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      Barry Watts chases the red heifer ...

FRANK DALBY DAVISON

Rejected book eventually sold
a quarter of a million copies!


'I hawked the first edition of Man-shy from door-to-door in the suburbs of Sydney during the depression,' author Frank Dalby Davison recalled some 36 years later, '... and sold it for sixpence a copy!'

Davison had the pages printed privately. He then took them home and folded, stitched and bound them by hand - in wallpaper he'd bought from Anthony Hordern's emporium. But, despite this discouraging start, Man-shy was to make Frank Dalby Davison famous.

The story arose from an incident he recalled from a time when he was a soldier settler in the Maranoa district of southern Queensland just after the First World War.

'I was up in Queensland riding through the scrub, looking for some cattle I'd lost and I stopped to roll a cigarette. When I looked up, I saw looking at me, just a few yards away through the scrub, a most magnificent blood-red beast that didn't belong to me. I sat on my horse watching, and she stood watching, and then I moved, and suddenly she'd gone, crashing through the scrub. I knew about the scrubbers, I'd seen their tracks leading down the ranges to water.

'I thought "There's a story there. Why not go back to the beginning, with the calf, and carry it through?"'

His story was first published as a magazine serial. Later, slightly revised, it was offered to several publishers as a book, and rejected by each of them. 'No publisher at that time would take a story about a cow,' Davison said. So he decided to publish it himself.

Six years later, Man-shy won the Australian Literature Society's Gold Medallion, equivalent to best book of the year, and was promptly snapped up by Angus & Robertson and published in 1931.

The book has remained in print and has probably sold more than a quarter of a million copies since.

In 1944 Frank Dalby Davison remarried and moved back to Melbourne. There he wrote his very popular novel, Dusty, about the conflicts of conforming and rebelling in both the animal and human worlds. Dusty was made into a movie in 1983.

The Davisons bought a farm outside Melbourne and Frank Davison spent the next 22 years producing his massive opus, The White Thorntree - published just two years before his death in 1970.

   
Portrait of Frank Dalby Davison
Frank Davison was an
active participant in
Fellowship of Australian
Writers committees in Sydney

 

Davison with young family
Frank Dalby Davison,
shown with his young family,
sold his book door-to-door

 

Marie, FDD's second wife
Marie, Davison's second wife,
on their farm outside Melbourne

 

Photo of Older Frank Dalby Davison
An older, wiser and
more-successful Davison

 
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