The tracks of an old railway line run from Adelaide in South Australia to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. For many years, as each train passed by on its thousand-mile journey between the two towns, passengers threw their empty beer bottles from the windows of the cars into a landscape that seemed unimportant to them. The broken bottles accumulated along the roadbed and the route from Adelaide to Alice Springs became a shining ribbon of broken glass.
At Alice Springs the railway line continues, south to north, in an almost undeviating straight line across the center of the country, and passes through the towns of Tennant Creek and Katherine. The tracks parallel a road that was widened many years ago to take war materials from Alice Springs, in the center of the country, to Darwin on the northern coast. The war drifted away from Darwin to its conclusion in other parts of the Pacific, and traffic along the road slowed to almost nothing. It took almost another lifetime to complete the final nine hundred miles of track from Alice Springs to the coast. North of Alice Springs the railway line disappears into a series of mountain ranges that cross the center of the continent.
Beyond the mountains is a red desert. It is a desert of vast distances and, when closely examined, of great variety. The occasional cliffs and gorges are red in color, as are the soil and sand that cover sections of the desert floor. The color fits well with the blue and normally cloudless sky that on occasion brings water to the dry riverbeds that cut across the land.
The desert is covered in patches of short, stunted grasses that have won a marginal hold in the red, sandy soil. Scattered across the sand and grass, desert grevillea bushes seem like giants in the treeless flats. In some places the bushes grow close to one another, and small birds flutter among the branches. The birds don’t sing, and the silence of the desert is broken only briefly by the flutter of their wings.
There are paths in the desert where passing animals have walked the weak grasses into extinction. These tracks, unlike the railroad, follow no set direction. They wander aimlessly through the flats and up and down the banks of the dry rivers, heading to destinations unknown. The age of the tracks is impossible to tell, for the grass grows back slowly in those parts of Australia.
In the early morning of a day long after the war, a small figure walked slowly along one of the winding tracks somewhere to the east of Tennant Creek. On close examination, the figure didn’t look any different from most of his kind. He was about two feet tall and covered with short brown fur. He had a short, thick tail that dragged the ground when he walked upright and a ducklike bill where any other animal would have a nose.
The only thing that set Albert apart from any other platypus was that he was carrying an empty soft drink bottle. It was his possession of a bottle, coupled with the fact that he was hundreds of miles north of any running water, that made him different. Albert had crept away from the railway station at Tennant Creek and into the desert three nights before. For the first day after leaving the station, he had walked along the railroad track.
Copyright © 2012 by Howard L. Anderson
Meet one of literature's most unlikely protagonists, a duckbilled platypus named Albert, who has recently escaped the Adelaide Zoo in search of "Old Australia"—a land of promise that got Albert through his captivity. Along the way he meets a wide array of characters—some good, some bad—including a pyromaniac wombat, drunken bandicoots, dingoes, kangaroos and a Tasmanian devil.
Following in the traditions of the classic Western, deep down Albert of Adelaide is a fantastic novel about finding oneself and defending what you believe in. It's gripping, entertaining and moving—all culminating in a shoot-em-up finale reminiscent of High Noon. If Cormac McCarthy had written Watership Down, it might have turned out like this unique novel.
Hardcover Book : 240 pages
Publisher: Hachette Book Group Usa ( July 10, 2012 )
Item #: 13-569928
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 x 0.6inches
Product Weight: 11.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)