Dramatic take on infamous siege story
A NEW novel which endeavours to capture the drama and chaos of the infamous siege at Glenrowan will be released this month, 140 years after the actual event took place.
The book titled Glenrowan is the debut novel of Melbourne author and “bushranger historian” Aidan Phelan, and it promises to provide new insights into one of Australia’s most controversial tales.
The Glenrowan siege happened in June 1880 after the notorious Kelly Gang unsuccessfully attempted to derail a police train, leading to a 12 hour stand-off at the Glenrowan Inn resulting in the taking of hostages, multiple fatalities and ultimately, Ned Kelly’s capture.
Mr Phelan said his interest in bushrangers began when he first visited Glenrowan at the age of 12 and it has continued for more than 20 years.
“I caught the bug then and began to devour anything I could get my hands on about Ned from that time onwards and it escalated to encompass all the bushrangers,” he said.
“There is the age old debate of whether Ned was a hero or a villain but what has always intrigued me is the bit in between - the man the legends were built around.
“He’s a very interesting figure in his own right, historically speaking, because he’s complex, almost a paradox of different elements of his personality.
“There is his moral code, the fact he had this huge ego, but that at the same time he was very invested in making himself humble.
“These are all things that make him a very intriguing character to me and the more I learned about him and the more I learned about the complexities of who he was - far beyond being a black hearted villain or an incredible revolutionary hero that’s what really hooked me in.
“I’m hoping we’re starting to see a change in the way the story is perceived now where other people are starting to realise there is more to him than the bucket hat.”
Mr Phelan said the siege was chosen as the focus of his novel because he had wondered why Glenrowan and those three words “such is life” had become synonymous with Ned Kelly, over and above anything else he’d done.
He said it was a remarkable event to occur at a time when interactions between police and bushrangers were generally short and sharp affairs.
“The more I looked into it, the more I found,” he said.
“Just about everyone who was involved had a story about the siege - there is a wealth of material from police and witnesses which go far beyond Ned and his armour.
“The Glenrowan siege went for 12 hours - something no one had seen the like of before in Australia - and over that span of time a lot happened.
“It’s far more interesting to look at the whole story of what happened and what led up to it than what we’ve seen in movies and read about in most books up until now.”
Mr Phelan said about 63 people were bailed up inside the inn and each had a story to tell, with venue owner Ann Jones one of the most intriguing of all.
He said Ms Jones knew the Hart family well along with many other families who were associated with the gang.
“Was she on the side of the outlaws, was she on the side of the police or was she playing both sides?” he said.
“She was someone who was making a go of things in a world which wasn’t suited to women getting ahead, setting up and pretty much running the inn on her own - a real entrepreneur.
“I think there is something really intriguing about a woman in that time period being able to do things like that, then Ned Kelly breezes in and it all falls apart.
“It motivated me to really keep digging because I started out writing a story about the siege, then I realised there were a lot more to the peripheral characters.”
Mr Phelan describes his novel as a dramatised interpretation of the facts, where artistic licene has been used to create what he hopes will be an entertaining and gripping read which is not just for history buffs.
“It’s a very human story and ultimately that’s what connects people to these historical events there is something they can relate to in the people that were wrapped up in it,” he said.
The film rights to the novel have already been obtained by Two Tone Pictures who produced “The Legend of Ben Hall” in 2016 and plans are under way for it to be adapted into a six part mini-series for a streaming service.
Glenrowan is self-published under the author’s Australian Bushranging label and it will be officially released on July 31, available from www.glenrowanthenovel.com.