Excerpt from Chapter 16: The island of Djimbanko was unclaimed territory, lying in the ferrous-blue straits between the New Hebrides and New Caledonia. It was too barren for yam gardens and the population too mtley to be of lasting interest to the Anglicans, Presbyterians, or Lutherans. It was a trading outpost, black market, way station, and island brothel. For decades it had been a sanctuary for escaped convicts from the French and British colonies and for kanakas banished from their own islands.  

San Christobal

Excerpt from Chapter 18: The Cullion spent two weeks trading in the southern Solomons, anchoring off San Christobal, Ulawa, and Malaita. They weren’t the untainted islands Owen had hoped for—they were part of a newly formed British protectorate, and Roman Catholic priests had been in Makira Harbour since 1846—but the villages were resilient and steeped in their own culture. Away from the coastline, where smallpox had wiped out a sizable swath of the population, the clansmen were eager to trade with the landing party… Photos from the
Australian Museum:
Solomon Islands, about 1900


Excerpt from Chapter 24: The Tikalia lived in wattled huts and limestone caves. They burrowed into sea cliffs on the windward side of the island. There were chieftains and headmen on both sides of the island but no dogs. Women held sway over the gardens—Poumetan mythology was wrong about Tikalia’s lack of agriculture—and the forests were patched with yam and sago plots, fenced in by poles kerfed with whale teeth. The beardless men rubbed their faces smooth with pumice and cut their hair with shards of flint. “Vue de la Plage de Tikopia” A 19th century lithograph of French explorers arriving on the remote island of Tikopia in the Solomons, the basis for the fictional island of Tikalia in the novel. Artist: J. S. Arago.  


Excerpt from Chapter 13: Two days later the ship anchored in a southern Malekula bay. Owen stood by the cathead and watched the anchor line run out, sluicing the water like a smelter’s knife through waved lead. Three men stood aloft and furled the mainsail. Terrapin was on deck to oversee the operation and had barely left the charthouse since Fiji. He was said to be in a blue funk. In these latitudes, Owen was told, the captain had a standing obsession about the Cullion getting hogged up on a reef or running aground on a sandbar. Top photo from Ships of Our Ancestors by Michael J. Antuta
Bottom photo from


Excerpt from Chapter 13: The Lady Cullion resupplied and watered in Fiji. For two hours after dawn, Jethro went birding with his wicker creel and 12-gauge shotgun, a pair of Bond’s placental forceps looped through the buttonhole of his suspenders in case he shot something he didn’t want to touch with his bare hands….Owen managed to buy a few tribal clubs from a missionary with a church by the port in Suva. The pink-cheeked Anglican—Reverend Bulstrode—had a collecting kit for tropical butterflies, much to Jethro’s delight, and promised he would keep an eye out for artifacts the next time he went upriver. Owen gave him ten pounds and wrote down a shipping address.  
a magnificent epic” —BOOKLIST absorbing exploration of culture, tradition, and renewal...” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Starred Review
Historical fiction at its best...” —HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY
Dense with action, yet filled with thought, the novel rolls along beautifully...” —DALLAS MORNING NEWS
..extraordinary literary enthralling narrative...” —KIRKUS REVIEWS of the most striking new Australian novels I've read in some time, a work suffused by a generous and often joyous humanity...” —THE AUSTRALIAN
...a must-read for anyone with a love of history...” —COURIER MAIL
a breathless narrative pace...a riveting tale...evocations of Chicago surprise and delight...” —AUSTRALIAN BOOK REVIEW
...atmospheric, meticulously observed…a footsure and stylish writer with a fine sense of narrative pace.” —THE AGE
Absorbing and illuminating...” —WEST AUSTRALIAN
A brilliant novel that is both a rollicking yarn and a beautiful love story...a feat of imagination and storytelling.” —GOOD READING MAGAZINE



They were showing the savages on the rooftop—that was the word at the curbstone.

Dominic Smith’s third novel—Bright and Distant Shores—is set amid the skyscrapers of 1890s Chicago and the far-flung islands of the South Pacific.

Chicago First Equitable has won the race to construct the world’s tallest building and its president, Hale Gray, hits upon a surefire way to make it an enduring landmark: to establish on the roof an exhibition of real-life “savages.” He sponsors a South Seas voyage to collect not only weaponry and artefacts, but also “several natives related by blood” for the company’s rooftop spectacle. Caught up in this scheme are two orphans—Owen Graves, an itinerant trader from Chicago’s South Side, and Argus Niu, a mission houseboy in the New Hebrides. At the cusp of the twentieth century, the expedition forces a collision course between the tribal and the civilized, and between two young men plagued by their haunting pasts.