Finding Albert Strange

A search for what matters, before it is too late

"This book was inspired by a scene I witnessed some years ago in which a group of ageing war veterans were followed out of a bar, where they had been quietly drinking following an ANZAC parade, by a group of young men of my age who had also been drinking and who were intent on demonstrating their own form of heroics to each other. The young men king hit the aged veterans and booted them as they fell, running away whooping like coyotes. Once my anger and shame at the brute ignorance and cowardice of my contemporaries had abated, I began to question the ability of one generation to empathise with or understand another when the experiences and conditioning were so vastly different. The scene stayed with me for years as I accumulated other examples of the alienation of generations and modern life's weakening of the bonds of family. During the eventual telling of the story I moved from despair to hope - taking comfort in the power of redemption, the light of which is capable of brightening the darkest of human failings."

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April 25th dawns as another beautiful day in Sydney, Australia, a city that prides itself on being one of the great cities of the world. It is Anzac Day, a day when the media and politicians will be promoting pride in national identity, an identity won on the back of the sacrifices made by those who fought long ago at Gallipoli and elsewhere in the 20th Century Wars that mark the nation's calendar

Or is it just a day that provides a convenient excuse to wallow in false patriotism and get drunk in the process? At the very least, it is an inconvenient interruption for some, coming as it does in the middle of the working week. Do they really expect business to stop?

Big business never stops. And nothing should be allowed to get in its way.

This story of corporate greed and immorality, sex, blackmail and the cruel consequences of random violence follows three generations of the Saville family throughout the day as they are forced to come face to face with the reality of the choices they are making.

By nightfall a bonfire of Australian vanities has been lit and those who have survived the day are considering whether it was a Day to Remember or one they would rather forget.

Albert Strange, a Second World War veteran whose father fought at Gallipoli, has come to town to join the Anzac Day March up George Street with his granddaughter Samantha Saville (14). Normally reclusive and intolerant of the jingoism expressed on such occasions, Albert is reluctantly forced to face his own demons as the day unfolds.  

Roger Saville, Samantha’s father, resents Anzac Day for interrupting the week at a time when he is involved in critical negotiations for the sale of part of his company’s large scale land holdings at Whiteman’s Creek. With the banks calling for increased security to support his borrowings, and with a major Singaporean investor arriving in town, he is under pressure. This pressure is not eased by the loss of his briefcase containing the land valuations vital to the success of his negotiations. How his day is destined to turn out depends on the willingness of the prostitute, Maxine, and the Labour Party bagman, Bob Summers MP, to deliver on the promises they have made.

Meanwhile, Roger can well do without the carping of his fellow director, Lawrence Beck, who is determined to play a self-appointed role as moral conscience of the company, a role that could easily destroy all their ambitions.

Joanne Saville, Albert’s daughter and Roger’s wife, has her own preoccupations. How can she reconcile her financial and social good fortunes with her nagging sense of dissatisfaction? Perhaps it is the unbridgeable gap between herself and her father that is the problem. Or perhaps it is the growing recognition that she is about to be punished for her idealised view of family life and of her children, Willie and Samantha.

Willie Saville (18) wakes up this morning naked and soaked in his own urine, unable to remember where he is or what day it is. In fact, he is in a Newtown squat having spent the previous evening consuming dubious substances with his mates Luke and Ari. He has a vague memory of the arrival of Ari’s flatmate, Nicole, but nothing of what happened subsequently. His day is destined to be a search for uncomfortable truths that he might be better off not knowing.

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For an overview of the ANZAC legend in Australia and New Zealand please go to the ANZAC page.