Gunnedah Hero by Clancy Tucker: Emerging Writers’ Festival joins us for 366 Days of Writing

Gunnedah Hero is a highly entertaining young adult novel set predominantly in the Australian outback. Fourteen-year-old ‘Gunnie’ Danson’s late grandfather left him a box containing a manuscript written by Gunnie’s great-great-grandfather Smokey Danson, following his cross-country journey as a fourteen-year-old drover in 1910. Smokey had to venture out alone in an effort to save his family’s cattle from starvation during a drought. His adventures along the way include encounters with snakes and thieves, getting stuck in a disused dairy, and landing in the middle of a court case. He negotiates these dramas with the help of his trusty cattle dogs and the new friends he makes along the way. We also follow the story of Gunnie reading the manuscript with great enthusiasm in the present day. Gunnie has a problem of his own to solve, and it turns out the solution is contained in the box his grandfather left him.

From the opening pages this is an engaging book. Tucker has made his characters highly authentic and the story moves along quickly. Smokey is adventurous and keen to help his family, but he’s also daunted by the responsibility that has fallen to him because his father has been injured. In a sad scene Smokey is highly traumatised by the death of one of his three cattle dogs, Sam. In the present day, Gunnie can see trouble brewing in his family but doesn’t know whether it’s his place to get involved. We jump seamlessly from Gunnie reading the manuscript in the present day back into the story of Smokey in 1910, as links between the two gradually unfold.

Tucker paints a thoroughly Australian story. The dogs, cattle and horses are central, as are the countryside and the family cattle station, Wiralee. Done poorly this ends up with everybody eating meat pies while they drive around in Holdens with their Akubras on, but Tucker doesn’t fall for this trap. The Aussie atmosphere is woven into the story. Gunnedah Hero will also provide an education about the times for its intended young adult market.

The only minor problem with the book is the occasionally poor layout which made reading awkward in places, but this is not uncommon in self-published books. The cover of Gunnedah Hero displays a couple of awards the book has won. They are well deserved.

Review by Michael Hanrahan

The NSW Writers’ Centre is publishing a series of reviews of emerging writers, by emerging writers, to coincide with the Emerging Writers Festival, 24th May – 3rd June.

The Emerging Writers’ Festival begins in Melbourne this week and to mark the occasion there will be eleven reviews over the next eleven days – the duration of the festival – where self-published books will be featured.

There was fierce competition to be included in this project – both in terms of interested authors and reviewers! – and there will be a variety of genres being showcased. More than enough to whet the appetites of readers!


Taking our cue from the National Year of Reading 2012, we’re having our very own National Year of Writing 2012, aka 366 Days of Writing.

Send your reviews in to us! We want to hear about great Australian books, be they new or old, fiction, poetry, plays, short stories, memoir – we want the lot! This year is all about promoting Australian books and Australian readers. Reviews should be between 200 and 400 words.

Send reviews to sbarnes(write at)

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