Sunday, 4 October 2009


This week a printer will start the presses on a vibrant new edition of "Boy on a Wire".
It will look much the same as the previous edition, but all the minor errors will be corrected and a small collection of the most perceptive of the reviews will be included in the front cover, or the back cover, or under cover.
If you already own a copy, great, well done. If not, this is the one to send to friends who have never heard of me and need some reasurance.
That's what reviews give, reassurance. They suggest the author knows what he or she is doing.
A re-print was all the reassurance I needed.
It was never going to be good enough to knock out a book and have it sit in a warehouse for the next ten years.
But the pace of the early sales did stun me, knocked me about a bit, then put a rocket under my confidence.
This will be the first re-print.
My work has only just begun.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

The boy is home

Three weeks on tour is enough to make a ground man sick and tired but luckily this man is not fully grown and although it was hectic and full on with full trams and buses and even boats there is nothing like arriving home and finding a smooth, sharkless ocean with swells to make an almost old man smile and dip.
And here I am.
The program this month includes:
Featuring: Robert Drewe, Anita Heiss, Shelly Gare, Dean Alston, Barbara Temperton, Joy Lefroy, Lara Morgan, Jim Fisher, Simon Hayes and even this blogger.
It will be fun.
Then, soon enough, SPRUNG, the word released, in ALBANY.
Some of the same as above and also:
David Malouf
Charles Firth
Maggie Beer
Scot Gardner
I could go on.
I may.
But not now.
I must away to the Albany Fresh Markets, then coffee, then lunch, then a lie down.
Oh, the life of a casual writer.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Doust heads east

Jon Doust is heading east to shove and push and generally talk up his new book, Boy on a Wire. It’s a heavy book, yet light, and easy to read.

It’s time to push. Sales are good, but could be better. Lots of folk on the eastern seaboard have not heard about it yet.

Oh yes, the reviews have been great, but how many people read them? Lots, that’s why sales increase with good reviews.

But reviews have to be accompanied by appearances, handshaking, door knocking, and annoying behaviour in order to attract attention.

That’s where Doust steps in.

Here’s his itinerary.

TUESDAY 11 August
Life Matters ABC
Radio National

With Richard Aedy


Shore Bookclub


Girls School

Bowen Library Talk
669 Anzac Parade
, Maroubra
7pm to 8pm

HURSDAY 13 August

East meets West

Canberra Writers Centre


MONDAY 17 August
774 ABC in Melbourne

With Richard Stubbs


Penguin Novel Selection Evening


TUESDAY 18 August
Melbourne Athenaeum Library
188 Collins Street,


1pm to 2pm

Thursday, 9 July 2009

oh yes, now you can listen to it

It is read by Paul English who has also read Mao's Last Dancer.

Paul's work in theatre includes twenty-five productions for the Melbourne Theatre Company, from Shakespeare's Measure for Measure to Janis Balodis' The Ghosts Trilogy; premieres of new Australian work for Playbox by Michael Gurr, Peta Murray, Rodney Hall and Nick Enright; Tom Stoppard's Arcadia with the Sydney Theatre Company; and the plays of Daniel Keene with the Keene/Taylor Project, of which he is a founding member.

Thanks, Paul.
Nice read.

More info?
Go to Fremantle Press.

Monday, 6 July 2009

THE AGE - Non-fiction, Fiona Capp, 4/7/2009

THE boarding-school experience - bullying prefects, sadistic teachers and cruel rituals - has produced some classic films and books. While there is much that is familiar about Jon Doust's recollections of ills at a West Australian grammar school in this semi-fictionalised memoir, Boy on a Wire does not simply rehash old themes. From the opening sentence, it is clear that we are in the presence of a writer with a distinctive voice and uncanny ability to capture the bewilderment and burgeoning anger of a boy struggling to remain true to himself while navigating the hypocritical system he finds himself trapped in. Accentuating the narrator's sense of failure is the fact that his older brother excels at everything he does. What saves the narrator from going under and what makes Boy on a Wire much more than a bleak coming-of-age story is Doust's sharp wit. "Justice not only prevails at Grammar School, it is rampant:' If you know an angry teenager, give this to him.

As if this review would make you buy a copy!
(But on the slim that it does, go to Fremantle Press.)

Monday, 25 May 2009


"Boy on a Wire" is still being reviewed and consistently well.
People are seeing the book all over the place and walking in on friends who are offering it to them as "a good book to read".
What does all this mean to me?
It has meant me coming to terms with the realisation I have written a better book than I thought I had written.
All right, of course, I did my very best: I slogged, I slaved, I shed tears, I sat up late and got up early.
All that is a given, but it does still not mean I have written a good book. It means I did my best. I tried my hardest. But not that I have the extra bit, the clever bit, the smart bit.
There are still others out there who are on their fourth, their fifth, their twenty fifth, most better than my first. I don't have enough time to match them.
All I have time left to do is the best I can in the time left.
Wish me luck.

Monday, 11 May 2009

The Canberra Times Review: Carrying a school boy's scars into manhood

BOY ON A WIRE. By Jon Doust. Fremantle Press. 236pp. $24.95.
Australian fiction boasts no Billy Bunter and its school stories have usually involved day, rather than boarding, establishments. Think, early on, of Ethel Turner's Seven Little Australians.
In common with at least every literature written in English, the deforming power of institutions has been a common theme in Australian writing, whether this involves the victimised children who attended Fairbridge or the domains of the Christian Brothers.
In Jon Doust's fictionalised autobiography, Boy' on a Wire, his recalcitrant hero, Jack Muir, is sent to board at the Grammar School in Perth. following his brother, the apparently impeccable Thomas, and their father.
There Jack suffers - along with most others -his share of physical abuse: bullying by older students, caning by masters, who are often summoned after hours in their shabby dressing gowns. Yet - and this is a curious and distinctive feature of Doust's novel - none of this seems much to touch Jack Muir. It is as if this account of his school days shows them to have been a period of stasis, a long interlude between childhood in rural Western Australia, and the world of work.
(The novel's postscript, "Where are they now?", shows that the main character's fate is to have become a "successful, angry journalist").
In one strand of the novel, a darker tale of school experience is related. This involves a boy who seems doomed to be picked on wherever he goes - William Broadbent (Sad) Sack. He has been moved from the care of the monks of New Norcia to the Grammar School. Eventually he confides in Jack, "They did things to boys." And he never recovers. He does not last long enough to become one of those to whom Doust dedicates his book: "To all those boys who carried their scars into manhood". Instead, moved once again, Sack kills himself in Scotland.
In Boy on a Wire, Doust refuses numerous gambits of the Bildungsronian (as the Germans ponderously style the education novel). This is not a tale of innocence lost. Although Jack conducts a querulous conversation with God for some years, he is not possessed of many illusions to shed. Most tormenting is the effortless superiority of his older brother, whose path through school to the law is never in doubt.
Nor is this a tale of sexual initiation, despite more scenes in the book taking place in the showers than the classroom. Absent from the Grammar School as well, as far as Jack is concerned, (and notwithstanding the headmaster's Speech Day boasts) is any teacher to inspire him.
Such denials of conventional expectations for the school story keep Boy on a Wire off centre. The essential dramas of Jack's life are not concerned with school, but within his family. His neurasthenic mother, who has a belated third son, has hidden from Jack all details about her father until he dies. Jack's own father is on the one hand a pillar of the community - (briefly) serving in World War II, ex-Grammarian, Rotarian, proprietor of a successful farm machinery business. Yet he clearly seeks a stronger, more emotional bond with his middle son than he can articulate, or bring into being. In the portrayal of his relationship, Doust's method is oblique and we are intrigued by what the story of father and son might have yielded but for the cultural forces by which it is stunted.
Perhaps it is because of this that at school Jack becomes a boy "who can't stop fighting back". He is rebellious, but not extravagantly so. He fights a lot - in frustration, sometimes in a desire to make up from wrongs done to others. He is very good at sport, but this is intimated by Doust and then carefully underplayed.
While Jack makes good friends, circumstances ensure that this is never for very long. School does not socialise him.
He is gregarious but solitary: just the sort of unusual student whom school reports routinely fail to describe or understand.
Boy on a Wire chooses not to be polished, or preachy. Some of the writing seems hurried and untidy. Yet the mixture of wit and resilience that Jack shows invigorates the story, down to those last two pages that dryly sketch the adult fates of those whom we have met.
Anson Cameron (Lies I Told About a Girl) and Peter Goldsworthy (in Everything I Knew) have also made rich, but very different assays of the non-Catholic school experience. In the long literary historical view - when time is given to take it - this will seem another small, but significant shift in the social reckonings that Australian fiction makes.
Peter Pierce is an honorary research
fellow and professor at the National
Centre for Australian Studies at Monash

Thursday, 23 April 2009

No less than the Sydney Morning Herald

Spectrum - Books
IN SHORT - Fiction
Reviews by Kerryn Goldsworthy
Sydney Morning HErald
18 April 2009
By Jon Doust
Fremantle Press, 240pp, $27.95

Jack Muir is a boy who believes in honesty and God but his hot temper and sense of humour often get him into trouble, especially after he is sent away from his country-town home to board at a grammar school in the city. It's Perth in the 1960s and casual violence - slappings, punchings, beatings, bullying and brawls - are a way of life, not only in boarding school but within the family itself. Even Mrs Muir is a hothead and frequently needs to be led away to a darkened room by her husband in order to calm down. Only Jack's serene older brother, Thomas, openly his parents' favourite, seems to rise above the family drama.
The story is told from the point of view of a boy bewildered not only by the apparently senseless eruptions of family violence but also by the more chillingly deliberate punishments of the schoolyard, the dormitory and the headmaster's study. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this character is the way he survives to the end of the book without sustaining any permanent physical damage. It's startling for a reader who remembers the '60s to realise how much has changed since then in our perceptions of children, of violence and of the definitions of what constitutes abuse and assault, and there are hints that the abuse of the previous generation was even worse.
Jack tells the story himself, in a slightly incredulous voice that suggests he can't quite believe the events that he is recounting and he certainly doesn't understand them. One of the things that puzzles him most is the heat of his own temper and the way it gets away from him; it's clear that in a physical fight he can give as good as he gets and more.
The novel is apparently autobiographical and is being publicised as such but Doust has done with his material what so many autobiographical novelists fail to do: he has turned it into a shapely story, with no extraneous material or diversions and with an absolutely consistent and convincing narrative voice.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Old Boy Tells Boarding School Tales

Xave Brown, legendary singer, sang "Bird on a Wire", the Leonard Cohen classic at the launch of "Boy on a Wire".

Christ Church Grammar School's Centre for Ethics recently welcomed old boy Jon Doust back to the school for the launch of his book "Boy on a Wire".

Jon, who is based in Albany, is a well-known stand-up comedian and performer and a former columnist for The West Australian. He was born in Bridgetown and was sent to boarding school at Christ Church in the early 60s. Jon said he survived the boarding experience because he was strong from chopping lots of wood on the farm and had a quick wit and sharp tongue.

“The biggest scar boarding school left on me was the scar I saw left on others,” Jon said. Dedicated to all those boys who carried their scars into manhood, he said Boy on a Wire was about an underdog who bit back.

Sent to boarding school at a young age, Jack Muir quickly has to decide who he is going to be. Will he rollover or bare his teeth at the bullies, the bullied and the boarding school? Jack gets by with a quick wit and macabre sense of humour – but not everyone is so lucky. Boy on a Wire depicts alienation and the beginnings of depression with poignancy and humour.

Jon said he always intended to write the book at some stage in his life. When the right time finally arrived it took him five years to write. “I wrote it first as a kids’ book,” he said. “Then I thought: ‘This is a cop-out. It has to be real.’ So I re-wrote it as a raw, serious book, but with lots of humour. I then let it sit for 18 months before coming back to it.”

Jon said it was up to the reader to decide how much truth was in the story. “It’s based on reality. But the reality is distorted,” he said. “I’ve taken incidents in my life and rehashed them. I take a kernel of truth and distort it to suit my bigger purpose, which in this case is making universal comment on the issues of bullying, loss of faith, depression and relationships between fathers and sons and siblings.

“I expect a lot of people will read it and see the immediate truth. Others will see a universal truth.”

And asked whether it’s a one-off, or set to be the start of a series, Jon said he wasn’t sure. “I’m thinking maybe I’ll keep Jack running. I feel I need to give Jack another adventure.”

Bird on a Wire is published by Fremantle Press.

© Christ Church Grammar School

To read the original go here: CCGS

If you want to order the book from your local here are the details:

Title: Boy on a Wire
Author: Jon Doust
Publication Year: 2009
Publisher: Fremantle Press
ISBN13 9781921361456

Or you could go here: Fremantle Press

Saturday, 4 April 2009


The author, Jon Doust, the publisher, Georgia Richter, the promoter, Chris Pash

This blogger is exhausted.
Two big launches in recent weeks - first Perth, then Albany - along with other work designed to earn enough money to sustain life and reasonable comfort, have taken their toll.
Today is Saturday April 4, 2009, and by now most bookshops will have a copy or two. At least two bookshops have already had to reorder more than once - the two that sold at the launches.
More photographs.

Two authors in one: Jon Doust with John Dowson's book and John Dowson with Jon Doust's book.
Writing a book is not easy.
And selling it, if you are the author, is no easier.
While idling down York Street, Albany, I happened upon an almost-namesake, John Dowson, whose book, Old Albany is selling like muffins.
As luck would have it, we were in the same school at roughly the same time. So he bought mine and I bought his.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Reg Cribb launches a Boy on a Wire

( If Jon were launching a book that I had penned I’m sure he wouldn’t have a speech prepared. He’d fly by the seat of his pants, coz thats what he does.. But I am a good Aquinas boy and we dont fly by the seat of our pants. )

Jon...Jon...Jon.... a brave man you are. To write this book then have the audacity to launch it at Christ Church Grammar informs me with no fear of retribution, that you have kahunas the size of a space hopper. Methinks Its the equivalent of Ian Fleming launching ‘From Russia With love’ at KGB headquarters in Moscow or Peter Benchley launching ‘Jaws’ in the shark tank at the Miami aquarium.

Jon and I met at the Sprung Writers Festival in Albany. Both the town and myself obviously made an impression on him because here I am launching his wonderful novel and now...well he calls Albany home.

Suffice to say that I dont know Jon that well but like everyone else who comes into his radius I am aware that he is an extremely funny bugger. Jon also fulfils the criterion to be a West Australian writer in that he had a rural upbringing and bears the bruises of boarding school. I can rattle off a rather long list of other WA writers with the same upbringing. It seems to be a prerequisite.

To read the rest go to the Fremantle Press blog

Monday, 16 March 2009


Boy on a Wire: Hugh Manning interviews Jon Doust

This little film was shot by Nic Spanbroek from Great Southern Grammar.
We must thank Nic for her camera work and editing and we must also thank the following:
Roger Stephensen - director.
Hugh Manning - interviewer.
Great Southern Grammar - equipment and classroom.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


Boy on a Wire will be launched next week, Thursday, March 19th, at Christ Church Grammar School, Claremont, West Australia.
Invitations have been sent.
Orders have been issued for food and wine.
Books will be available for sale.
THE GREAT NEWS IS it will be launched by West Australian playwright Reg Cribb.
Here is Reg's bio:

Reg started out life as a musician and an actor. One day he came to his senses and wrote 10 plays in seven years. His plays have been performed both nationally and internationally. He is one of the most awarded and produced playwrights in the country.

His plays include: The Return: which has been produced all over Australia and internationally as far abroad as Japan and Romania, Last Cab to Darwin: Directed by Jeremy Sims for Pork Chop Productions, which toured everywhere between The Sydney Opera House and Broken Hill and is one of the most awarded Australian plays in the last 15 years, Gulpilil: A one man show about the life of Aboriginal acting legend David Gulpilil, in which the actor played himself (Adelaide International Arts Festival 2004, Brisbane International Arts Festival 2004 and Belvoir St. Theatre – Sydney), Chatroom: Nominated for numerous awards and currently touring nationally, and Ruby’s Last Dollar: Again directed by Jeremy Sims.

Last Train To Freo, the feature film adaptation of ‘The Return’ is his first feature.

He is currently working on an adaptation of his play Chatroom to be directed by Samantha Lang and produced by Sue Taylor, and Bran Nue Dae by Jimmy Chi to be directed by Rachel Perkins. His half hour film Grange was shown on ABC T.V in 2005.

Reg lives in Bassendean, Perth with his wife Kirsty. His house is directly opposite Rolf Harris’s old primary school. He hopes the magic will one day rub off on him.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

The all important launch dates:

PERTH LAUNCH: March 19th, at Christ Church Grammar School.
Time? Good question. I'll get back to you.
ALBANY LAUNCH: April 2nd, Vancouver Arts Centre.
Time? Probably 6ish. PMish.

And one more event.

Boy on a Wire - Jon Doust in conversation with Rev Frank Sheehan.
UWA Autumn School.
Writing and Communication stream.
April 7, 6.30pm - 8pm.
Phone: 6488 2433

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

What have I done?

First review is in:

Boy on a Wire (Jon Doust, Fremantle Press, $24.95 pb, ISBN 9781921361456, April) ****

The boarding school memoir or novel is an enduring literary subgenre, from 1950s classics such as The Catcher in the Rye to Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep. Doust’s recognisably Australian contribution to the genre draws on his own experiences in a West Australian boarding school in this clever, polished, detail-rich debut novel. From the opening pages the reader is wholly transported into the head of Jack Muir, a sensitive, sharp-eyed boy from small-town WA who is constantly measured (unfavourably) against his goldenboy brother. The distinctive, masterfully inhabited adolescent narrator recalls the narrator in darkly funny coming-of-age memoir Hoi Polloi (Craig Sherborne)—as does the juxtaposition of stark naivety and carefully mined knowingness. (‘Only those who can find the mean streak in them survive.’) Jack’s heroes include Paul McCartney, Atticus Finch, Jesus, and Tom Brown. He delights in his best friend winning an ice-cream eating competition against a school bully; earns the nickname Coco’ (after the clown) on his first week at school, and makes an enemy of the headmaster with his everready wit. He fiercely adores his mother and yearns for affection from his father—a man cast in the mould of ‘real men’ like John Wayne. This is a funny and moving book by an assured new writer.
Jo Case is publications manager at Readings and
books editor of The Big Issue

Thursday, 22 January 2009

This looks interesting

In April Jon will have a discussion with Frank Sheehan, the chaplain at Christ Church Grammar school.
To find out more, go here.
Or you can read on:

Jon Doust, Author, Writer, professional speaker and big ideas inspirer, Jon talks with Frank about his new book Boy on a Wire. Sent to boarding school at a young age Jon quickly had to decide who he was going to be. Would he roll over or bare his teeth at the bullies, the bullied and the boarding school system? He got by with quick wit and an endless supply of creativity but his macabre black comedy hid a deeper vulnerability. Jon will read excerpts and talk about the journey that has lead to this poignant and humorous new novel.
092180 Tue 6.30-8pm Apr 7 $29

Friday, 16 January 2009


It looks like a book.
It feels like a book.
I'm pretty sure it is a book.
The copy the writer, this blogger, is holding is what they call an "advanced copy".
It is the copy the printer prints off and sends to the publisher to make sure all is well and that he or she can go ahead and print the next million.
We think it is ready.
We have alerted the printer.
The million are under way.
Get your pre-publication orders in now.
No don't, it will irritate the publisher and booksellers.
Because they don't have books yet and the launch is not until April.
If you like, I'll read you excerpts.