EDWARD Presgrave’s name has never been familiar to his fellow Australians but that could change quickly once readers start talking about Tony Park’s 17th novel, Ghosts of the Past.
Known for his love of southern Africa’s diverse landscapes and cultures, in his latest release Park combines a penchant for constructing adventure-rich storylines with an interest in military heritage.
In Ghosts, newly unemployed Sydneysider Nick Eatwell decides on a whim to travel to South Africa in the footsteps of a previously unknown great-great-uncle, Sergeant Cyril Blake – a young man accused of having tortured and murdered a prisoner before being executed in German South West Africa almost a century before it was reborn as modern-day Namibia.
A volunteer who served with the mounted British unit Steinaecker’s Horse during the Anglo-Boer War, Blake has been identified by an investigative journalist in Cape Town as a key player in an intriguing and dramatic search for Afrikaner President Paul Kruger’s vanished fortune: millions of dollars worth of solid gold bars.
Within hours of arriving in Kruger National Park, however, Eatwell has his safari cabin burgled and realises that both his family-historian aunt and a former colleague who’s assisting with document translation could also be potential targets. Clearly someone has a vested interest in staying several paces ahead of Eatwell in his attempts to retrace Blake’s movements across the continent.
As he strives to unravel the details of his relative’s time both in the army and later as a horse-trader, Eatwell must weigh up who can be trusted and who might want him and his contacts dead.
The character Blake is based closely on the real-life Presgrave, an Australian soldier who fought with British Empire forces in South Africa and eventually became embroiled in the slaughter of Nama tribespeople under German rule across the border in South West Africa.