James Cook University graduate, award-winning author and Queensland Magistrate Cathy McLennan’s book “Saltwater” has drawn strong reader interest since its release in August.
The non-fiction thriller centres around a real-life case the author became involved with the day after she started work as a lawyer with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal service in Townsville and Palm Island.
“It was a murder that occurred in the Townsville Cemetery where a 12-year-old boy – the youngest person ever charged in Australia for the crime at the time – and three other young boys stood accused,” she said.
It involves a murder trial where a 12-year-old boy – the youngest person ever charged in Australia for the crime at the time – and three other young boys stand accused.
The story is told from Ms McLennan’s point-of-view as she proves herself in court as the youngest barrister in the state at the time.
It explores her emotions as she discovers the truth is far more complex than she first thought.
Ms McLennan – winner of the 2014 Queensland Literary Award for Best Emerging Author – said she wanted to take readers on a journey behind the scenes and detail crimes committed in North Queensland, so people have a greater understanding why they occur.
“I was careful to be clear that I don’t make any judgement about how the case unfolded, it’s not a journalistic take, it’s written as a novel based on true events which I hope is a great read.”
She said the statistics show that violent crimes are the number three cause of death on Palm Island, whereas in mainland Australia the figure is so small that it doesn’t even have a bar on the graph.
“But stats are just numbers, I thought it would have more impact if I put faces to the numbers and told the stories of the real people who make up the statistics.'
“I don’t take any sides in the book as I don’t want to tell people what to think, I just want to show them the real truth of the situation.”
Ms McLennan said she has always had a keen interest in Indigenous justice issues, and moved from Townsville to Brisbane to complete a Masters of Law degree at the University of Queensland (UQ) specialising in the subject.