Posted by: Lisa Hill | May 31, 2010

Vale Randolph Stow (1935-2010)

It is sad to learn to today of the death of Randolph Stow on the 29th of May, aged 74.   Born in 1935 in Western Australia, he was one of Australia’s finest writers.  He was a novelist, a poet, and a librettist.  He was also a university lecturer and an anthropologist with a special interest in Aboriginal issues.

He won the Miles Franklin Award in 1958 for To the Islands (on my TBR, see my review) and received the Patrick White Award in 1979.

ANZ LitLovers is reading Stow’s recently re-issued 1965 novel The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea later this year.  He also wrote the popular children’s novel, Midnight.  His most recent novel The Suburbs of Hell was published in 1984.

Update 1 June 2010

Reeling and Writhing has a couple of Stow’s poems online, and links to obituaries in the daily press.

Update 8/10/20, to see my reviews of other books by Randolph Stow, including Tourmaline, Merry-go-round in the Sea and (forthcoming), his debut novel A Haunted Land, click here.


  1. A sad day indeed. I am looking forward to reading ‘The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea’ with you.


  2. That’s so sad… I read Merry Go Round in the Sea last year, and loved it so much I read it again four or five months later. I hunted down a couple of his other books when I went to Oz at Christmas, and will look forward to reading them at some point.


  3. Can you find the link for your review, Kim, and please put it here in case people want to see it?


  4. Here’s the link to my review:


  5. I truly loved The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea – it’s a fantastic novel, and I can’t quite believe just how overlooked it is…

    If anyone’s interested, I reviewed it a while back:


    • Thanks for the link, Matt, I like those modern classic issues too, much better than the orange & white series, where sometimes the print is a bit blurry and sometimes too small. Lisa


  6. I told a group of people about this last night and one of them told us that he remembered reading Captain Midnite when he was little — I think I did too. The solitary Amazon reviewer reckons that it sends up Patrick White but all I remember is a talking cat. And I read To the Islands, last year, in someone’s ex-high school copy, covered with shabby plastic and their name written on a bird sticker. The obituaries are making me curious about Visitants and Tourmaline. I wish Basement Books hadn’t closed, because I’d go there and chase him up. They had an Australian section that went on for shelves. Dammit, dammit, dead Randolph Stow.


    • I reckon my daggy old To The Islands is somebody’s school copy too. I wish I’d bought a first edition to go in my collection sooner, now.


  7. Wait, Stow wrote Captain Midnite?!?! I loved that book as a kid!


    • I’ve wonder if I’ve got it in my school library, that comment about it being a Patrick White spoof interests me!


  8. I’m reading the comments at the Ragged Claws obituary and, re. White, one of the posters, Gail, writes this, at the bottom of page two:

    “In this short novel Midnite, a bushranger, meets a German explorer called Johann Ludwig Ulrich von Leichhardt zu Voss, who now goes by the simpler name of Mr Smith. He is accompanied by two camels, Sturm and Drang, and has just named the desert, The Cosmological Symbolical Desert. They travel together for a while until they come to a place of bones:

    “What is this place?” asked Midnite in a nervous voice.

    “It is the end of the outback,” said the explorer, “where come poets and explorers to die.”
    As he spoke, Sturm and Drang knelt down among the bones, and Mr Smith got off Sturm’s back, and the two camels rolled over to expire.

    “Why do they die?” asked Midnite, more nervously still.

    “Because they themselves exploring finished have,” said the explorer. Then he shouted something in German, and fell down in the bones, dead and smiling”


    • Oh I absolutely *must* find a copy of this! Lisa


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