May 10, 2010

Drunkenness and celebrity obsession 1860s style in new teen novel

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Gold Hunter is an original tale of adventure for teenagers and is set in Australia. One of its themes is to explore the modern craving for fame and fortune among the young; something which it suggests doesn't necessarily lead to their happiness.

In 1864, an arrogant and ambitious sixteen-year-old steals his widowed mother’s life-savings and sails from Cardiff to Australia to find gold. William Jenkins journeys into the bush only to encounter drunkards, crocodiles, outlaws and aboriginals with a reputation for cannibalism. When he stumbles into a strange community of ex-convicts, their leader tells him, “You’re the one sent to us by God”. William is then astonished to be offered half the profits in a gold mine. But before before returning to Wales, he discovers that there are more important things in life than riches.

Though a work of historical fiction, several themes are explored which should strike a chord with modern teenagers. The binge-drinkers who crowd into city centres at night have much in common with the colonial drunkards of 1864. The story also delves into the complexities of mother-son relationships which are as fraught in the story as they often are today. William disobeys, curses and then steals from his widowed mother. Through his experiences in the bush, he comes to realise that, as Tom Davies puts it, "I do know that – above all things in this world – you should love your mam".

The author comments, “On one level, Gold Hunter is a simple adventure story about a young Welsh migrant to Australia in the 1860s, which is why I chose the Aussie-Western scene with the bound and gagged bushranger for the cover. Like many teenagers, I like an action-packed narrative and I deliberately write in a fast-paced style. But there is a deeper meaning to the story. William Jenkins discovers that the fame and fortune which he craves at the outset do not make him happy. In a world obsessed with celebrity, regardless of any talent being involved, this strikes me as a point worth making.”

William Vaughan was born and educated in Cardiff. He taught History and English in Leicestershire and at the Cathedral School, Llandaff, before becoming a writer of fiction for children and young adults. He is a member of Academi.

William Vaughan’s third novel follows his success with The Black Legion, also published by Y Lolfa.

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