The Middle of Nowhere
by Geraldine McCaughrean
Adapted by Simon Reade
The Australian Outback. 1895.
Comity and her mother and father live on a telegraph station deep in the outback. When Comity’s mother dies from a snake bite, her life in the middle of Australia changes for ever.
Her father, Herbert, retreats into his work transmitting telegrams, abandoning Comity when she needs him most. Comity sends comforting messages about all the things she and her mother are up to to her granny and her cousins – the lies echoing down the telegraph lines.
Comity turns to Fred, the young Aboriginal yard boy and he becomes her only friend. Fred’s mixture of Dreamtime stories and practical advice go some way to easing Comity’s pain.
But then Quartz Hogg arrives as Herbert’s new assistant. He delights in playing cruel games and seems determined to destroy everything Comity holds dear, including her relationships with the local Aboriginals.
Quartz Hogg brings drink, bigotry and violence to the station. Soon Comity is struggling to hold things together as events begin to spiral dangerously out of control. Her father seems to have lost his mind.
Quartz Hogg tries to kill Fred and Comity must turn to the Ghans, the taciturn Afghan traders criss-crossing the Outback on their camels, for help in defeating him.
But now Comity’s lies to her relations down the telegraph begin to catch up with her. Just when she thinks she has defeated Quartz Hogg she inadvertently telegraphs that the locals have declared war.
A trainload of soldiers is dispatched hungry for Aboriginal blood. For once, Comity is powerless to intervene.
This time her saviour comes in the unlikeliest form – her father, Herbert, back from the brink to save his little girl.