In Dropping Out, her collection of interconnected short stories, Danielle de Valera follows the fortunes of some of those who moved to the northern rivers in the 1980s and early '90s. Many were on the run from something; others were pursuing a dream. Some outran their troubles, others went under.
Among the characters are two narcotics agents, both traumatised Viet Vets, who drop out after carrying out an investigation into a heroin dealer; Azure, a free spirit; the much married, hopelessly optimistic Star and her boorish, drug-dealing husband Wayne; and Wayne's supplier, Charlie Lawson, a former professor of chemistry and ex-con. They are identifiable without being stereotypes; we've all met someof them. No punches are pulled, but the tone is largely sympathetic.
Set in Byron Shire between 1986 and 2013, the stories give us an insight into the culture of a unique place at a particular time, a time when a sleepy paradise lost itsinnocence, when Mullumbimby became the weed capital of Australia and Byron Bay began to morph into a tourist trap. Danielle de Valera, who has lived in thearea since 1977, has heeded that old maxim: write about what you know and love, and it shows.
Dr Susan Geason susangeason.com/
"Each thread of this collection is skillfully woven into an emotive tapestry that depicts the lives, loves and fates of some of the North Coast dropouts of the 1970s and 1980s, then broadens to conjure for the reader an unusual and ethereal vision of the future."
Shaune Lafferty Webb, author: Bus Stop on a Strange Loop, Cold Faith
"Ms de Valera writes with literary elegance and wit."
Rosemary Creswell, cofounder CameronCreswell Agency
"This welcome and entertaining set of stories is a penetrating evocation of the alternative culture of the past. Roaming through detailed lives of the Northern Rivers area, it is a convincingly nostalgic recollection, possibly from the inside."
Peter Baldwin, author: Curragundi Tales
"There's a sense of wonder about these unique, and sometimes whimsical stories. For this American reader, it's the feeling of being a visitor to an unfamiliar universe which manages to border and overlap the more familiar one with the humanity of its characters. Disturbingly delightful."
C.S. McClellan, author: PrivilegedLives and Other Lies
From the Author
That was the upside. The downside was the toll the countrytook on people who were unused to it, people with insufficient financialresources and little or no family support. Some made it. Others, miles fromanywhere, sometimes on foot, went down to alcohol, drugs, psychosis and/orloneliness--Australian poet Henry Lawson knew what he was talking about when hewrote in the late 1890s about "the maddening sameness of the ... trees".
The stories in this collection were written over a period oftwenty-five years. In them, I hoped to convey the sense of a particular timenow gone, and to depict just a few of the characters who adorned the Far NorthCoast in the 1980s and onwards, and the fates that befell them. There were somany wonderful characters. I couldn't portray them all. In this book, I hope Ihave managed to recreate just a few of them.D de V