Justice in Kelly Country

The Story of the Cop Who Hunted Australia’s Most Notorious Bushrangers

Monash University Publishing
Lachlan Strahan
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**Shortlisted, 2023 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, Australian History Prize**

Part way through the Jerilderie Letter, Ned Kelly accused Senior Constable Anthony Strahan of threatening him: ‘he would not ask me to stand he would shoot me first like a dog’. Those few fateful words have echoed through Australian history as the cause of much bloodshed and violence. They marked Anthony forever and ushered in a national myth: the legend of the Kelly Gang.

Two days after Anthony allegedly made this threat, Ned and his gang shot dead several police in an act of brutality that became known as the Stringybark Creek killings. Ned’s reason for opening fire? He said he had mistaken one cop for Strahan.

Lachlan Strahan, Anthony’s great-great-grandson, grew up with the familiar story of Ned Kelly, the egalitarian rebel, and his ancestor as the villainous cop who had threatened him. Yet as he began to probe into Anthony’s life, he discovered that the truth — and the Kelly legend it has given rise to — was more complex than he believed. Anthony Strahan was a boy from County Kildare who joined the Victoria Police and embodied the thin blue line of law and order in the bush for nearly thirty-five years. He was also possessed of a fiery temper and a desire for justice, and was a major player in the hunt for Ned Kelly, though never recognised for it. Did he utter those incendiary words about Ned? Whose version of history do we believe?

This is a tale about law enforcement — about justice and retribution, character and morality. It is also about making a life against the odds in a wild frontier society, race relations, intergenerational shame and anger. Readers will learn more about the Kelly Gang, the Wooragee Outrage, Saucy Jack, a game called Swindle, the Pender Affair and many other criminals, some petty and some villainous. They will strap in for a damn good ride.

‘This is a fascinating and original history, taut and suspenseful, written with subtlety and flair.’ — Tom Griffiths

‘Lachlan Strahan brings to life a lost world of rural Victoria in the era of gold-seeking, free selection and bushranging.’ — Frank Bongiorno

'...a fascinating book' — Eureka Street

'a rewarding, yet unusual retelling of the Ned Kelly story' — History News

‘A brilliant and original window into the Kelly Outbreak — of the hunter rather than just the hunted.’ — Janet McCalman

Contributor Bio

Lachlan Strahan is the current Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands. His first book, Australia’s China, has become one of the standard works on Australia–China relations. His second, Day of Reckoning, traced a series of crimes in Papua New Guinea after World War II and was shortlisted for the 2006 NSW Premier’s Australian History Prize.