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Only Killers and Thieves

A Novel

About the Book

Two brothers are exposed to the brutal realities of life and the seductive cruelty of power in this riveting debut novel—a story of savagery and race, injustice and honor, set in the untamed frontier of 1880s Australia—reminiscent of Philipp Meyer’s The Son and the novels of Cormac McCarthy.

An epic tale of revenge and survival, Only Killers and Thieves is a gripping and utterly transporting debut, bringing to vivid life a colonial Australia that bears a striking resemblance to the American Wild West in its formative years.

It is 1885, and a crippling drought threatens to ruin the McBride family. Their land is parched, their cattle starving. When the rain finally comes, it is a miracle that renews their hope for survival. But returning home from an afternoon swimming at a remote waterhole filled by the downpour, fourteen-year-old Tommy and sixteen-year-old Billy meet with a shocking tragedy.

Thirsting for vengeance against the man they believe has wronged them—their former Aboriginal stockman—the distraught brothers turn to the ruthless and cunning John Sullivan, the wealthiest landowner in the region and their father’s former employer. Sullivan gathers a posse led by the dangerous and fascinating Inspector Edmund Noone and his Queensland Native Police, an infamous arm of British colonial power charged with the "dispersal" of indigenous Australians to "protect" white settler rights. As they ride across the barren outback in pursuit, their harsh and horrifying journey will have a devastating impact on Tommy, tormenting him for the rest of his life—and will hold enduring consequences for a young country struggling to come into its own.

Recreating a period of Australian and British history as evocative and violent as the American frontier era, Only Killers and Thieves is an unforgettable story of family, guilt, empire, race, manhood, and faith that combines the insightfulness of Philipp Meyer’s The Son, the atmospheric beauty of Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist, and the raw storytelling power of Ian McGuire’s The North Water.

Educator and Librarian Resources

Critical Praise

“Howarth’s impressive debut is a Wild West saga transported to 19th-century Queensland, Australian. The story deals unflinchingly with the brutality of Australian rule…but the heart of the story is the complicated relationship between the brothers...While this book has a historical point to make, it also works as a suspenseful mystery and a resonant bildungsroman.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“A gripping novel about conflict in the Australian outback at the turn of the century; beautifully done.” —Paulette Jiles, New York Times Bestselling Author of NEWS OF THE WORLD, National Book Award Finalist

“I couldn’t put Only Killers and Thieves down. It does what great Westerns do, it drops you inside the ugliness and chaos of Australian frontier life, it educates and horrifies, but also it entertains. Howarth’s debut is a powerhouse page turner.”          —Willy Vlautin, author of Lean on Pete

“… visceral yet elegantly written…”      —Library Journal

“Rich in character and period atmosphere, this effective blend of family saga and historical mystery will please fans of Jeffrey Archer and Wilbur Smith.” —Booklist

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780062690968
  • ISBN 10: 0062690965
  • Imprint: Harper
  • On Sale: 02/06/2018
  • Pages: 336
  • List Price: 33.50 CAD
  • BISAC1: FICTION / Literary
  • BISAC2: FICTION / Historical
  • BISAC3: FICTION / Action & Adventure

Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth

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