Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Book Review

I've been absolutely chuffed with the response to my book Running Amok. Since release four months ago I've been interviewed on radio, appeared at writers festivals in Brisbane and Townsville and on tour in Sydney and the Gold Coast. Book reviews appearing in magazines and newspapers have been highly supportive. Wow!

Here's a sample:

“A wonderful account of the strange life of an overseas reporter.
Bowling has managed to present the public face of a broadcast journalist
while showing the complex, often fraught everyday life that is lead by
those who report from foreign countries.”
-Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald

This very encouraging review appeared on The Swanker just prior to Christmas..
(who is the Swanker? .. to quote from the site "..the name of this blog is more a tongue-in-cheek reference to a popular stereotype of the typical Sydneysider - shallow, ever in pursuit of money and beholden to all things glitzy.. " But I suspect there's nothing shallow about The Swanker. He's led an interesting life so far. Quoting again from his site: " ..I was born in Brunei, a small Malay sultanate in South East Asia, to Chinese parents. I spent some time in England as a child then moved permanently to Australia with may family when I was sixteen. My interest in South East Asia stems from my own upbringing there and my fascination with the ideas of culture, race, religion - particularly how all these things mingle and interact to form notions of ethnicity, identity and nationality."

Anyway.. this review from The Swanker..

Running Amok by Mark Bowling

Hachette Livre Australia were kind enough to recently send me a copy of Running Amok by Mark Bowling, the ABC's former Indonesia correspondent. Subtitled When News Deadlines, Family and Foreign Affairs Collide, the book recounts Mark's personal experiences during his stationing in Indonesia - from 1998 to 2002 - one of the most eventful periods in the country's history.
The book takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride across the far-flung archipelago, from the toppling of President Suharto in Jakarta, to Aceh, Kalimantan, Ambon, West Papua and of course, East Timor. The book documents in detail Mark's visits to that long-suffering territory as it finally achieved independence, but, as Mark emotionally describes, not without great suffering and death.
Interspersed between episodes of Mark and his crew dodging soldiers, running into the middle of riots or interviewing Islamic extremists, Running Amok also offers insight into the more mundane aspects of the foreign correspondent's job - the deadlines, the script-writing, the long hours working through the night.
Mark also highlights the difficulties of being constantly away from his young family, the pressure his marriage came under and the tragedy of a lost child. His was a job that put immense strain on family relationships like few other jobs did and the personal nature of the book is its real strength.
Indonesia-watchers will enjoy this book for the insights into the tumultuous events of the post-Suharto period. Budding journalists will either be thrilled by the stories of adventure and reportage from the front lines, or mortified by the personal and emotional commitment the job demands.
Running Amok is set amidst the grand political drama of Suharto's resignation, turmoil in the provinces and the creation of a new nation, but it never loses sight of the fact that, in the end, it's all about people - Mark's own family, and the ordinary Indonesian people he encountered. Separated by only a few hundred miles water we might be, but most Indonesians and Australians live on totally different worlds.
Riots and mass killings are not the chirpiest subject-matter for holiday reading, but Running Amok reminded me of how fortunate I am to be where I am. And during the Christmas/New Year season when getting overwhelmed with presents and parties is so easy, that's probably not such a bad thing.
Other recent books by Australians about Indonesia:
A Woman of Independence, by Kirsty Sword Gusmao
Indonesia's Secret War in Aceh, by John Martinkus
In the Shadow of Swords, by Sally Neighbour

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