A story of adventure and misadventure in one of the most ancient landscapes on earth"the Pilbara province of WA.
In Phantom Wings Over the North, twin teenagers Joan and Mark join their prospector uncle Paddy and his mate Bluey for a camping holiday in the outback. But the group discover much more than just a few small nuggets when they come across a suspicious mobile laboratory run by Eastern Europeans. Are they really scouting for mineral deposits? Or are they somehow connected with those mysterious midnight aircraft flying in and out of the Pilbara?
An action-packed read, Phantom Wings Over the North is an engaging debut from Desmond O'Connor with wide appeal to adventure-seekers.
WA-based Professor Desmond O'Connor tells a story of airborne smuggling of drugs and native fauna in the harsh Pilbara Region of WA with authority and feeling after many years as an Engineer, Surveyor, Pilot and President of the Western Australia Section of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Phantom Wings Over the North
Author: Desmond O'Connor
Question: What inspired you to begin writing novels?
Desmond O'Connor: I was inspired to write this novel by the general paucity of Australian adventure stories for young people. I have a large collection of largely boys' stories of the 20s and 30s, and I find them quite unsuitable for modern youth. They describe a world populated by disenchanted ex-Military Officers yearning for a continuation of their structured life. No girls or women ever appeared in the stories except in subservient or minor roles, and Imperialism ruled the world. 'Nigel struck out at the savage…" seems to be a typical storyline, and everyone was subject to order and discipline. Young people today would not put up with such attitudes.
Question: How did your career with the Royal Flying Doctor Service influence Phantom Wings Over the North?
Desmond O'Connor: In addition to my academic position I was actively involved in Northern Development and I became acutely aware that young people were largely unaware of what was going on and their dependence on it. There were many heroic activities in the everyday life of the RFDS and I feel young people like to know about them. I regard Phantom Wings as an opportunity to write about the outback and the role it has played in moulding the Australian character.
Question: Why did you decide to base the book in the WA outback?
Desmond O'Connor: I decided to base my book on the WA outback because I was familiar with it, and had developed an intimacy with it. I found that, although it is harsh and unforgiving, it is sensitive and easy to damage. It is part of the 'Timeless Land" and its fauna and flora are deserving of our respect.
Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?
Desmond O'Connor: One hundred percent of my 'inspiration" comes from real life and real people. I have knocked around mining and exploration sites carrying out environmental Studies and have flown myself around, meeting colourful characters on the way.
I also had Surveying experience in outback NSW.
Question: What is the best thing about creating characters like Joan and Mark?
Desmond O'Connor: I found the best thing about about creating characters like Joan and Mark is the possibility of creating normalcy amongst characters. A quarter of a century of teaching university students has confirmed me in my view that boys and girls are no different in ability, with girls somewhat ahead in balance and maturity. A real world situation bears this out. I received a call from a small goldmine in the north for a student to do some surveying. When a girl stepped off the plane the manager was flabbergasted, but she proved to be worth her weight in gold, including surveying underground.
Interview by Brooke Hunter