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Highwayman, horse-thief, bank-robber, killer … so reads the official record against the name of Ned Kelly. But he was something more than that. The highest compliment you can pay an Australian is to say he is as game as Ned Kelly, and the name carries respect for most Australians who value their freedom. It was Kelly who took the banks and conducted a long and effective war against the squatters who invaded their land and the police who chose to support them. Dressed in armour hammed out of ploughshares, Kelly and his gang made their last stand against the law at Glenrowan in Victoria, and although wounded and ill-treated by his captors he survived to be tried and hanged at the age of 26. Minutes after his death the admiration of the ordinary Australian for the name of Kelly grew fast into a symbol of the Aussie who is not to be put upon. It is not altogether in jest that he is called Australia’s patron saint. In dealing with a subject that has preoccupied him for many years, Eric Lambert has wed fiction and fact and given shape to a myth that is exciting a story as the author of Twenty Thousand Thieves has yet written.

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