Tom McKinnon, is SAS Specialist Sniper, a veteran of Afghanistan. But extreme violence and collateral damage have worn him down, so that by the time he returns to his native Broome, he cannot settle and takes his Post-traumatic Stress Disorder to a shack on a secluded Kimberley beach. There, he spends his days diving for oysters.
With his dog as his only companion and minimal contact with the outside world, he finds peace of sorts. But following a storm, his dog discovers a young woman on his beach, more dead than alive, forcing him to be up close and personal with another human being.
The Wet Season keeps him marooned as he nurses her back to health and for three months she challenges his prejudices, insisting on helping with his diving work. He is forced to recognise her competence as she becomes his uninvited partner.
Then, as the months tick past, she comes to love this aloof but gentle man and he grudgingly admits and then admires her attributes. Eventually, she comes to his bed, instinctively understanding his hurt and his need.
Still he refuses to admit his own growing feelings and it is not until she has gone (having finally handed her over to the authorities) that he realises he loves her and will do all he can to get her back. By then, however, she has disappeared into the labyrinth of detention centres: first Villawood then Nauru and Manus Island.
As a woman alone, she is fair game to some, and a threat to others. Through the occasional act of kindness, she is able to leave messages and a trail for Tom that brings him close enough for her to know he cares. But doors that might have opened remain closed, even as his actions take him up to then beyond the limit of the law.
Australian Gulag is a story of our times. It takes us where people should never have to go and shows us that when we get behind the barbed wire, there is still love and compassion, even in the unlikeliest hearts and places.
Author: Stafford Ray
Publication Date: 18/05/2016