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Authors: Roger McDonald

The Ballad of Desmond Kale

BOOK: The Ballad of Desmond Kale


Roger McDonald is the author of seven novels and two works of non-fiction.

His first novel,
, won the
Book of the Year and the South Australian Government Biennial Prize for Literature; his autobiographical
Shearer's Motel
won the 1993 National Book Council Banjo Award for Non-Fiction;
Mr Darwin's Shooter
won the 1999 NSW Premier's Award for Fiction, the 1999 Victorian Premier's Award for Fiction, the 2000 National Fiction Award and the 2000 SA Premier's Literary Award.

The Ballad of Desmond Kale
won the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2006.

The Ballad of Desmond Kale
stands head and shoulders above everything else that came my way this year … gorgeous, generously paced … told with marvellous wit and verve. I was particularly impressed by McDonald's style … exhilarating, exciting, moving and jesting – sometimes almost simultaneously.'

Andrew Reimer, ‘Best Books of 2005',
The Sydney Morning Herald

‘Roger McDonald is a riot … He combines a love of intrigue and high adventure with a defiant, lyrical, vigorous way of telling. Here are art and excitement, mixed to magnificent strength … a full-blooded, pulsing tale.'

Stella Clarke,
The Australian

‘… pitched to almost visionary intensity … written to be read at a breakneck pace, a looping, half-wild portrait of a world where wonder and squalor lie hard against each other … cascading energy and radical fervour … underpinned by a poet's understanding of the natural world. It is a world where meaning infers in every detail, and an intimate understanding of the land and its textures is revealed again and again, deepening the resonances of the novel's broader aspirations.

James Bradley,
The Bulletin

‘You'll read
The Ballad of Desmond Kale
for the magnificent story it tells. You'll read it again to savour its depths: the nuances of its language, and the abundance of the loves and landscapes McDonald brings so wonderfully to life.'

The Canberra Times

‘… a rollicking good read. The writing is beautiful, too; funny and energetic, grand and intimate.'

The Australian Book Review

‘McDonald roots his characters deeply in their time, using language brilliantly to create a vision of colonial chaos.'

‘Highly Recommended',
The Sydney Morning Herald

‘Fully alive to the drama of history … an engrossing tale … beautiful use of language.'

West Australian

‘In this rich, energetic tale of the wild frontier, McDonald breathes passion into history.'

Australian Way

‘McDonald is one of Australia's most accomplished novelists and this novel … eminently illustrates his gifts … McDonald writes in vivid, fast-paced prose that is witty, colourful and evocative.'

The Newcastle Herald

Also by Roger McDonald




Rough Wallaby

Water Man

The Slap

Mr Darwin's Shooter


Shearers' Motel

The Tree in Changing Light

As editor:

Gone Bush

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, photocopying (except under the statutory exceptions provisions of the Australian
Copyright Act 1968
), recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of Random House Australia. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

The Ballad of Desmond Kale


A Vintage Book
Published by Random House Australia Pty Ltd
Level 3, 100 Pacific Highway, North Sydney, NSW 2060

Sydney New York Toronto
London Auckland Johannesburg

First published in Australia by Vintage in 2005
This edition first published in Australia by Vintage in 2007

Copyright © Roger McDonald 2005

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication Entry

McDonald, Roger, 1941–.
The ballad of Desmond Kale.

ISBN 978 1 74166 139 2.

1. Australia – History – 1788–1851 – Fiction. I. Title.


Cover design by Christabella Designs

For Lorna McDonald
with love and thanks
for gifts of conversation, friendship, and example
over a lifetime


I can call spirits from the vasty deep.


Why, so can I, or so can any man:

But will they come when you do call for them?

Henry IV, Pt I

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