A few years ago a friend put me onto an emerging Sydney author who had recently had his first book published: Goodnight, Crackernight. It was a nostalgic look at growing up in Sydney in the 70’s and how sad it was when the annual fireworks were cancelled by the Fun Police. Crackernight had always been such an important date on the calendar for kids, and especially for this kid, as it fell on Empire Day, in May, the day after my birthday. With a family that told stories of leprechauns and fairies at the bottom of the garden I believed that the fireworks were in honour of my birth right up until I was in my early teens, just as I had always been told. Goodnight Crackernight was a book that stirred many childhood memories and was simply good fun.
The author, a few years younger than I, was a military aviation tragic and his follow up book was a first in a trilogy about young Australians that travelled thousands of miles to the other side of the world to fight a war in the skies over Europe.
I chased this book down after my father died. He had flown with Bomber Command and later in Pathfinder Force during WW2 but being part of that “stiff upper lip” generation it was never discussed. Plus, the house was full of women. Only the cats were male.
I reached out to Justin Sheedy because his book was a great read and one geared towards non aviation types such as myself. Nor The Years Condemn saw a couple of Aussie lads through the Empire Flight Training Scheme, across to the UK, and into battle against the enemy. Military Historic Fiction it nevertheless provided a lot of factual information about the processes that young men, just like my Dad, had to undertake to qualify for the Air Force. It helped me to understand why young men left their homeland and families to participate in the big “adventure” on the other side of the world.
We started communicating after I put something on social media recommending this book which had given me my first belly laugh on the train journey to work. Page 7 won me over with “Even Catholic girls put out for Wings”. Justin replied and we have been chatting on Messenger ever since.
We shared the odd joke and I know I got a couple of friends interested in his books. When Ghosts Of The Empire and No Greater Love were published I bought six sets of the trilogy for my Dad’s Grandchildren as Christmas gifts along with the Airfix Kit of my Dads ( Halifax) plane. I didn’t have the knowledge of Bomber Command to pass on but young Justin did. The three books were full of fascinating information, information about Enigma, Bletchley Park, the Guinea Pig Club, and so much more. He was such a fine storyteller, and wrote so fluidly, that you felt at times that you were in the plane alongside these young men. I remember sobbing on the flight home from a holiday on Norfolk Island because of the tragic ending of Book2. His characters were just that real.
His third book, No Greater Love, with a storyline featuring Malta during WW2, has inspired me to take one last long haul journey.
Justin excused himself last winter and said he had to disappear for a while to focus on writing Book 4.
I heard from him two weeks ago to say he was 80 per cent done with his new book and that he had a contract for all his books to be reprinted and released overseas. He said his “dream of becoming a success was fast becoming a reality”.
My reply was simply “Justin, you are already a success”. I like to think he was genuinely touched. Never met the fella though we became friends. Funny that, hey…..
We’ve just lost young Justin Sheedy. Forty nine years of age. 49. Died at his desk at his day job. 49. My old nemesis. I am the first female in three generations to make it past 49.
Justin, Fly high, my friend. More stories in the next realm with a good red or two x
There’s a few LIFE LESSONS in all this:
Life IS short. Don’t stress it – just do. Spend the kid’s inheritance ….with them…and have fun together. This “you need $5 million to retire comfortably” is scaremongering from Financial Advisers who make money from us suckers. Calling BS. Stay matey with your travel agent and they’ll take care of you. Don’t dismiss Indie authors who don’t have the backing of million dollar marketing gurus. You would be surprised how many little gems there are out there that deserve a read. And hang on to the good people in your life..