The Pearl King

"This terrifically interesting book..."

James Clark 2015 ACT Writing and Publishing Awards Highly Commended Certificate

That's how the non-fiction judges for the 2015 ACT Writing and Publishing Awards began their comments on this account of 'the extraordinary life', as they put it, of James Clark, 'the Pearl King'. The book 'captures the imagination of the reader, making them want to learn more about both this fascinating character and the social and political times in which he lived', they wrote. They 'highly commended' its 'depth of research, writing style and excellent production value'.

Born on a Hunter estuary, NSW, island in 1857, James Clark was orphaned at age two, arrived penniless in Brisbane ten years later, and never looked back. Starting out in Torres Strait at 23, he became the dominant figure in Australia's pearl-shelling industry. Then, with a young partner, he built one of the nation's biggest pastoral companies. He ran an oyster business in Moreton Bay that supplied gourmet markets as far away as Perth, and was a prominent yachtsman and racehorse owner.

Writing nine months before Clark's death in 1933, a Brisbane journalist expressed the hope that some day he might 'be induced to give the story of his life to the world', adding 'if ever he does it will be indeed a moving epic of flood and field, of early sailoring days full of thrills, of wild life in Torres Strait and Northern Australian waters, and the building up of great industries'. It certainly would have been; Clark had a flair for writing as well as a great story to tell. Unfortunately, he didn't find the time to write his reminiscences. However, he left behind a great deal of material, including hundreds of letters to business partners, family members and others, that has made it possible to piece his story together. Among much else, this book tells of:

'Biographies of adventurers always hit the mark for those interested not only in history but in the strange events which make up its rich tapestry', Anne-Maree Whitaker observed in her review in the Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society. She found The Pearl King 'a fascinating study'. In the Sydney University alumni magazine SAM, Colleen Cook wrote: 'Without a driving force such as Robert Lehane, distinguished Australians like James Clark might go unnoticed. Lehane has given us not only insight into the man, but how his fledgling enterprises grew to contribute much to Queensland's development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries... This book is a perfect memorial.' Reviewing The Pearl King in The Great Circle, journal of the Australian Association for Maritime History, Tim Blue wrote that it gives 'full rein' to Clark's 'colourful life' in '360 well-illustrated pages complete with end-notes, bibliography and index'. In Queensland Review, Ian Townsend described the book as 'the fascinating biography of an Australian businessman who deserves to be far better known'.

The Pearl King can be obtained from the publisher, Boolarong Press, or booksellers. Also available as an ebook.