You’ll Never Take Me Alive

The Life And Death Of Bushranger Ben Hall (2005)

Author: Nick Bleszynski

‘I might as well have the game as the blame’.

As a bright eyed youngster, all of nine years old, I remember at school, every Thursday afternoon we’d listen to the ABC radio’s musical school program. Every week they’d teach kids from all over the country a new song. Most of the song’s were sugary confections. One that sticks in my head to this day is The Streets Of Forbes. Maybe it was the violence in the song, or purely the mystique of a Bushranger, but since then I have had a fascination with Ben Hall (and all Bushrangers really).

So I was pretty happy when I came across ‘You’ll Never Take Me Alive’ by Nick Bleszynski. And I have to say it is one of the best books I have read recently. It is fact based fictionalised account (I think they call that ‘faction’ these days) of the life of legendary Bushranger Ben Hall. Who was Ben Hall? He was a notorious bushranger, who operated in North West – New South Wales from 1862 to 1865. He was responsible for one of the biggest robberies of the time, the Eurowra gold escort, collected him (and his gang) a tidy $14,000 in gold. As with all Bushrangers, his reign of terror was brought to an end with a shootout with police. He was found riddled with 36 bullets in his body. These days, Hall is overshadowed by the legend of Ned Kelly, but his story is well worth telling and equally compelling. The book is a rollicking read from it’s poetic opening till the historical notes at the back.

One of my favourite passages from the book takes place after Hall has become an outlaw, and the troopers are trying to track him down and bring him to justice. One after another, the troopers continually arrest innocent men, believing that they are Hall. Then it occurs to Hall, that the troopers don’t really know what he looks like. So he gets on his horse and rides into the township of Forbes. He goes to the local gentlemen’s outfitter, and at gunpoint acquires the best suit that they have. Now dressed to the nines, he makes his way to the local photographer. Once again at gunpoint, he has the photographer take a portrait shot. Hall then arranges for prints to be sent to all the police stations and posts in the area.

Hall was pretty brash and arrogant, but was he an outlaw? Well, yes. But with all stories like this, there are circumstances that drove him to a life of crime. I couldn’t put this book down. Highly recommended.

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