Historical Fiction

"The Last Double Sunrise" - Review

Dorothy Johnston reviews Peter Yeldham's latest work "The Last Double Sunrise", which is available now. Carlo Minelli must surely be the most engaging – and lucky – prisoner of war in Australian literature.

Minelli is dubbed the POW Artist when he enters a painting in the Francis Greenway award from a prisoner-of-war camp in Cowra, New South Wales. The painting is disqualified, but earns Minelli a fair amount of publicity, much of it sympathetic. He has come to Cowra by a circuitous and dangerous route, having arrived in Rome to take up an artistic scholarship at the Villa Medici on the very day Il Duce declares war. The Villa, run by the French government, is locked and twenty-one-year old Minelli is turned away. Rome is in uproar and it isn’t long before the young man is press-ganged into the army.

The dramatic events of the second world war are much more than a back drop to this skilfully told story. Yeldham is a master at weaving together the personal life of his protagonist with real historical events, such as the Allied attack on Sidi Barrani where Minelli is taken prisoner and, much later in the story, the Japanese prisoners’ breakout at Cowra. Minelli is utterly believable, both as an artist and a reluctant soldier. This is partly because readers first meet him as a child, already displaying his artistic talent, which is encouraged by his mother, herself an art teacher, and scorned by his father, who is determined young Carlo will take over the running of the family vineyard.

Minelli’s character is formed in adversity. Instead of this making him openly angry and rebellious, it teaches him patience. Determined not to give up on his art, he has the kind of open, honest personality that other people, including some of his guards and jailors, warm to, and that makes them want to help him.

Allied officers aboard an overcrowded troop ship carrying prisoners to Australia rescue Minelli from a savage beating, and make a refuge for him in their wireless room. An Australian army officer’s wife suggests he should start a studio in the camp at Cowra, helping the theatrical group by painting sets, teaching, and working on his own paintings at the same time. The suggestion is enthusiastically taken up, and almost immediately becomes a success.

After a few false starts, Minelli is also lucky in love, finding a young Australian woman who is a match for him in every way.

As a protagonist, his trials and dangers, his hopes and feelings and ambitions are a joy to read about. The story of Italian prisoners of war, first in England, then Australia, is fascinating in itself, and told with verve and compassion. The Last Double Sunrise confirms Peter Yeldham’s reputation as an outstanding writer of historical fiction.

'As the Lonely Fly' - Book Launch

On the 24th of June, For Pity Sake Publishing was proud to launch the latest Sara Dowse's latest novel, As the Lonely FlyLaunched at Gleebooks by Australian Historian and Academic, Lyndall Ryan. The launch date for As the Lonely Fly coincided with the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli Six Day War and the subsequent occupation of Palestinian territories.This novel tells the story of three remarkable women – an American immigrant, an ardent Israeli and a fearless revolutionary – delineating their separately evolving views on the creation of the Jewish state and its impact on the Arab inhabitants.

In conjunction with Tin Cat Productions, For Pity Sake Publishing has put together a video of the launch of this exciting work of political and historical fiction:


For Pity Sake Publishing and the author of As the Lonely Fly, Sara Dowse, would like to extend out thanks to everyone who came to the launch and made this day such a success! You can purchase your own copy of this powerful work of fiction from our website today.

Peace, Pacifism and Peter Yeldham

Peter Yeldham's done a lot in his life. He's shared an office with Spike Milligan. (Yes, that Spike Milligan.) He's written for the BBC, the ABC, for television and radio. He's an award-winning and nationally celebrated Australian story-teller. Across the decades, he's turned to war and its horror as a source of inspiration for his many novels. But unlike so many war narratives of the current age, Peter's work never celebrates violence. In fact, most of the drama in Peter's books is away from the battlefield. It's the human action that dares you to read on. Scandalous romances, international intrigue, or the heart-breaking journey of refugees. It's this, well-researched, human face of his narratives that has made him one of the countries most enduring authors.

Here's what some readers have said:

"...really interesting history, especially about the atomic bombs and bomb testing in Marling I hope to read this book a second time." Robyn on Above The Fold

"The story flows easily with Yeldham’s fluent writing style. I found it to be an entertaining and thought-provoking read. 4★s." Mary on Above The Fold

"Yeldham’s story is a beautiful tribute to the Lost Generation, an intensely moving novel that will haunt the reader long after the final page." Erin on Barbed Wire and Roses

"Yeldham has a strong reputation as a historical novelist as well as a writer for film and television. Dragons in the Forest will no doubt make that reputation stronger still." Dorothy Johnston on Dragons In The Forest

Find more of Peter's work at our store.

Five Rules for Writing Historical Fiction

With the second season of the Outlander series now gripping the world, and with the re-release of not one but two of Peter Yeldham historical fiction novels only days away, it seems fair to say that historical fiction is now very much in vogue. It seems we’ve monkey-swung from sparkly vampires (Twilight) to titillating BDSM (Fifty Shades of Grey) to re-examining our collective past. In truth, historical fiction never really went out of vogue. Technically speaking, the vast majority of Shakespeare’s works were historical fiction. It could be said even our most basic folk lore (Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, etc.) are a kind of proto-historical fiction that harkens back to a generic fairytale time tinged with nostalgia.

Still, there’s never been a better time to be a historical fiction author, and we’re thrilled to publish quite a few. But before you put pen to paper, you might want to consider a few critical tips that we’ve learned from reading our award-winning authors.

Researching and Reading Research is obviously incredibly important when writing historical fiction. There’s no quicker way to alienate a reader than to make them stop believing in the authenticity of the world you’re trying to create. So research and read. A lot. Read historical accounts of the time, and even dig into other historical fiction that’s focussed on similar eras of history.

Researching and Talking If you’re able to actually talk to living survivors of your chosen historical era, don’t be shy in asking to sit down and have a chat. A minute in conversation can illuminate areas that history books simply can’t tell you. The colour of the wallpaper, or the smell of a place, or the daily, mundane routines that shaped their (and your characters) lives.

Researching and other reading An extremely helpful tip comes from Elizabeth Gilbert, award-winning author of Eat, Pray, Love, as well as critically acclaimed historical fiction The Signature of All Things. While it’s valuable to read history books, it can be even more helpful to read documents, novels or journals that were written in the specific time period that you’re setting your work in. This will tell you so much about the lexicon of the age, along with the concerns, dialogue and details of your characters.

Know when to stop researching This is the trickiest bit. Some historical novels feel more historic than novel, and can be too dense a read to be truly pleasurable. Always remember that your novel still has to operate under the same laws as any genre, and needs to create a compelling story with intriguing characters. The research will only take you so far. If you’re on the right track, you’ll usually feel a mounting sense of excitement as you’re researching, and there will simply come a point where you’re desperate to write. So write! The research will be there when you need it, and you can always return to hunt for extra details.

Be Authentic to the Politics of the Time …while not being too offensive to modern sensibilities. This is tricky, and most complicated around gender politics. Times past are often incredibly violent places to write about, and women are often treated abhorrently. It’s important to be authentic to this, and not create a rose-tinted version of the past that readers will find too sickly sweet. On the other hand, every reader has a line, and so much of narrative is frequently about the under-dog becoming a hero. Claire in Outlander is a classic example, who is subject to the subjugation of her time, but constantly subverts the gender norms for wonderfully entertaining results. Peter Yeldham often places an under-dog at the centre of the story, who is able to see with greater moral clarity than most of his peers.

Don’t know where to start reading? Why not try Peter Yeldham’s fantastic historical fiction around World War 2 in Above the Fold . Or if you’re in the mood for more sparkly vampires, you might be interested in Jennifer McDonald’s take on how Edward Cullen brought about a spiritual awakening in her memoir Vegetarian Vampires. Then again, you may be more into the Fifty Shades of Grey trend and want some page-turning romance. In that case, try Winterflood’s Passion by Diana Thompson.