Life lessons in the Outback and beyond | AspenTimes.com

Life lessons in the Outback and beyond

Paul Conrad

In “Four of Diamonds,” his second novel, Australian native and Glenwood Springs resident Alan Pilkington spins an enjoyable tale of an adventurous young Australian, Rex Rivington. A Melbourne native, Rex leaves home at age 17 to work in the outback as a farmhand, lumberjack, cattle driver, sheepshearer and boxer. But after returning home, a fateful card game changes his life.

The novel, told through Rivington’s son, Harry, begins with a mystery. After his father’s death, Harry discovers an old, stained and faded playing card, the four of diamonds, in a stack of photo albums locked in a safe. Perplexed as to why his father kept the card, Harry asks his mother Athele. She answers, “It’s part of what he stood for.” The story behind the playing card unfolds through the photos in the album.Rex, the father, left home to find adventure in the Australian Outback shortly after World War I. He traveled from Tasmania to northern Queensland and learned skills beyond the requirements of the jobs he held: fairness, compassion, patience, love for his fellow man and a desire to help others. Defining moments during his wanderings lead him to become a doctor, so he returns from the bush to attend medical school in Melbourne.While working as a hotel bouncer during his early years studying medicine, Rex watched poker games in the hotel gaming room. He studied the regular players and then began to sit at the tables himself. That knowledge proves valuable later, when he takes a seat at a high-stakes poker table. Needing the four of diamonds to win with a straight flush, he turns up the card and his financial worries are over. So begins another adventure. The reader needs some suprises.

Written well in Australian vernacular, the author uses wit and foreshadowing to keep the reader engaged in Rex’s life. A glossary explains Aussie terms such as jackaroo, panniken, or swagman. Each scene is written in astonishing detail to capture the heat of the Outback or the laughing kookaburra. The reader joins Pilkington in the Outback. An easy and engaging read, “Four of Diamonds” is a metaphor for life: You live with the cards you are dealt.