The Tall Man

The Tall Man : Death and Life on Palm Island

4.15 (1,736 ratings by Goodreads)
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Palm Island may be the most beautiful tropical island in Australia, but its name is synonymous with violence. It is home to one of the country's largest Aboriginal communities, descendants of people torn from their own lands, their clans and their families in the era of the Stolen Generation. In 2004 Cameron Doomadgee, a 36-year-old resident of the island, was arrested for swearing at a white police officer and locked in the cells. Within forty-five minutes he was dead. The police claimed he'd tripped on a step, but the Government pathologist later said that his injuries were consistent with a car or plane crash. The community rioted and burnt down the police station. The main suspect was Senior Sergeant Christopher Hurley, a tall, handsome, charismatic cop with long experience in Aboriginal communities and decorations for his work.Chloe Hooper's "The Tall Man: Life and Death on Palm Island" recounts this story with the pace of a thriller. Following Hurley's trail to some of the wildest and most remote parts of Australia, she explores Aboriginal myths and history and uncovers buried secrets of white mischief. Atmospheric, gritty and original, "The Tall Man" is an absorbing and moving account of the lives of people of Palm Island, of the Doomadgee family as they struggle to understand what happened to their brother, and of the complex, enigmatic figure, Hurley. Hooper combines reportage with a novelist's command of character to tell a story that takes readers not only inside the courtroom and the notorious Queensland police force, but into Australia's indigenous communities - and to the heart of a struggle for power, revenge and more

Product details

  • Hardback | 272 pages
  • 143 x 204 x 25mm | 405g
  • Vintage Publishing
  • Jonathan Cape Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Illustrations 1 map,
  • 0224084666
  • 9780224084666
  • 910,806

Review quote

"Every sentence is weighed, considered, even, restrained. Every character is explored for their contradictions, every situation observed for its nuances, every easy judgment suspended. Hooper has a feeling for the intimacy of violence, the fragility of the flesh, the tawdry inevitability of corruption, the fathomless depth of loss." "-- THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD"show more

Review Text

Australian novelist Hooper (A Child's Book of True Crime, 2002) investigates the 2004 death of an Aboriginal man and the subsequent trial of the police sergeant charged with his killing.The author combines murder mystery with provocative social commentary in her deeply felt if occasionally overwrought account. Pursuing the story from ground level, Hooper traveled to remote Aboriginal townships to explore a culture rich in folklore and superstition and a population seemingly condemned to poverty, squalor and hopelessness. She was less successful in penetrating the stone-faced veneer of accused detective Chris Hurley, whose career included episodes of both brutality and kindness. Absent Hurley's cooperation, Hooper was left to speculate on the mindset of this particular "tall man" and a police force highly adept at protecting its own. More revelatory was the author's emotional journey into the lives of Australia's indigenous people, crippled both by the effects of long-standing white domination and by their own self-destructive behavior. (Laudably, Hooper doesn't scant either aspect in her text.) The victim, Cameron Doomadgee, was sadly typical of many young Aboriginal men living in the remote Queensland hamlet of Palm Island. Impoverished, unemployed and chronically drunk, he encountered Hurley after a morning of heavy imbibing. The Aboriginal shouted a slur, the cop arrested him, and things escalated from there. When Doomadgee punched the nearly 6'7" sergeant outside the police station, a scuffle ensued. Hurley claimed that he simply fell on top of his prisoner during the ruckus, but an autopsy revealed that the 36-year-old Aboriginal suffered severe trauma to his midsection that nearly ruptured his liver in half. An ambitious career officer with a record of good relations with Aborigines (he had even created a sports club for Aboriginal youths), Hurley soon became the first policeman in Australian history formally charged with the death of a prisoner in custody.Alternately poignant, powerful and ponderous - a worthwhile glimpse into a battered culture. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Chloe Hooper

Chloe Hooper was born in 1973. Her highly praised first novel, A Child's Book of True Crime (2002), was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. Her Observer article about the Doomadgee case, 'Island of Lost Souls', was shortlisted for the Amnesty International Media more

Rating details

1,736 ratings
4.15 out of 5 stars
5 41% (709)
4 40% (698)
3 14% (248)
2 3% (59)
1 1% (22)
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