Outback crime through local’s eyes

Mount Marshall man Ken Sykes released his first novel at the Outback Writers Festival in late June. Picture: JESS BAKER

By Jess Baker

A Southern Downs man has released his first novel, a tale of Australian rural crime and a nod to his own personal experience in the police force.

64-year-old Ken Sykes officially launched ‘Reasonable Force – Crime in the Outback’ last month at the Outback Writers’ Festival in Winton, and said he had since received excellent feedback.

Though the book is his first novel, the Mount Marshall author is no stranger to writing and released a ‘how-to’ guide to training working dogs in 2019 titled, ‘Think like a Canine’.

Ken said writing fiction was a very different experience to writing non-fiction and involved “a lot of false starts and a lot of rewrites”.

He said ‘Reasonable Force’ was “loosely based” on his experience in the police force, working in the Western Downs in the 1960s and 1970s.

“I was brought up in the Brisbane Valley, joined the police force at 19, (and) resigned after 13 years,” Ken said.

“… it’s fiction, it’s loosely based on things that actually happened over a 13-year period that I’ve condensed down to 12 months.

“Fictional characters, fictional settings, based on actual happenings.”

Ken spent most of his service on the Western Downs and met his wife, Veronica Sykes (nee Philp), in Quilpie when he was 20 years old and she was 19.

Ken and Veronica went on to establish a successful Angora stud, with Ken also catching and breaking in brumbies to supplement their income.

The pair later retired to a small property in Mount Marshall, where they now run a small flock of sheep and train sheep dogs.

Ken said he hopes his new book brings joy to its readers and offers some insight into what life was like in the 1960s and 1970s for an outback policeman.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Ken has already begun writing his second novel which explores the life of a station hand.

“Sheering, breaking in horses, riding scrubbers, catching brumbies – things we’ve had a bit of experience with over the years,” he said.

Copies of Ken’s latest book are now available. Contact Ken on kwsykes@bigpond.com for $20 direct, $25 including postage, or purchase from www.outbackbooks.info.