A sense of place

Pick of the Day:  Geoffrey Dutton - The Wedge-Tailed Eagle

I confess I had never heard of Geoffrey Dutton (1922-1998) until I read this story, but he was well known as an author, poet and historian in homeland Australia, where the tale is based.

It tells the tale of two pilots who set out to out-fly and kill a wedge-tailed eagle in the outback.

Dutton, through the vividness of his writing, conveys first the heat and stillness of the region and then the racing excitement of the duel in the sky that follows.

“The pilot’s heart lunged inside him like the needle of the revolution counter on the instrument panel.”

Dutton’s story begins: “Through the hot, cloudless days in the back of New South Wales, there is always something beside the sun watching you from the sky.  Over the line of hills, or above the long stretches of plains, a black dot swings round and round; and its circles rise slowly or fall slowly, or simply remain at the same height, swinging in endless indolent curves, while the eyes watch the the miles of earth below, and the six- or maybe nine-foot wingspan remains motionless in the air.”

He conveys a real sense of place... and of motivation:

“A pilot in a small, aerobatic aircraft is like a child. He longs for something to play with.” 

Like Rain Horse and Lie Thee Down Oddity! , there are, it seems to me, elements of not only men in conflict with the natural world, but perhaps in conflict with their own possibly natural emotions and instincts, and our own fears to the wild world.

This is an excellent and dramatic tale told in just 3,000 words or so - coincidentally almost the same as the maximum word count allowed for our Dorset Writers' Prize short story competition.

I was very encouraged yesterday to see the competition is now getting a few mentions around the “twittersphere”. Thank you Poole Arts Service and the Dorset Writers Network.

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