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Morgan's Run Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 29, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 195 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Take a long voyage deep into the 18th century with Colleen McCullough, a novelist for readers with a big appetite for historical slices of life. In Morgan's Run, her mild-mannered hero is a Bristol tavern owner's son with a God-given gift for crafting the Brown Bess flintlock musket. This is handy, because England plans to employ it to put down the mutinous American colonies. McCullough knows this firearm right down to the last flange and frizzen spring--how its .753-inch ball shatters bones and butchers bellies and how you have to work up a mouthful of spit, then bite the paper containing the powder to moisten and rupture it before firing. And like a master gunsmith, McCullough assembles all the elements necessary to give the novel flash and impact: rogues and heroes, salty dialect, period detail, vicious intrigue, comic relief, betrayal, and unexpected romance.

She also knows just how her master of the crafts of tavern-keeping and musket-making would fit into the vast mechanism of history as the American victory wrecks Britain's economy and forces the crown to send convicts elsewhere. Richard gets a job with a rum distillery, but his sharp-eyed efficiency undoes him: one day he finds "a number of pipes hidden among festoons of spider-web," one of which is diverting 800 gallons a week to dodge taxes, a hanging offense. He unwisely reports this, which lands him in a net of corruption. Soon he is sentenced to various convict ships anchored in England, and then to a slave ship bound for Botany Bay in the new penal colony, Australia. But save your pity! Richard rises to the terrible occasion. "Prison had given him a star to steer by, and his own will had swelled sails he did not even know he possessed."

Though McCullough doesn't quite reach the literary heights of Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander or Robert Hughes's The Fatal Shore, she shares some of their virtues. Morgan's Run is a good old-fashioned adventure novel with the unflagging energy and raffish cast of an action movie. She considered calling it Morgan's Dirty Dozen, and it would have lived up to that title, too. --Tim Appelo

From Publishers Weekly

HMcCullough's narrative skills are fully displayed in this intricately researched, passionate epic of 18th-century England's colonization of Australia, in which an upright Bristol tavernkeeper, Richard Morgan, becomes one of the first British convicts to be sent to the rugged new prison colony of Botany Bay. It is not enough that Morgan is struggling with grief, having lost his wife and two children in three separate tragedies. He discovers that his employer is scamming the government of excise taxes, but when he reports the fraud, he becomes the target of the distiller's revenge. Framed for robbery and extortion, he is arrested and thrown into prisonDa hellish pit of overcrowding, disease and filthDthen convicted and sentenced to seven years transportation on the infamous slaver ships bound for Australia; the success of the American Revolution has closed the New World to England's unwanted population. During the horrific sea journey, Morgan becomes a leader among the men, protecting handsome Fourth Mate Stephen Donovan (called a Miss Molly by the crew), and forging a friendship that will last a lifetime. Once in Port Jackson (later Sydney), Morgan becomes indispensable as a skilled worker and master gunsmith. He is soon moved to spectacular Norfolk Island, where there is fertile soil, food aplenty and happiness in love. Summoning the intimate acquaintance with her native Australian landscape familiar to readers of The Thorn Birds, and the mastery of meticulous detail that distinguishes her series on Roman history (Caesar, etc.), McCullough blends local color, extraordinary characters, ethnic tensions (between Irish, Scots, Welsh and Englishmen), grand descriptive passages and even seamen's thick dialects into a complex, consistently entertaining narrative. The strength and resilience of her unforgettable hero makes this animated tale one of McCullough's best to date. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (August 29, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684853299
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684853291
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.7 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (195 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,294,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By James on September 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
At the pagecount 220, when Richard Morgan is surprised at his own eloquence, I am caught in surprise at hers, although I ought not be. For I have known her work these two decades, and there is none better now writing in the English tongue.
Colleen McCollough has both a voice and an ear; when she writes, you can hear her characters, and what she writes, you can her own voice, her own very active mind at work -- and at play. When I first read The Thorn Birds, what surprised me most was her voice; it was the first time I ever read a writer that didn't write in American English or even British English, her syntax and rhythms had an element all its own, it was my introduction to a distinctive AUSTRALIAN English (this was the mid-70's, before even Crocodile Dundee, after all).
Once again, she hits the nail right on the head with Morgan's Run. It's exciting to read, you fly right through the book. What amazes me, though, is the level of research she does for every page she writes. You can tell just from the maps and illustrations in each one of her books she's done her homework, and made it so interesting, to boot.
When I read CREED FOR THE THIRD MILLENNIUM, I wound up infuriated by it. After reading Creed, I realized how tired I was of people following or searching for "a philosophy worth dying for." What I wanted was a philosphy worth living for. Richard Morgan is, in many ways, the opposite number to that novel's J.C. -- he puts his nonverbalized view of life into practice, into action, and Colleen McCollough takes you along on his journey.
There are many sly little touches tossed off throughout.
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Format: Hardcover
Having read all but two of her books, I am still an avid Colleen McCullough fan, after having just completed her latest, "Morgan's Run." I have never been disappointed in anything she has written, for this author has a rare gift for both seeing into the depths of the human soul, understanding all the sociological, anthropological, medical and legal aspects of the history she so fastidiously studies to present us with these flawless books. The Masters of Rome series is the most insightful and thorough work I have read on that era in human history, and I was a bit resentful when the final volume was set aside to write this book first. However, now that she promises it will be two volumes to complete that series, I am happier again. With this book I had the same feeling that I always experience with her writing: "It can't stop here...I want more of the ongoing story as only she can tell it!" So her closing promise that we would learn more of Richard Morgan and Norfolk Island really gladdened my heart. Perhaps the majority of us knew little of the terrible experiment that created the penal colony of Australia, and nothing of this tiny island, and we can now appreciate more fully the strength of those castaways who created such flourishing new colonies. Thank you, Colleen McCullough, for some of the best reading I have ever enjoyed. Keep them coming!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was very bored while reading the first hundred pages of this book. Then, I was somewhat bored reading until Richard Morgan gets arrested. After that I was interested, but not fascinated. Once the ships headed for Australia though, I was hooked.

This book is about Colleen McCullough's real life great great, grandfather, Richard Morgan, who was arrested in England under false charges so he couldn't testify against a powerful man who he had caught avoiding taxes. From his place in prison, which is overcrowded thanks to the revolutionary war in America which caused a halt on sending convicts out of the British Isles, Morgan is placed on a prison hulk in the Thames. This is a grand experiment, to see if old slaving boats can work well as prisons without taking up land space. From there, Morgan, along with several other healthy convict buddies, are loaded into a somewhat better ship, and sailed off to the newly discovered Australia, known then as New South Wales. In this way, England solved its prison problem, and colonized a new continent ahead of the Dutch.

I'm sure a lot of the book is family legend about Richard Morgan's real life deeds, but I don't care. This book is a fascinating, brutal slice of real history and an amazing look at a man who will do whatever it takes to survive. Even if Richard Morgan tends to be a little cardboard like, his story and friends who are full of color make up for it. This book turned me on to a whole new area in history, and I'm extremely disappointed there are no other such books about the colonization of Australia.

If you're thinking about reading this, do. It's slow going to the start, but more than worth it in the end. I know it's a book I'll read year after year.

Five stars all the way.
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Format: Hardcover
.... you'll have a splendid time learning about life in England and New South Wales during the 1780's. McCullough is a teacher with a gift for writing and I had a great time with the story. Not as scholarly as the Masters of Rome Series, but I'm guessing her publisher insisted upon her producing something that appeals to a wider market. I have a new appreciation for the Australian's and was shocked to learn about the unfairness of the English court system during those times. This will be a great follow-up to the summer Olympics ... get a glimpse of that beautiful harbor as it was 220 years ago and let the spirit of Richard Morgan inspire you in the same way that some of your favorite athletes have!
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