Australia, 1788 û the first year of the penal settlement at Sydney Cove. Nineteen year old convict and former Norfolk farm labourer Jacob Stone has been sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing a watch. He spent three years on a hulk and another at sea, leaving three to be worked in New South Wales. Jacob is working at æfarm coveÆ; a pioneer farm for the settlement of eight hundred men and two hundred women. Rations are meagre, there is conflict with the ænativesÆ, insects and rats invade the settlement come nightfall. The heat is unbearable, the soil infertile, nothing is growing. Some convicts are dying and some are fleeing into the bush never to be seen again. Two aboriginal men are captured by marines and held prisoner at the settlement in an effort to gain information about the country: what can be eaten, the location of fresh water supplies, game. Fellow convict and former Cornish sailor William Broad has plans to steal an open boat and food from the stores and then escape up the coast. Jacob is enlisted into the gang by agreeing to steal some hatchets from farm cove. In an act of pity, Jacob uses a stolen hatchet to cut the rope tying an aboriginal prisoner. However his theft is betrayed by a fellow worker in exchange for extra rations and he is sentenced to two hundred lashes. After a hundred lashes the surgeon calls a halt to the punishment. He will receive the remainder when he has recovered. BroadÆs escape takes place without Jacob and he cannot face another hundred lashes. He runs into the bush alone. As far as he is able to Jacob heads north. Someone has told him that it is the way to China. He stays clear of the coast for fear of running into marines or a fishing party. Instead he finds a river that proves to be a tributary of a larger river. After three days of walking he is near starvation. The larger river he notices is thick with eels. He tries to spear them but cannot; he tries to capture them with his hands but drops them. Jacob is approached by aboriginal people, in canoes with nets. They are armed. But amongst them is the man he helped escape from the convict settlement. He is taken to their camp, fed broiled eels, fruit and bread cakes. He stays with the Barramatta people of Eel River for several weeks learning what the bush can provide. When it is time for them to move to another camp they tell him he must return to his own people. He knows he cannot survive alone in the bush and reluctantly heads back to camp. On arrival he is summoned by the Governor. The Governor explains that he cannot escape the hundred lashes due or his leniency will be seen as weakness. Jacob explains that he has found a food supply and some land close to a river that is fertile. He can lead a party to it. This he does and the failed farm cove is abandoned for the fertile flood plain of Eel River Jacob is spared his flogging and put in charge of the new farm that begins to feed the settlement. He is promised a farm of his own once his years of transportation are over.
Nowhere to Run by Michael Crowley was published by SPCK Publishing in September 2016. The ISBN for Nowhere to Run is 9781908713056.