Friday, December 13, 2019

Book Review: 'The Last Tasmanian Tiger' by Lance Morcan

The Last Tasmanian Tiger by Lance Morcan

‘Charlie had devoted himself to searching for the Tassie Tiger’

New Zealand novelist and screenwriter Lance Morcan is a former journalist and newspaper editor with twenty published books to his credit. Often he writes in collaboration with his son James Morcan, but this short story is a solo for Lance.

Though the story is brief, the manner in which Lance unravels the tale is near journalistic in credible facts while at the same time allowing his warmly fine prose detail this adventure. From the opening page the mood is set – ‘The Aborigine had to lean forward to combat the gale-force headwind as he crested a rocky ridge high in the remote Southwest Wilderness region of Tasmania…Forty-eight- year-old Charlie Truganini was a proud member of Tasmania’s First Nations indigenous groups, the Paredarerme Nation. Despite his advancing years, he was recognized as one of the tribe’s finest trackers. It was a skill that stood him in good stead in his current endeavors… Tall and sinewy, Charlie’s skin was coffee-coloured and his features were those of a mixed race individual, a result of his father’s marriage to a white woman who died when he was very young. Too young to remember. Charlie was looked up to because he had a number of claims to fame…’ 

And so possum tracker Charlie sets out on a memorable adventure, as Lance’s plot summary states: ‘Charlie Truganini can’t believe his eyes when on a trip into Tasmania’s wilderness he sees a Tasmanian tiger – a carnivorous marsupial considered by most Australians to be extinct. Charlie has a number of claims to fame – one of those being he’s a direct descendant of one Truganini, the woman considered to be the last full-blooded Aboriginal Tasmanian and whose name he inherited. A close second to that is he’s the great-grandson of one Dingo Truganini, the tracker who helped capture the last known Thylacine cynocephalus – an animal better known as the Tasmanian tiger. It’s his admiration for his great-grandfather’s exploits that explains why Charlie has devoted his life to searching for the Tassie tiger, as he refers to it, or the thylacine, as scientific types insist on calling it, to determine one way or the other whether it still exists. He has always suspected it does despite having never sighted it nor even stumbled across its spoor in all his travels. When Charlie sees a Tasmanian tiger with his own eyes, he realises he doesn’t want his tiger meeting the same fate as the last one. And so he makes a decision. A decision that will have life-and-death consequences.’

An absorbingly interesting story – both for adventure and for insights into Aborigine culture! Highly recommended.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.