The Disputed Barricade
138,000 words

It started on a rainy day in a run-down pub in a forlorn small town on the west coast of Tasmania. She had stopped out of curiosity, stayed for a drink, and fate stepped in. Virgil Conlan, battered knight in dented armor: poet, warrior and priest with a strange, inexplicable, mystic love for his Mother Earth spilled a drink on her coat, bought her lunch and so began her time as the biographer of a man who was to change her life irrevocably.

Virgil Conlan lives in a violent world. He is an environmental terrorist, although the description would bother him, for he sees himself as the protector of the world's beauty. He also knows he has a destiny he cannot escape.

The DISPUTED BARRICADE is the story of man with a mission, driven to mount a one man crusade to save the world's last great wild places from the depredations of industry. He has talked with those in power, tried reason, and having come up against a stone wall of vested interests, political obstruction and industry whose god is money, decided to get their attention the hard way and hit them where it hurts; the balance sheet.

The accidental meeting brings him love, bitter-sweet because he knows it cannot last longer than it takes him to tell his story throughout a summer at an old beach house on the wild West Coast of Tasmania.

The story is the biographer's exploration of a man: rude, sexist, domineering, at times almost mystical, a contrary man, and yet capable of extraordinary tenderness, inter spaced with four action chapters in which he successfully sabotages an off-shore mining dredge in the Chilean islands, wrecks a destructive mining operation in the Rocky Mountains, and brings a logging operation to a halt in British Columbia.

Conlan's background, from a young man of Anglo-Irish descent in London's post-war slums, through independence, a failed marriage, a disastrous affair, alcoholism and despair, to his final awakening and new found sense of purpose on a sheep station in New South Wales's Blue Mountains, is explored over a spring and summer of wild days and calm, in which the biographer and narrator uncovers his curious semi-religious beliefs about the earth, and comes to understand the roots of his near fanatical love for it.

It is also a love story, and culminates violently in a contracted attempt on Conlan's life, and his return to Chile to finish the uncompleted job: his rendezvous with death at the disputed barricade.