The Weekend Australian - Review - - In Profile -

fa­ther, Martin Dixon, joined the out­law gang when he was about Hugh’s age, orig­i­nally to write a news­pa­per pro­file of its ed­u­cated and charis­matic leader, ‘‘ Cap­tain’’ Lu­cas Wil­son, but events soon over­whelmed that nar­row am­bi­tion. Martin’s story forms the sec­ond strand of Lost Voices.

‘‘ I wanted to show the way that the present and the past res­onate with each other,’’ Koch ex­plains. ‘‘ I hap­pen to be­lieve, which may be ec­cen­tric, that we carry vague mem­o­ries of our an­ces­tors inside us, and some­times we recog­nise peo­ple as what you might call coun­ter­parts. This book is full of coun­ter­parts be­tween the 1950s and the 1850s.’’

This goes to an in­trigu­ing as­pect of Koch’s work: his be­lief in an ‘‘ in­vis­i­ble world’’ that ex­ists along­side our tan­gi­ble one. This idea is at the heart of The Dou­ble­man and per­me­ates his other books. In Lost Voices, one of the cen­tral char­ac­ters, the un­nerv­ing ‘‘ gen­tle­man’’ con­vict turned bushranger Roy Grif­fen, puts it this way: ‘‘ I’m sure of one thing, Cap­tain Wil­son. There’s cer­tainly a life out­side this one. An in­vis­i­ble world lies all around us, and we’re watched by in­vis­i­ble things.’’

Even though there are sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween Hugh and his cre­ator (‘‘I don’t even know what al­ge­bra is!’’), Koch in­sists the book is not au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal. ‘‘ I’d hate any­one to think my fa­ther filched some money to put it on the horses,’’ he says. How­ever, Koch does share Grif­fen’s be­lief in the in­vis­i­ble world. ‘‘ I don’t think we know a lot about it,’’ he says, ‘‘ but I’m quite sure it’s there.’’ He has taken part in seances and be­lieves in spir­its and demons.

Asked to elab­o­rate, he thinks for a while.

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