Most novels come about by a process of growth from seed but The Following evolved more through a grafting process. A few years ago I wrote a story about a hangman with mystical powers of consoling his victims, and made him the executioner in an actual hanging, in Bathurst Gaol, in 1916 - a sensational hanging of a political nature, when two "Wobblies" went to their deaths for shooting a policeman in Tottenham, NSW.
In The Following I have the hangman influence a boy - Marcus Friendly - who rises to become the sixteenth prime minister of Australia. Far from malign, the influence of the State Hangman opens Friendly to his potential, as does his close relationship with two independently-spirited girls, Luana Milburn and Pearl Dease, who remain, throughout Marcus's life, contrastingly, counter influences.
In the novel I don't give a name to the party Friendly follows, in order to elevate a feeling of political attachment to the level of what might be called spiritual attachment, akin to a gift or source of personal revelation, and shorn of journalistic and sociological methodology. There are, however, clear parallels to Ben Chifley and Australian Labor. When Friendly dies, in 1951, though he is, apparently, childless, and all but abandoned by the electorate and his party, he passes something on that perhaps only fiction can - or at least I hope can - make seem very real: those "forces of a higher order [in the words of Pasternak, denying being polarised-political in Dr Zhivago] coming from a greater depth in time, which reassert their continuing presence in the most ordinary everyday life."
The second of The Following's three Books takes up the story of Kyle Morrison, son of Australia's most famous poet, The Bounder. The action moves to a pastoral property in North-Western NSW in the 1970s, apparently far-removed from the working-class Friendly political world. But in fact nested inside Kyle Morrison's seeming backwater are all ingredients of conflict and reconciliation building from Book One.
Book Three moves into the present day, where, on the South Coast of NSW, at the height of a recent summer, a group of old friends including an affable PR hack, Tiger Yeomans, and Max Petersen, MP, a backbencher, get together as they have annually for many years though in heightened emotional circumstances. The grafting here is about as close to autobiographical as anything I've written. But its roots (or I should say scions) are hidden. These are only a few hints of "The Following".