This story explores society’s reactions to the threat of terrorism. John Byron Jones (Byron) is middle aged and recently widowed. A school teacher, he is unemployed having taken time out to look after his dying wife, but as a younger man worked as an industrial chemist in military support services. Politically he is sensible middle-of-the road conservative from a farming family background. But as the complex and dark story develops Byron finds that his comfortable assumptions about life, conservative views and loyalties, increasingly under challenge. Byron grieves for his wife but his sense of loyalty towards Margot, an American charity worker he meets on the road, suggests he has perhaps found a new partner.
Born in England, I migrated to Australia at the age of seventeen. Early employment included five years on a sheep station. Later, I was employed as a field assistant on the rice research station at Humpty Doo outside Darwin. While there, I restarted my school studies, battling with my childhood dyslexia. In time, I gained a place in university and later added a master of science degree to my BSc. In the meantime, I was married, started a family, and worked as a technical officer in agriculture research. Moving on, I gained a teacher’s qualification and taught school science. My first teaching position was in the town of Hay, not far from where I mustered sheep all those years earlier. I have retired from teaching, but at the age of seventy, I am still work in a high school.