This must be the definitive biography of Ned Kelly. Ian Jones has carried out decades of minute research and this, his lifetime oeuvre has been updated many times. This is the book Peter Carey relied on for its historical detail for his own individual account of Kelly's life. Through interviews, documents, official reports, court accounts and fieldwork Jones has created an almost blow-by-blow narrative of the bushranger's life and times. Although in many respects Jones is extremely even-handed, his deep admiration of Kelly the man and hence a slight bias shine through. Yet even the reader cannot help but be swayed to sympathy and understanding of the outlaw's grievances. Although Kelly's final actions were damning and his defence inadequate, the reader is drawn to conclude that he was, partly thanks to his own character and predisposition, partly owing to the socio-historical difficulties of his day, the right man in the wrong place at the wrong time. With a better education, in a fairer society he could have been a great and inspiring leader. It is the pathos of Kelly's fate which makes Jones's sensitive biography so affecting.
A more detailed and academic read for those, who like me, have been fascinated with Ned since reading "The History of Australian Bushrangers" as a child in the 1960's, Peter Carey's "True History of the Kelly Gang", and other Ned Kelly works and movies. I found that the additional layers of information in Jones' book around Ned's famous exploits tended to make him more human and less heroic. Though Jones takes a sympathetic view, sometimes I was saddened by having my former black & white, good-guy vs. bad-guy ideals shattered. Ned made many poor decisions and in some cases simply committed criminal acts then rationalised them. It is sometimes confronting to read these facts about a heroic figure who clearly also possessed kindness and conscience. Ian Jones' own conclusion - that the greatness of the story is in its own capturing of the imagination over so many generations is the best summary. Having read the book I feel much better educated and able to understand the complex moral arguments on both sides of this tragic and exciting saga.
Very detailed story of Ned Kelly as well as his family. At times almost too much detail on minor characters. I sometimes lost the general story while mired in the details of who stole what horse with what type of saddle etc. but obviously well researched. The author is pro Kelly/Selectors and his bias comes out at times. The book is at it's best when he sticks to the facts and not when he goes off into his "rebellion" theory. Great maps and photos. Not sure I buy into the glamorized version of the Kelly gang the author drifts into at times. Kelly attempted to rationalize common thievery into some sort of political movement and at times the author seems sucked into falling for it. Kelly was charming. A lot of criminals are. The nerve of those police, trying to arrest him for horse stealing! If he wanted his family left alone he should have quit using his mother's home as a base for his escapades. The author I think puts a little too much faith in the Jerildere letter, which was nothing more than a self-serving attempt at revisionist history. An attempt by Kelly to talk his way out of the fix he was in. But the author is to be commended for his research and this book is a great place to start if you want to learn about Ned Kelly.
Undoubtedly the best of its genre. Mr Jones is secure in his opinions enough to open up questions to other possibilities for Ned's actions. He is THE expert on Ned Kelly, although has not been well lately apparently so I am sure all his fans and readers of this work will want to wish him well in his recovery.
The one thing that really annoyed me when reading this otherwise extremely readable novel was Mr Carey's use of the terms "would of" and "could of" in Ned's/Joe's letters, to me an abominable error seen more and more in modern times and making those two men appear as complete grammatical dunces. It's clear from the originals that at least they understood the correct use of "would have" and could have".