'Last century Charles Darwin set out on a voyage in the Beagle that would change forever the way human history was viewed. It was on this voyage that Darwin collected the information that gave birth to his controversial Theory of Evolution.
'This is a novel of scientific discovery, of religious faith, of masters and servants, and of the endless wonder of the natural world. But its greatest triumph is Covington himself, the boy who looked up at the beckoning figure of a yellow-haired Christian in the stained glass window in his boyhood church of Bedford, and sought to follow.
'He leaves Bedford as a lad of 13 and goes to sea with the evangelical sailor John Phipps and becomes one of Phipps' 'lads'. But Phipps' catechising can't repress Covington's passage into manhood, nor prevent him chasing the exotic native maidens of Tierra del Fuego. When next he returns to sea it is to serve on the Beagle.
'Mr Darwin's Shooter re-creates the voyage of the Beagle, where Covington spends time exploring – and collecting specimens – inland. And we travel on to the Galapagos Islands, with their huge turtles and armadillos and remarkable finches. Years later, in Sydney's Watson's Bay in beset middle age, Covington awaits the arrival of the first copy of Darwin's The Origin of Species, which contains the scandalous theory of evolution. What part of his life might be in it? What truths may it contain? How can one man absorb the meaning of Creation?' (Publication summary)
'The Australian writer Roger McDonald is the author of ten novels, two novelisations from and for film scripts, two television scripts, one semi-fictionalised memoir, a collection of essays, and two volumes of poetry. His publication record spans half a century from the late 1960s up until the late teens with his tenth novel, A Sea Chase, published in 2017. His books have achieved a significant record in the Australian list of literary awards and he has gone close to breaking into the major international prizes that distinguish the transnational careers of other contemporary Australian writers such as Thomas Keneally, Peter Carey, David Malouf, and, more recently, Kate Grenville. McDonald’s work has been published in London and New York as well as in the key metropolitan markets of his native Australia, and it has been translated into Spanish, German, and Swedish. 1915, his first novel, was adapted into an Australian Broadcasting Commission television series, which was shown on Australian screens in the early 1980s and distributed internationally.
'McDonald writes about ordinary characters whose lives have often been overtaken by historical forces they do not understand and cannot control. These men and women are commonly defined by whom they know and what they do rather than through the display of extraordinary qualities of mind, sensibility, or virtue. McDonald often situates his characters’ within foundational Australian historical periods such as the convict period, frontier settlement, the development of the pastoral industry, the Great War, the Golden Age of Aviation, and the Second World War and its aftermath. This later post-war period saw the transformation of Anglo-Celtic Australia by waves of initially southern and eastern European migration, followed by Asian and indeed wider international migration. The emerging multicultural character of the country coincided with the decline of rural Australia and the pastoral industry as the preferred locations for representative Australian types and values. These events or periods are well entrenched within the public memory of a White Australia and that enables McDonald to explore his characters’ search for purpose and fulfillment within the mythological registers of his nation’s postcolonial history.
'This study focuses on the books (five novels and the fictionalised memoir) in which McDonald has decided to situate his characters’ search for purpose and well-being within the mythological registers of colonial history. It explores McDonald’s investments in story and his developments in idiom and literary form, as endeavors to engage a wider public in the problem of postcolonial settlement. The common narrative problem is the elusiveness of a condition of Being that is well settled in the web of social, cultural, and environmental connections that are necessary for dwelling. McDonald pursues the possibilities for a wider more satisfying sense of human connection but his representations of the common man under the conditions of postcolonial modernity never allow that to come easily.'