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First pages

Prologue

Probosciger aterrimus, the palm cockatoo, is a twitcher's delight. Colloquially referred to as ‘Probo,’ the cockatoo is a charismatic Cape York personality. Down Under, many regard him as the showstopper of the Cape. The guests on Simon Acton’s famous birdwatching tour have come from far and wide to see him. Unfortunately, on this occasion, death and mayhem have accompanied this heavenly bird.

Unbeknownst to his human observers, Probo saw it all unfold. The watchers had in fact become the watched. Probo ruffled his feathers and shook his head slowly as he reflected on everything that he had seen. What treachery, he thought as he surveyed the assembled crowd. He decided to charm them at last with a majestic flyby. He let out a blood curdling cry, raised his majestic crest and flashed his bright red face at the birdwatchers below him. Before they could raise their eyes to their binoculars, Probo promptly flew off. He remained as elusive and mysterious as ever.

---

Steve Summers, aka the Adventure Doctor, was exasperated. “What am I to do?” he asked as he ran his fingers through his thinning grey hair. He suddenly felt his age and every minute that passed without an answer to his question felt like torture.

He was looking for a way out of his dreadful university teaching load. It had been foisted upon him by his draconian head of department, Fadi Abdul, a bully who enjoyed oppressing others. He wasn’t sure what he’d done to deserve the Head’s attention, but it was clear that Professor Abdul had singled him out for special treatment this semester.

“Thirty hours of contact teaching!” he exclaimed. “And that’s not including consultation, preparation, marking, supervision, and committee meetings. That tyrant is driving me to an early grave. This is death by teaching.”

He knew that the only solution was what his colleagues referred to as a ‘teaching buy-out.’ This meant paying someone else to do his teaching for him. Effectively it meant that a casual tutor would be lumped with his load. But to do that he would need a rather sizeable research grant. All he needed was a little grace in the form of research money to buy himself out of his dilemma. But first he needed a research project. It might have seemed like a minor detail but with the recent tightening of grant purse-strings this would be a feat. To have any success at getting a grant his project would need to be innovative, ground-breaking, socially significant, and have high impact. The latter was the latest in a long-list of euphemisms doing the rounds of the University of Hope.

“Lord have mercy,” he mumbled under his breath and glanced to the heavens, which were all clouded over as if to emphasise the gloominess of his predicament.

His dear colleague, Nora Pinot, aka the Mad Professor, who was seated opposite, studied him carefully. She took a sip of her green tea and calmly responded, “Well, I have an idea.” The Adventure Doctor’s eyes lit up. From the look on her face he sensed this was not going to be a short conversation. He quickly refilled his jumbo coffee cup. “What do you have in mind?”

The Mad Professor smiled.

Chapter 1

The pile of student assignments sat in a haphazard tower on the office chair Steve usually kept clear for those occasions when a student or colleague would venture into his office. Attached to the front of each student paper was a bright orange coversheet on which its author had written his or her name and student number.

His desk was buried in mountains of similar paper towers; their coversheets a faded mix of blue, green and pink against the now yellowing edges of the white printed paper on which hundreds of earnest students had laboured years before. A cleared space, barely large enough for a computer screen, keyboard and mouse, and a mug of coffee, marked out a small cubby hole. The computer revolution was yet to fully transform his workplace. Steve often scoffed at the concept of the paperless office. Not in my generation, he thought. However, he knew that every generation faced technological disruption. The pace of change was frightening. He was now an outlier on the innovation curve, and clearly he was at the wrong end.

Steve wasn’t sure why he usually kept the office chair clear. Visitors to his office were becoming rarer these days, perhaps due to faculty restructuring. Maybe his colleagues were put off by the paper towers he was constructing on the floor, bookcases, tables, and chairs. It was even conceivable that his wife was correct when she stated that his office was beginning to resemble the rundown hovel of an insane hoarder. He was becoming trapped by his own paper towers. Instead of newspaper hedgerows, he was constructing a maze of mini corridors throughout his office using old student essays, long forgotten by their authors and now abandoned forever to dust mites. He had spent years building up this archive. It was his way of remembering past students and projects. On the odd occasion when he actually dared to venture into the piles, he inevitably found some gem to revisit.

He glanced at this new pile of essays, delivered to his door ten minutes earlier by June, the department’s officious secretary. Even she, used as she was to the labyrinth-like quality of his small office with its towers of essays perched on every surface, was at a loss to know what to do with this recent addition. “Just pop them here shall I?” said June as she carefully placed them on the chair and quickly backed away from his man cave. She saw the look that passed across his face and made a hasty retreat back down the department corridor.

There goes the weekend, he thought, staring at the student essays. He felt like screaming but refrained. At least two days of non-stop marking would be needed to finish this pile off before another batch arrived. He desperately needed a coffee to refocus his efforts.

He checked his pockets for his office key, and then carefully closed the door behind him. The last thing he needed was a gust of wind to blow the latest pile of essays on to the floor. The last time that had happened he’d lost one student assignment beneath his desk and it wasn’t until the student made a complaint to the Head about receiving a fail mark that he conceded it may have been ‘mislaid.’ He was already in the Head’s bad books. He didn’t need another ‘missing essay’ episode raised at his annual staff development interview. And boy, what a pain that annual interview was going to be. The latest Head took the concept of ‘staff development’ to new heights of torture.

He wandered down the corridor, following the route that June had taken a few minutes earlier, and stopped outside a door that was half ajar. Poking his head inside, he called out “Cuppa?” and looked around the room. Its occupant sat at a large oval table, around which were positioned four comfortably upholstered chairs. On the table were two piles of essays, their bright orange coversheets winking up at him. He groaned inwardly. The Mad Professor was making good progress. At this rate she’d be finished by late afternoon. Her weekend wasn’t in danger of dissolving into hours of marking and endless cups of strong coffee.

He lifted his eyes from her bent figure and took in the office. The room was three times the size of his rat-hole, with large open windows that faced into the quadrangle. Neat bookcases lined the walls and beneath one window stood an L-shaped desk on which was placed a brand-new laptop with a large free standing monitor. He glimpsed the digital era, the future. He sighed. With an office this size he wouldn’t be haunted by towers of mouldering essays. His problems would be solved, he thought, with a bigger office and better furniture. He also noticed that the Professor’s office chair was much more comfortable compared to his stock standard issue. Within the University of Hope, hierarchy and power were inordinately clear in the politics of office furniture and reserved car parking. There’s nothing like the public service to let you know your rank and number, he thought.

“Yes, please.” The bright voice jolted him back to the present. But thoughts of the two of them having a nice cosy chat, spiced with the latest faculty gossip, in the university’s espresso bar, The Frothy Cap, were immediately dispelled. The Mad Professor proffered her mug and glanced back down at the letter in front of her. “Chinese tea would be great.” He took the mug and headed back down the corridor to the staff tearoom, emerging a few minutes later with a tea for the Mad Prof and a strong flat white for himself.

“Nose to the grindstone,” he remarked as he carefully placed the mug of hot tea on a drink coaster emblazoned with the University’s crest which featured some incomprehensible Latin and an open book with the curious absence of any writing. A graduand’s future yet to be written, thought the Adventure Doctor. Nora barely looked up from the pile. “Mmm,” she murmured. And then, as Steve reached the door and was about to leave, she lifted her head and gave him a smile that creased the lines around her blue-grey eyes, half hidden behind bright pink glasses. “Thanks darling, see you at five?” That smile sustained him all the way back to his office and spurred him on as he began to attack the pile of student essays teetering on the chair beside his desk. The Adventure Doctor definitely wanted his weekend clear. He planned to take Nora mountain biking.

Steve was so intent on getting through the pile that he barely noticed the hours slipping by. When he heard the Professor gently knocking on his door at a quarter to four, he was surprised, not only by the speed with which he had worked his way through the marking, but by the early hour. They didn’t normally leave work before five, even on a Friday. “What’s up?” he queried as she squeezed through the door, trying not to touch any of the essay towers just in case she started a domino effect. He marvelled at how such a small, fine boned woman could be so clumsy. It wouldn’t be the first time his wife had knocked over one of his towers.

“The Nomad Connector Grants are out,” she announced enthusiastically.

A confused look passed across his face. “The what?”

“You know, the initiative set up by the Australasian Research Council to study ageing brains.”

“Can you refresh my memory, it’s currently full.” He chuckled to himself. “Hang on, ah, yes, it’s all coming back to me now, the opportunity of a lifetime,” he commented still not fully convinced. He had some vague notions of a grant scheme they had discussed, a joint venture with Lotterys Are Us & The Oz Council of The Ageing, to encourage greater linkage between academics and the real world. As if, he thought sarcastically at the time.

“Remember, the dream project. I can’t believe it. It was so competitive. So many worthy applicants, I didn’t think we had a chance. It’s amazing. I’m so excited I could do a little jig.” With that she attempted a very constrained, almost imperceptible happy dance while glancing nervously around the room. “Well, I would if I didn’t think I’d get buried under a pile of papers and never get to do the research,” she laughed.

The Adventure Doctor was still plainly confused. His mind was elsewhere trying to join unrelated dots. As always, he was working on several ideas at once and couldn’t keep them in order. He was a big believer in chaos theory.

“Just rewind there a bit. Do you mean that grant idea we talked about where you and I would get paid to drive around Australia in a caravan doing action research interviewing grey nomads for five years? Don’t tell me the grant proposal we submitted actually got up?”

The traffic light in the Adventure Doctor’s mind was turning from red to green. Steve and Nora wanted to pursue cutting edge social research on seniors. They brainstormed a research grant application looking into the Australian grey nomad phenomena. This incredibly important area of research was gaining more prominence in the media as the population aged. Societies were undergoing tremendous demographic shifts as people became more mobile and lived longer.

“Of course, darling. It was a terrific idea. The Nomad Connector Grants are designed to encourage in-depth social research on seniors. And grey nomads, seniors who travel around the country in recreational vehicles like mobile homes and trailers or caravans, are a key target segment that the Oz Council of the Ageing wants to know more about. I know you were sceptical about the whole thing but I just had a hunch that the timing was right so I submitted the grant proposal about six months ago in both our names. And now it seems we’ve been successful. They want us to go and do research on the Baby Boomers.”

“Blooming Boomers, here we come,” exclaimed the Adventure Doctor. Miracles actually did happen. Steve often felt that grant success was like spinning the roulette wheel in Vegas. He was a born sceptic and despite the claims of rigorous selection processes and merit it all came down to a roll of the dice, which in his opinion, were loaded. He knew how committees worked, a wink and a nod, you were either in favour or out. It also helped if you were female these days, he thought. Despite what Nora said, men were definitely on the out as well.

The penny finally dropped. Steve was born again and with a resounding “Hallelujah,” the Adventure Doctor threw caution to the wind. He jumped up from behind his desk, grabbed the Mad Professor about the waist and swung her around the room. They both laughed hysterically as the essay towers tumbled about their feet.

Steve was over the moon, his shackles had been broken. Nora was a little more circumspect. New opportunities could be mixed blessings. When he finally placed her feet back on the ground the room looked like a tornado had swept through it. As she rubbed the small bruises already forming under her shins, the Mad Professor wryly smiled. “Now all we need is a large skip bin and we can hit the road.”

The Adventure Doctor stopped. He wasn’t so sure. He surveyed the carnage around them. “Oops,” he conceded. “There are still a few unmarked essays under there somewhere. Ah, what the heck! Let the archaeologists dig them out in years to come. It will give them something to do. They might even write up an award winning journal article about the experience.” And on that note Steve locked the door behind them and vowed never to look back.

Chapter 2

Australia, like the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, was witnessing the emergence of a new class of retirees. The post-World War II Baby Boomers were fitter, healthier and had more disposable income than their parents. It was their time in the sun and many were making the most of their freedom by travelling within their own countries in recreational vehicles or RVs. In many countries, these Boomers were at the forefront of a new social movement. Variously referred to as grey nomads, silverbirds, or snowbirds, they had become a tectonic social and political force.

Caravan and RV parks and rest stops along roadsides were filling up with grey nomads towing massive caravans or driving flash mobile homes the size of trucks. The variety of RV configurations was astounding; it included buses, camper vans, trailers, fifth wheelers, tray-ons, pop-ups, and pop-outs, to name a few. They seemed to be everywhere. The caravan and outdoor recreation industry had never seen better days; rivers of gold were flowing over the countryside.

Nora and Steve had driven straight into this revolution with their research project. It was now May, the end of the Australian autumn, and the Duo were six months into their research grant. They were currently driving through Queensland, Australia’s second largest state and were following the grey nomads north for the winter. Like their American snowbird counterparts, Aussie grey nomads followed the sun. In the southern hemisphere, their journey took them north for the winter. Nora and Steve’s journey had taken them from the wide sandy beaches of the Gold Coast towards the spectacular Great Barrier Reef. They had already travelled over a thousand miles along the Queensland coast. Along the way they stopped at rest stops and camp grounds to observe and speak to grey nomads. They were collecting data about the grey nomad lifestyle and their database was growing with characters and issues.

“The cherries almost killed me!” exclaimed Norm, a grey nomad who had been travelling around Australia for several years following the fruit picking trail.

Steve looked surprised.

“Chemical sprays,” alleged Norm shrugging his shoulders.

“Bananas can also be lethal. My wife Bev almost got clobbered over the head by a clump the other day. I reached up with my hatchet to remove a bunch when the whole lot suddenly fell towards her,” Norm explained. He seemed to enjoy recounting some of their near-death experiences. Nothing cosy about that thought Nora.

“Grapes are safer,” remarked Bev. “Tasty too,” confirmed Norm with a glow on his face.

Despite the hazards of fruit picking Bev and Norm were relishing their life on the road as they travelled around Australia in their caravan. They had left their city lives behind and were now part of the grey army roaming the country picking up casual work to fund their lifestyle. They were part of a network of retirees connected by a way of life. Membership to this club was not based, as the name suggested, just on the colour of their hair, but rather by their mode of transport. There were hundreds of thousands of grey nomads criss-crossing the country in all manner of RVs. Nora and Steve had momentarily joined their ranks.

Nora was enjoying life on the road. Like her research subjects she was busy experiencing the many benefits of the grey nomad lifestyle. This included developing recipes to cook on her Weber Q Barbeque, knitting her signature woollen knee rugs, and doing word brain puzzles. The latter was a strategy to keep her little grey cells full of life. Steve was also living the ultimate dream away from the classroom. He loved outdoor adventure; his days were spent fishing, hunting, mountain biking, and bushwalking. And of course they also kept up their research work, writing papers and attending RV and caravan shows.

One night, Steve and Nora found themselves at a secret fishing location, so secret that Nora thought for a while that they were lost and completely off the map. This was all compliments of Jack, a grey nomad who had passed the information on to Steve at the Big Mango rest stop near Bowen. Jack was a jovial bloke who swore on his life that the fish were there just waiting to be caught. “X marks the spot,” he affirmed. Unfortunately his verbal mud map was as clear as mud but Steve was determined to find the spot.

Nora sat quietly admiring the surrounds of her bush camp location working on her crossword puzzle. “Three across, six letters, involuntary spasm, starts with T,” pondered Nora out aloud while tapping her pencil on the puzzle. There came a sound from the bush. She looked up from her camp chair and spied Steve emerging from the thick scrub. He was returning from fishing.

“You should have seen the one that got away, it was a monster barra,” claimed Steve brandishing his fishing rod and tackle. He motioned with his arms the supposed length of the barramundi, Australia’s prized seafood delicacy.

“Ginormous.”

“Yes dear, I’m sure it was,” praised Nora as she looked at Steve.

“This is the life,” rejoiced Steve with a renewed sense of purpose and started to whistle.

“I told you it was going to be a change for the better,” responded Nora cheerfully.

It was hard to beat freshly caught fish cooked on the barbie. Nora was very happy with her Weber Q. It acted as a very effective oven and the barra Steve caught was cooked to perfection. It was a night to remember!

The next day Nora and Steve decided to move to a new location. After packing away the fishing gear, portable camp chairs and barbeque, Steve and Nora waved goodbye to their secret little fishing camp and hit the road. Their fishing detour had been a success.

Steve’s most important duty was towing their off-road caravan, fondly christened Mad Maxxy, from one location to the next. Steve was relishing the role of road warrior. He had all the four-wheel drive gadgets and equipment. On occasion, however, Nora had to bring him back to earth. Honking on the horn and exchanging hand signals was not really what Nora wanted to see from Steve. She knew he was prone to outbursts of road rage and rule bending. This behaviour was not necessarily a bad thing but it did complicate things that did not need complication.

“Now you listen to me, I want you to adopt a defensive driving policy,” instructed Nora. “There are plenty of lunatics on the road and we don’t want to become another road statistic.”

Steve turned and looked at her. “Don’t you know that offence is the best form of defence,” replied Steve as he hit the accelerator pedal.

Nora shook her head and frowned at him.

“And put your glasses on so you can actually see the road,” she fired off as a final salvo.

Steve pulled a face.

Nora’s reputation as The Mad Professor was justly warranted. Steve put it down to the early research work she did, before university ethics committees existed, where she conducted social experiments investigating authority and power in organisational settings. Her most famous social experiment was to do with the administration of electric shocks by one group of volunteers who were labelled as managers to another group, the workers. Fortunately, the electric shock transmitter was a fake and an actor played the part of the shocked worker. Her experiments were designed to see how far managers, both male and female, would go in dispensing an electric shock to employees who provided incorrect answers in a verbal test. When the results were published in the journal, Pushing Boundaries in Sociology, it caused a sensation. It had made her career and she sky rocketed to the top in her field. Nonetheless, from that day onward she was often referred to as The Mad Professor by the detractors amongst her colleagues. Steve, however, used it as a term of endearment even though at times he felt Nora was giving him the shock treatment.

After a long day on the road, Steve and Nora pulled into a rest stop just off the Bruce Highway. Mad Maxxy served as their mobile home and research headquarters. Every situation was an opportunity to learn more about humanity. A group of grey nomads had already assembled for the night and someone had started a fire. It looked like a lovely evening for a campfire. However, it very quickly became a scene from Burning Man. A group of oddballs had assembled for a sit-in around the campfire which was quickly turning into a raging bonfire. The flames leapt several metres into the air. The fire came perilously close to spreading into the surrounding bushland.

“How am I going to toast my marshmallows in that inferno?” uttered Steve to Nora. “Just have a look at what those clowns are doing. I think we might have to call the fire brigade soon. Or just evacuate altogether.”

Nora looked out from their caravan and studied the scene.

“Should I get my hockey stick?” asked Steve getting fired up.

Luckily Nora could see some older and wiser nomad types getting the fire back under control.

“It’s OK Steve, the tribe has spoken and order is being restored.”

Nora breathed a sigh of relief. Steve was prone to act on impulse and was susceptible to occasional emotional outbursts. There was the case of honking his car horn even when no one was around. He also talked to himself. Sometimes he shouted out at no one in particular. Nora had noticed that this tendency was lessening as Steve got older. The beast within was being restrained. Steve was a complex guy, a case study yet to be completed. But Nora was working on him.

Steve’s mantra of “just let it go” was helping. “Who will care or remember in a hundred years from now?”

Still, the heavy-duty steel crow-bar and the kookaburra branded hockey stick that Steve carried around in their car, hidden for emergencies, were a slight concern. Despite Steve’s placid outward appearance and affinity for birds Nora kept an eye out for the lurking beast. Thank goodness common sense had prevailed and the gun laws in Australia were quite stringent.

“Is there anything I should know?” Nora would often ask Steve.

“No, not really, you know it all already Professor,” responded Steve with a big smile.

Chapter 3

The next morning, after driving for a couple hours, Steve pulled into a small country town for a short break. As he drank his coffee in a local park, Steve started reading the local newspaper he had bought at their last pit stop. The Federal Government’s annual budget was about to be announced. The government was considering cuts to pensions, education, health, and roads. The usual suspects, thought Steve. No surprises there. The federal budget was in deficit, big time. There was speculation that the government was going to print more money to try and solve the problem, again. The news was all gloom and doom. Steve looked at the current interest rates on deposits in the financial section.

“Don’t torture yourself Steve,” insisted Nora. “It’s out of our control.”

“I can’t believe this. Soon interest rates will be down to zero, what then? Are the banks going to go into negative rates and penalise people for saving? What parasites.” And with that parting remark Steve put the paper in the nearest trash bin and started to prepare for departure. He did some light stretching and psyched himself up for the journey ahead. Time to hit the road again and re-engage in the combat zone that was the Bruce Highway.

Nora’s mobile phone rang an hour later.

“Hello, this is Nora,” she answered.

It was a long conversation but a most worthwhile conversation from what Steve could gather. He had missed the last part because he was too busy honking his horn at the crazy drivers he encountered.

“Did you say YES,” Steve demanded rather frantically as he turned his attention momentarily back to Nora.

“Just keep your eyes on the road,” she ordered.

Evidently the news had spread about the dynamic Duo’s grey nomad research project and a range of other funding bodies wanted to get in on the action. This time it was a tourism organisation calling for the Duo’s assistance. In these times of global economic stagnation, Nora and Steve were not averse to other sources of income to help fund what was clearly important and tangential research. The caravan and car required servicing after all and the nomad research grant could only go so far. So an all-expenses paid trip, by Tourism Forever Incorporated, to Cape York Peninsula was too good to refuse.

“Tell me, did you say yes?” Steve asked in a more measured tone.

“You know what happens to politicians, who confuse an incredibly generous offer with a sense of misplaced entitlement, don’t you?” Nora said to Steve sternly.

“But I feel entitled,” replied Steve sarcastically. He’d heard the stories about politicians going on study visits to China compliments of the Chinese Government.

“But this is not China, it’s just Cape York and I’m going,” stated Steve petulantly.

Nora tried to explain to Steve that there was no such thing as a free lunch. Unfortunately Steve had already started eating, he was hungry. Nora rolled her eyes. Mind you, it was a great offer, she thought.

“Yes,” she finally pronounced to Steve’s delight. “Looks like we are making a side-trip to Cape York. But if the cow dung hits the fan you are going to the slammer. I know nothing,” she proclaimed with a sinister laugh.

Tourism Forever Incorporated wanted Nora and Steve to find out more about the motivations of birdwatchers who visited the northern most part of Australia. In particular, they wanted the Duo to examine international birdwatching visitor trends to enable a better understanding of the so-called ‘Experience Seeker’ market and their reasons for coming to Australia. Nora and Steve enjoyed birdwatching so the idea of joining an all-expenses paid professionally run birdwatching tour sounded like a great opportunity. In their experience, using the services of an expert guide certainly helped when it came to finding rare or elusive species. There is nothing worse than being eaten alive by mosquitoes and spending hours hiding out looking for a particular bird in the wrong location. Nora was particularly excited that this trip was being hosted by Simon Acton, an internationally renowned birder who specialised in trips to Cape York. In birding circles, he was known as the Birdman of the Cape, the David Attenborough of birds.

“This is going to be a tour to remember,” avowed Nora winking at Steve.

One of the first research papers to emerge from the Duo’s grey nomad project focused on the popularity of birdwatching amongst grey nomads. Part of the appeal was that it required little in the way of equipment. Lots of grey nomads carried at least one pair of binoculars, a camera with a zoom lens, and a field guide. It was also becoming more common to see Baby Boomers with birding apps loaded on to their tablets or smartphones. Armed with these simple pieces of equipment, and lots of time on their hands, grey nomads from all walks of life were enjoying a spot of twitching.

One of the things that had astounded Steve in his interviews with grey nomads was how competitive some of them were when it came to birdwatching. Some people took it very seriously. The list of equipment and accessories was incredible. And pricey. Accessories were a marker of difference between amateurs and professionals, like badges of honour. Binoculars, lenses, tripods, cameras, spotting scopes, software, and vests had all become status symbols in the birding world. Some birders were obsessed with finding as many rare birds as possible, whilst others were fixated on finding a particularly elusive bird. The rarer the bird the better. Heaven help the novice birder who stood in their way.

Birdwatching was an activity that Nora and Steve could both do together and it often enabled better outcomes. Two heads are better than one, or so the theory goes. Steve had observed that birdwatching was an enjoyable activity but, as with everything in life, it could sometimes be quite frustrating. Just as Steve would put the binoculars to his eyes the bird would fly away.

Fortunately, Nora had an infinite reservoir of patience and she had a very good eye for detail. This made her an excellent birder. In contrast, Steve was a big picture man; he liked to see the forest for the trees. The fine detail of a ‘beetle-brow’ on a brown goshawk when compared to a collared sparrowhawk was lost on him.

Steve however had a different gift. Joining unrelated dots was his speciality. But due to his temperament he was often blinded by a blizzard of emotion. Steve had bad teeth. Often the pain was manifest as a dreaded toothache, and he was unable to see the forest let alone the trees. Nevertheless, he possessed an uncanny ability to amass and retain in his memory a collection of insignificant details about different kinds of birds. This ability came in handy when birdwatching and Nora was frequently surprised by the esoteric facts that Steve casually dropped into their animated conversations.

“Do you know what the palm cockatoo sounds like?” boasted Steve.

“No,” replied Nora surprised.

“Kweet-kweet,” screeched Steve as he let go of the steering wheel and began moving his arms in deep slow beats like wings.

Nora was speechless. She was trying to recall if Steve had been in some social experiments back in the seventies that she had missed.

A colourful grey nomad and twitcher going by the name of Ted had remarked to Nora that “Birders ranged from normal everyday reasonably-minded people to psychopaths.” Nora had pondered this statement. She knew that what was normal to one person could be crazy to another. She only had to think of her colleagues at the university. Sometimes she didn’t even have to go that far. She looked across at Steve seated behind the driver’s wheel and grinned as they drove along the Bruce Highway heading for the Australian tropics.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Life is a collection of short stories that add up to one epic tome. I have had a variety of life and career experiences, awards, and qualifications, and even a hall of fame induction. Each of these were stories in themselves, but life moves on. Change is constant. In my writing career I have mostly published scientific articles in peer reviewed journals. All pretty boring compared to mystery crime writing. It's a lot more fun - if you don’t mind the dead bodies and stay detached!

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
The novel is more than just a murder mystery about obsessed birdwatchers. It is an exploration of obsessive behaviour. We all have it to varying degrees. It just manifests itself in different ways. In a cozy, obsession is often deadly. Thank goodness it's just on paper, oops, I mean digital.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
The hardest part is knowing when to finish. How much is too much or not enough? Scenes, plot, characters. Editing can be an endless process. When do you decide it is ready? I find that setting a deadline can help. And stick to it. In my case NaNoWriMo provided that push I needed to get it done.
Q. This book is part of a series, tell us about your series.
A.
The series is about the Mad Professor and the Adventure Doctor. Two amateur sleuths who have joined the ranks of Australia's "grey nomads" and travel around Australia in a caravan. They happen to get into all sorts of murky situations which requires them to solve some pretty wicked mysteries.

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