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ROCK, GILBERT. [IE JOHN ALEXANDER BARR]. - Colonists. Illustrating goldfields and city life in Australia between 1851 and 1870.

Dunedin, Wilkie & Co 1888. Octavo publisher's printed wrapper; 152pp. Staple stains and minor signs of use; a rather good copy. ¶ First edition of this rare thriller; a lousy title but replete with murder, revenge, conspiracy ... and I'm only reading from the chapter titles. The misleading title no doubt helped this being well represented in Australian libraries and led to Ferguson recording it, cementing its rarity now. This was issued in London as 'The Mystery of Golden Gully' which barely exists in libraries. Gilbert Rock was missed by Loder. Barr published a few novels all in a rush, including two thrillers under the name Gilbert Rock and his lost race thriller Mihawhenua under the name Brock but his own story is perhaps more exciting. A Dunedin lawyer, he petitioned in 1888 for a protective tax on all imported literature, assuring the government that he was "prepared to supply the colonial market with literature if inducement offers." All his known novels then appeared by November. Soon after he did 'the Pacific Slope' (a great term I hadn't heard before), abandoning his family and absconding with many thousands of his clients' pounds either lost or in his pocket. Here Barr vanishes from view except for a startling piece in the Auckland Star of October 1 1894 in which is mentioned a letter just received by Sir George Grey from the author of Mihawhenua with a return address but an indecipherable signature. No-one could decipher the signature so Grey's secretary cut the signature from the letter and pasted it onto the reply. No connection was made between the author of Mihawhenua and the missing lawyer. A final glimpse is a London death notice in 1907 which identifies him as a former solicitor of Dunedin and tells us he has been living in England with his wife and family for five or six years. I think it was the same family. The dedication, to the colonial press in "grateful acknowledgment", of his thriller, 'By Passion Driven', was declined on conscientious grounds by the Christchurch Telegraph who said, "What object Mr Gilbert Rock could have had we do not know". Perhaps his dedication was for The Daily Telegraph who described his 'Colonists' as "not a badly told story."
AUD 1350.00 [Appr.: EURO 853.75 US$ 965.39 | £UK 748 | JP¥ 106755] Book number 9572

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