Updated November 25, 2002
In the forth-coming months a number of Kelly books are set to be released or re-released. We will be doing reviews and keeping you updated as to when the books hit the stands. For a extensive list of reviews, we recommend ironoutlaw.
Book News (For review summary click here)
TO A CINDER, WAS I?' The escape and life of outlaw Dan Kelly,
member of the notorious Ned Kelly Gang.
"He made no move
to reach for his gun. I warned him first, then I took aim an' then I shot
the man clean through the heart. He slumped to the ground, and Ned an'
me, well we turned round as calm as anything an' we walked back up the
street an' came home. I'd avenged my sister's wrong."
forward of this book claims the contents tell the "truth" about
Dan Kelly's supposed escape from the siege of Glenrowan. It also claims
the author Vince Allen to be the only person alive who "had Dan's
and record his side
" of the story.
On with the tale Chapter One begins at Glenrowan and describes a previously unheard of escape from the siege. It offers an explanation that Dan pushed his way out a back wall of the burning inn, just after all the police had conveniently moved around the front of the burning building. No mention at this stage is made of Steve Hart. The two charred remains we have to date believed to be that of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart were, we are told, actually of unknown identity - vagrants perhaps. Dan noticed them on the way out. Father Gibney apparently lied under oath at the 1881 Royal Commission to protect Dan who he had seen alive in the burning inn. There is also a baby burning to death in the inn as Dan escapes - a baby that (historically speaking) was never reported dead or missing. Badly burned 'Dan' escapes the fire and police, and crawls to some bushes, where he lies hidden near death for 4 days, until discovered by a German by the name of August Schultz. Immediately Dan divulges his identity.
the end of this chapter a note declares the author has not attempted to
Schultz then takes 'Dan' to
an unnamed Irish family who nurse him back to health, wherein he falls
in love with their daughter, Mary. While recovering he is visited
by George King (who apparently hadn't disappeared years earlier as we
had all supposed) and Kate Kelly. 'Dan' (alias Jim Clyde) then heads north
and joins a gang of horse thieves, to whom he (again) instantly reveals
father Red Kelly, we find out, was commonly referred to
After Mary joins Dan in Alice Springs, the story meanders slowly around northern Australia and through various adventures. Floods, heroic rescues, lost cattle, tin fossicking and murder. Everything is included - even a letter from Mary containing graphic details of a friend's childbirth. All this while Dan periodically tells us the 'real' story of the Kelly gang - a story that unfortunately does not match, and even outright contradicts, historical evidence. (But history has got it wrong ostensibly - as it is claimed that both the newspapers and police lied to the public.) From Dan's own lips we have the 'true' Fitzpatrick incident explained to us. It seems it was actually Dan, not Ned, who shot Constable Fitzpatrick! Allegedly Fitzpatrick had tried to rape Kate after she broke up with him, and so Ned and Dan rode out to find him. Dan openly shot him in a Benalla street - no wait, it gets better - he shot him dead! Yep - through the heart! So, who was the Fitzpatrick who continued to serve in, and was later dismissed from, the Victoria police force? Who was the man who gave testimony at Ellen (Kelly) King's trial and who lived a long life and is now buried at Box Hill cemetery? It was none other than an imposter! An unknown man whom the police substituted for Fitzpatrick and who lived his whole life as such. (The Fitzpatrick mystery now explained.)
But wait, there's more! Apparently
there is a chance that Ned escaped also, but this is just speculation,
as we are told that Dan would never have divulged this information to
anyone in case Ned was discovered. Unfortunately Mr Allen does not know
if Steve escaped.
Regrettably at Bailup we are unable to swallow this book even as light entertainment. This account is no doubt going to distress a number of people, not because it reveals some great long held secret "truth" - but rather the contrary. Living descendants particularly are by now quite sick and tired of people coming forth claiming that Dan and Steve escaped Glenrowan - without providing one skerrick of evidence to support their claims. There are many other historical inaccuracies through out the book than mentioned above - too many to list in fact. This book is registered as fiction, but is presented, to all intents and purposes, as a true historical account. Fiction however it most definitely is. Reading it one was hard pressed to find any accurate historical facts and the efforts made to justify the contradictions is baffling. Reading it one can only assume the author believes the tale he tells. However given the profound lack of evidence and the outright factual contradictions of the story, one must conclude that sadly Mr Allen has been duped, and by someone with only bare knowledge of the true Kelly story.
The only recommendation I'm prepared to make in relation to this novel is that if you do purchase it - remember it is FICTION and please read it with a very sceptical eye in regard to historical accuracy.
Byran Clark's (independent) perspective on another aspect of the highly
questionable historical credibility of this tale - click here
Note: For more information on the various stories about the alleged survival of Dan Kelly, and related comments from Ellen Hollow (Kate Kelly's great grand daughter) - click HERE
first published 13th September 2002