Books – Reference

Bushangers: Australia's Greatest Self-Made Heroes

First published 2011 by Penguin

‘Bushrangers is as fast paced as a stolen thoroughbred and as arresting as a squad of troopers. Through extensive first-hand accounts and gripping detail about Australia’s lawless past, bestselling author Evan McHugh brings a life cast of roguish characters who blazed their way into Australian history.’ While the story of Ned Kelly and this Gang only occupy a small section of this book, the summary is well researched and written in a manner easily understood. The author gives a balanced report which doesn’t shy away from the facts – including trooper actions at Glenrowan that resulted in multiple deaths attributed to indiscriminate police bullets. While I find it strange the author hasn’t included any references, or even a bibliography, there is a paragraph at the back of the book offering some lame excuse (sorry, I’m not sold). However, coupled with numerous tales of bushrangers throughout Australian history this is a reasonable book to add to your colonial collection – if you can pick it up for a bargain.

Evan McHugh

Books – Reference

Wild Colonial Boys

First published 2012 by The Five Mile Press

The sub heading ‘Tall tales and true Australian bushrangers’ is pretty spot on especially the ‘tall tales’ part. It seems the author spent more time working on the design of the book than he did actually researching the content. I’ll skip over the convoluted first section which deals with convicts and bolters and get to the main selling point – Ned Kelly, of course. I was initially going to make a list of all the factual errors Hocking made in the Kelly story but realised it would end up longer than his original word count! Listing Kate as Ned’s OLDER sister, retrieving Martin Cherry’s body from the Glenrowan Inn AFTER the fire, I could go on, and on, and on. But I won’t. Sure, the book looks very pretty but the mistakes make this publication a very ugly duckling. I also have an issue with some of the passages in the book, particularly the section on Sergeant Arthur Steele. It’s virtually a word-for-word description lifted from my Real Villains section…

Geoff Hocking


The Reporting Of Ned Kelly And The Kelly Gang

First published 2015 by Boolarong Press

The newspaper articles which appear in this publication were painstakingly compiled via the National Library of Australia Trove web site by the author who has done an impressive job in compiling all the relevant information into one easy to read book. While many people enjoy spending hundreds of hours searching online for Kelly related exploits others will embrace the option of this neat and tidy collection from the archives of The Argus, The Australian Sketcher, The Geelong Advertiser, and The Illustrated Australian News – just to name a few. Names and places have been standardised to help with comprehension while the narrative has been arranged in a chronological manner to better convey the story of Ned Kelly (and the Kelly Gang). I have only one small issue and that’s with the author’s use of the word ‘hung’ – pictures are ‘hung’, people are ‘hanged‘…

Trudy Toohill


The Ned Kelly Encyclopaedia

First published 2003 by Lothian Books

With this new addition to their titles, Lothian Books was fast becoming the number one publisher on all things Kelly. The length and breadth of this publication is amazing. While some entries draw a long bow, you cannot fault the author’s ability for research. It seems anything remotely connected to the Kelly legend can be found among the 525 pages — even an entry for the web site! ‘Assembled for the first time in one book are the judges and lawyers, police officers and informers, politicians and showmen, friends and sympathisers, victims and admirers, as well as the authors, painters, and film-makers who have, one way or another, been part of the Kelly story.’ Justin Corfield knows his stuff. My only criticism would be leveled at the publisher if they fail to publish a second edition to allow for amendments and corrections!

Justin Corfield

Book Justin Corfield

The Ned Kelly Films

First published 2012 by Intellect

The author of The Ned Kelly Films: A Cultural History of Kelly History has a very familiar name to those who know the story of Ned Kelly. Stephen shares his surname with David Gaunson who was engaged as counsel in defence of Ned Kelly and was prominent in arranging the mass meeting and petition in support of clemency. Anyway, back to the book. This is the more ‘readable’ version of Stephen’s thesis submitted for his Doctor of Philosophy, Ned Kelly and the Movies 1906-2003: Representation, Social Banditry & History. Naturally, based on a thesis there’s a plethora of facts and figures but the ‘public’ version also has plenty of images and antidotes covering the nine feature films, three miniseries, and two television movies that have been made about Ned Kelly. Apparently Gaunson illuminates a central irony: from novels to comics to the branding of the site where he was captured, most cultural representations of Kelly are decidedly lowbrow. But only the films have been condemned for not offering a more serious interpretation of this figure and his historical context. Asking what value we can place on such ‘bad’ historical cinema, Gaunson offers new insights about the textual characteristics of cinematic material and the conditions of film distribution, circulation, and reception.

Stephen Gaunson


Down Under Source Book

Published by Great Escape Games

Things seem different here. They say God made Australia last, don’t you know, after he got tired of making everything else the same.

Dead Man’s Hand Down Under takes place a long way from the frontier of the old west. Although the geography has changed the things that drive men hasn’t. Our final installment takes us ‘Down Under’ to the frontier towns of Australia where Bushrangers battle with the State Police and Legends like Ned Kelly are born. The land is as hard and unforgiving as the Old West and so are the people. So neck your glass of Smokey Rum, give your Sheila a kiss, grab your gun and get in to the fight. Dead Man’s Hand Down Under contains twelve new scenes and three new gang types: State Police, Bushrangers and the Kelly Gang. You will need a copy of the Dead Man’s Hand rule book to use this source book.

Download: DMH Down Under Source Book Sample

Dead Man's Hand

Book Dead Mans Hand

Ned Kelly As Painted By Sidney Nolan

First published 1964 by Thames and Hudson

With an introduction by Alan Moorehead, the sixty page hardcover is illustrated with twenty-seven paintings from the Ned Kelly series. While not every image is printed in colour (this was printed in 1964, after all) the publication is regarded as a standard reference for Sidney Nolan works, making this tome well worth keeping an eye out for. I still think the role of Nolan, in the making of the Kelly legend, has been underrated. Where would we be today without the iconic image of Kelly in armour as depicted by Sidney? In a time when Australia was searching for a cultural and historical heritage, Nolan’s works were both timely and immense.

Robert Melville

Book Nolan Melville

50 NEDS: Ned Kelly Icon Of Australian Art

First published 2006 by Gingerbread Books

This collectible little book makes a stunnng gift memento of Melbourne. Includes an overview of the imaging of Ned Kelly during the past one hundred and twenty years, and features fifty original artworks, each reinventing yet again Australia’s most famous bushranger. Beautifully bound in black saifu cloth with silver embossing detail and dust jacket. Ian Jones launched the new book 50 NEDS. Ned Kelly: Icon of Australian Art by Maree Coote at melbournestyle. Jones had just returned from Ireland in the nick of time to share a glass of red and impart some wisdom on the cult of the bushranger. Jones said of the new book that Maree has ‘had fun with the legend, as Ned himself had fun’, and welcomed the playful spirit of the book.

Maree Coote

book 50 neds

What They Said About Ned

First published 2004 by Brian McDonald

While I can lay some claim to stimulating the creative juices of Mr McDonald into his latest venture, the credit for this exhaustive research and presentation lies entirely with him. The first part of this work discusses the variety of books published on the Kelly Gang (including the five published before Ned was hanged). The Bibliography has 797 entries in alphabetical order and includes; the author, title, publisher, date of publication, number of pages, and ISBN or Ferguson No. It lists Kelly books and magazines from the first publication Outlaws of the Wombat Ranges published in 1879 to recent publications such as Blood in the Dust. This work has taken over four years to compile and twenty-nine years of collecting and reading! The one hundred and two pages contain one hundred and twenty-nine illustrations of which one hundred and one are in colour. As per his previous efforts, What They Said About Ned is mandatory reading for every serious Kelly buff.

Brian McDonald

What They Said About Ned

The Last Stand

First published 2003 by Lothian Books

In the book’s introduction, Ian Jones writes, ‘Thomas Carrrington’s drawing Ned Kelly at Bay, is one of Australia’s best known historical images. Masked behind his helmet, with a long oilskin coat covering his body armour, the bushranger poses monumentally, a wounded arm folded against his chest and one knee raised to rest a spurred boot on a log, as he calmly fires his revolver at plain clothed police in surrounding bush.’ This is Carrrington’s report of what happened at the siege of Glenrowan. His eye witness account and vivid illustrations are important documents which go a long way in creating the scene for historians and researchers on those fateful days in late June 1880. Well worth the cover price.

Ian Jones

Book The Last Stand

The Book Of Keli

First published 1879

George Wilson Hall was the first Kelly expert, writing this tale at the time of the Kelly outbreak. The Book Of Keli: The Chronicles of the Kelly Pursuers was written in code to puzzle and entertain a reading public fascinated by the Kelly hunt. While the police were pursuing the Kelly’s with the sword, G.W.Hall was pursuing both with his pen.

G W Hall

The Book Of Keli

Stand And Deliver!

First published 1991 by Lothian Books

Stand and Deliver! 100 Australian Bushrangers documents the wild, mad and bad exploits of one hundred bushrangers, producing fresh evidence about the most notorious including the Kelly’s, and previously unpublished facts about less well-known but equally colourful characters like the cannibal Thomas Jeffries. It records over a century of bushranging exploits, the last entries include Isaiah ‘Wild’ Wright who was still in trouble with the law in 1900, twenty years after Ned was hung.

Allan M Nixon

Book Stand Deliver Nixon

Ned Kelly

First published 2008 by Helm Information

While we’ve seen this cover on numerous other books, and the information inside has been garnered from other publications (including our beloved Australian Son by Max Brown), overall the entire package is well researched and cleverly set out. For the curious student of history this is a good read, but for the serious Kelly buff I’m loath to recommend you buy it – mainly due to the fact that it’s priced at £38 (that’s about ninety Australian dollars!).

Lyn Innes

Book Ned Kelly Lyn Innes

Bound For Judgement

First published 2006 by Boolarong Press

While I’m not a big fan of poetry (not many Star Wars books are written in verse), the author of this particular publication Alan Crichton, has done an impressive job. There are thousands of words here written with passion and vigour. Bound For Judgement: An outlaw’s story in verse also features a number of illustrations by Bruce Mercer. So for anyone looking for the life of Ned Kelly presented in verse then this is a must own book.

A D Crichton

Book Bound For Judgement

Blood In The Dust

First published 2004
This edition 2008 by Network Creative Services

Blood in the Dust: Inside the Minds of Ned Kelly and Joe Byrne is a graphological analysis of the handwriting of Ned Kelly and Joseph Byrne. It contains three complete psychological studies based on an adult sample of Joe Byrne’s handwriting, and both an adolescent and adult sample of Ned Kelly’s handwriting. The analyses build a complete personality profile of both men, including detailed descriptions of their intellect and mental processes, emotionality, physical attributes, social outreach, and sexuality. Each analysis also discusses specific relationships revealed in the handwriting, including the relationship with parents, other relatives, friends and enemies.

A N Baron


Bail Up!

First published 2002 by Five Mile Press

Bail Up! A Pictorial History of Australia’s Most Notorious Bushrangers featuring The Ned Kelly Story was written by a Mr Geoff Hocking who also did a splendid job with the design and layout — reminiscent of McMenomy’s latest offering. Even though it leans heavily on the Ned Kelly story (well, he does sell books) the pages are still full of bushrangers, robbers and villains of every elk. Hocking has further added to a genre best represented by previous authors like Alan Nixon’s Stand and Deliver!: 100 Australian Bushrangers and Nunn, Wannan and Prior’s A Pictorial History of Bushrangers. Buy it, read it – just not too closely…

Geoff Hocking

Book Bail Up Hocking

History Of Bushrangers

First published 1966 by Lansdowne Press

History Of Bushrangers: A Pictorial History Of Bushrangers is a fascinating insight into the main players of Australian bushranging history. It is both well written and researched, not only covering the Ned Kelly era but also that of Ben Hall, Matt Brady, and Daniel ‘Mad Dan’ Morgan to name a few. Keep an eye out for a copy at second hand book stores.

Nunn, Wannan & Prior

Book Pictorial History Of Bushrangers

Ellen Kelly

First published 1984 by Glen Rowen Cobb & Co

I’m giving full marks for the subject matter but I’m deducting a truck load for the content. Ellen Kelly: An Historical Novel as told by Ellen Kelly was written in a style closely resembling Ned and Joe’s Jerilderie Letter (either by design or accident). The idea to retell Ellen’s story could have been quite fascinating but this attempt just doesn’t hit the mark. I guess it still leaves the door wide open for another attempt. And if you are serious about selling a book get a professional to design the front cover…

Dagmar Balcarek

Book Ellen Kelly

Australia's Greatest Folk Hero

First published 1993 by Crawford & Crawford

‘Exactly what is the purpose of this book?’ That is exactly what I thought, after a friend handed me a copy they had found lying in the street. Apparently it is a collection of poems and songs arranged to highlight the plight of the Kelly Gang. If you must read any of it check out the foreword ‘…the Kelly Gang was very much alive in the minds of the people, so much so that the variance of emotional reaction over 113 years since these events, remain huge. We were even threatened in the Street to leave it alone…’ It’s a pity they didn’t heed the warning!

King Crawford


Ned Kelly: A Lawless Life

First published 2015 by Connor Court Publishing

Morrissey attempts (and fails) to convince the reader that opinion counts for analysis in this seemingly rushed sermon. Whereas actual professional research is severely lacking and the anti-Kelly bias is blatantly obvious, the book is worth a flick through just to show it doesn’t take much red wine to convince a publisher to produce a book on Ned Kelly. Just add his name in BIG letters to the title and you have an instant hit, or in this case you have a book destined for the discount table. Hysterically historical fiction at its finest.

Doug Morrissey


Bushrangers Heroes Or Villains

First published 1998 by Tranter Enterprises

The one that got me most recently was silly, damn Edgar Penzig peddling this rubbish that Ned mutilated Kennedy’s body and cut his ear off. Edgar should have something cut off for that. I was disgusted with him. It came out last year, around the time of the ceremony at Stringybark Creek. It was the most totally untrue piece of mock history I have seen peddled in the past 20 years. I’d be prepared to respect Edgar’s contribution over the years, but he completely lost me. He sank to a pretty low ebb when he claimed that Mrs Kelly had prostituted herself. If you set out to prove something no matter what, you’re going to write bad history. That’s not the way to go about it.
Ian Jones

God this is awful. As a rule, self-publishers are a vain lot and Mr Penzig is no exception, even going as far as having his picture adorn the cover. Penzig is an outright apologist for the police. From Ben Hall to Ned Kelly, he neatly labels all bushrangers as villains. A simple approach from a simple man. Penzig’s writing is naive and child like. As an example, take the following passage pulled from page 182:

In Australia, where Democracy reigns, the laws are made by the people for the people. With this in mind the reader will realize that the roll of the police force in any state is to see that these laws are kept and not broken. They are duty bound to enforce these existing laws until they are changed by parliament because of public or party petition. Therefore it is completely useless for members of the populace to attack the police because they disagree with some current law.

Ignoring the poor grammar, and bad spelling, that insightful paragraph is simply pathetic. I’m sure the SS were only following orders! Penzig is either an historical midget, unaware of events such as Myall Creek, or he is a man whose ego truly outstrips his supposed abilities. By condoning the ruthless tactics of the police forces of nineteenth century Australia he also condones the mass slaughter of hundreds of Aborigines at the hands of these men in uniform. Not surprisingly, Penzig makes no mention of the civilian deaths at Glenrowan caused by the reckless shooting by police. And what is it with the initials F.A.I.H.A. after his name?

Edgar Penzig


The Kelly Gang Unmasked

First published 2012 by Oxford University Press

The most perplexing question surrounding this novel is how the author convinced Oxford University Press to publish something that bears little to no resemblance to any known facts and yet not label the end result as fiction. Luckily, we have corrected the error and placed this flight of fancy squarely in the imaginative writing category. It’s a great read for anyone who’s keen to see what a novel, that avoids all subscribed research techniques, looks like in real life.

Ian Macfarlane