting each specimen and they were all laid out in cotton wool, stored in the draws of the rosewood cabinet to keep away from heat, sun, light and dust.
His care and love for these creations of nature has resulted in the retention of their original colours and structural integrity – these items are historic artefacts and truly breathtaking. Each item telling a story and on special occasions the kids were allowed to look but not touch.
The extent of this curious cabinet unfolds as you read Christine’s attempt to rebuild the family heirloom after a transportation mishap from Tasmania to Noosa uncovered pages of letters and newspaper clippings hidden beneath the collection that date back to colonial era.
This story will take you on a charming journey that begins with an English Baptist missionary living in Jamaica in 1822, moves to a young family that braves the vast oceans to settle in Van Diemen’s Land and ends up in our very own backyard – Noosa.
This book is nostalgic and truly fascinating with images and descriptions of every element of this beautiful time capsule so generously shared with the reader. You’ll see artefacts you may be familiar with and others that remain unidentified. It’s a story and snapshot of world history that I highly recommend
– Carlie Wacker.
Karla, the Koala with a heart, is off on her third adventure thanks to the vivid imagination of Fizzi (Elizabeth Reynolds) and illustrator Lili (Linda Wills) who have been best friends since they were 10.
Since exploding onto the scene after Karla leaves the safety of her tree to experience Hastings Street, Karla has sold more than 5000 books, attracted the attention of the likes of HRH Prince Charles and donated more than $4,500 to Koala Conservation.
In her second adventure, Karla to the Rescue, the Noosa Koala and her friend Chloe help out during the bushfires. in between, Karla found some time to launch a soft cover series It’s Ripper to be a Nipper as well as support Noosa Biosphere’s Wild Koala Gala.
Karla’s third hilarious and heartwarming book sees her explore the underwater wonders on Lady Elliott Island making lots of beautifully-illustrated friends along the way.