University of Queensland Press
Tony Birch was born in inner-city Melbourne, into a large family of Aboriginal, West Indian and Irish descent. His upbringing was challenging and difficult, and much of this is captured in his remarkable debut, the semi-autobiographical Shadowboxing.
An alter boy and exceptional student at his local Catholic primary school, in adolescence, Birch went ‘off the rails’ as a teenager. He was expelled from two high schools for fighting and found trouble with the police for the same reason. Although somewhat adrift following his expulsions, he remained a voracious reader – once, when he was arrested by police, all they found when they patted him down was a copy of Camus’ The Outsider, which remains his favourite book.
Returning to night school to complete his studies, Birch met his mentor, Anne Misson, whose credo was very simple: ‘You’ll be great, but only if you work your arse off.’ Birch still lives by this and applies it to everything including his passion for running, which is where his writing is created and shaped.
Birch’s work is widely read and loved including by those who might normally avoid books, particularly teenage boys. Through his outreach work, he visits many schools to speak to students, and takes particular pleasure in returning to the two schools that expelled him, as both of his previous books are on the syllabus.
Synopsis:‘When Rachel came along everything changed. I was only a kid, just five years old. But from the moment I saw her, wrapped in a blanket in the hospital, I knew I’d be the one that would have to take care of her.’
Jesse’s mum, Gwen, is always on the move and always bringing home trouble.
When Gwen’s appetite for destruction leads her family into the arms of Ray Crow, Jesse sees the brooding violence beneath the charm and charisma and knows that, this time, his family is in trouble.
But Jesse’s just a kid. Even as he tries to save his sister, he makes a fatal error that exposes them to the kind of danger he has sworn to protect Rachel from. As their fractured world is torn to pieces, the children discover that when you are lost and alone the only thing you can trust is what’s in your blood.
Drawing on cinematic influences from the 1955 film ‘The Night of the Hunter’ and his fascination for those on the margins of society, Blood is a compelling, gothic odyssey that explores landscape, place and the ‘ties that bind’. With understated prose, Birch captures tenderness in a world without sanctuary and exposes the strength of innocence amidst violence and genuine evil.