A reading from The Smuggler’s Curse

Red Read’s life takes an alarming turn when his mother sells him to an infamous smuggler plying his trade off the north-west coast in the closing days of the 19th century. Author Norman Jorgensen provides a sneak preview.


Meet the author

Where did the idea for The Smuggler’s Curse come from?

The initial idea for the story was sparked by a visit to the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland. Staying there, I discovered it is where Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island, my favourite book as a kid. Later that first night, I tried to write my own pirate story set in 1810, but it quickly evolved into a smugglers’ tale. Later on, after I returned to Perth, I moved the plot up to 1895 and reset the action in Broome and South-East Asia.

What kind of research did you undertake in writing The Smuggler’s Curse? Did you discover anything that surprised you?

I read a lot about Broome and the pearling days, discovered the little known Aceh Independence War, visited Broome, Singapore, and the places in South-East Asia where I set scenes in the book, including visiting a longhouse where the recent descendants of head-hunters still have skulls hanging from their ceilings. Luckily, they ceased collecting them about 1948. I frequently used Trove, the National Library digitised newspaper and historic photo collection, to immerse myself in the period. I learnt how to shoot a blowpipe, fire a musket and load a cannon, all essential skills for a smuggler, and I polished up on sailing ships of the 19th century.

One interesting discovery was the story of the female leader of the Sumatran resistance, who continued the war against the Dutch invaders for many years after her father and husband were killed. I also had no idea of the extent of piracy in that region. Some pirates owned hundreds of ships and became massively wealthy.

Books discussed
The Smuggler's Curse

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