Out now

One of Australia’s biggest mysteries …

An unidentified body, international espionage and a doomed love affair.

The Bookmaker from Rabaul by Peter Bowes is out now.

This is a fictionalised account of the Somerton Man case. An enduring Australian mystery that began in December 1948 when a body was discovered on Somerton Beach: a man, overdressed for hot weather and no clue as to his identity. Who was he? How and why did he die? Did the Somerton Man get out of his depth in a world of espionage and dark deeds beyond his control or comprehension? And what about Jessica – the woman he loved and whose life he changed forever.

This vividly imagined and meticulously researched account offers a gripping fictional interpretation of a true-life mystery that remains unsolved to this day. A detailed afterword describes the people and events that inspired this book.

Paperback Amazon.com
Kindle Amazon.com
Paperback Amazon UK
Kindle Amazon UK

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Bookmaker - Cover for web



  1. Hi Deborah,

    You might want to correct the date: to be published on 1 December 1948? 🤔 I’m looking forward to it though.

    Warmest wishes John

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. 🙂 You’re very noble, Pete, and I’m trying to think how that might be true, but can’t come up with anything.

    The editing is pretty good though. I’ll let you have that. 🙂

  3. I have an instruction from someone, somewhere, demanding I get on with a story of a small boy sent to his grandfather on the far south coast after losing both his parents ..

  4. Les is about 55, he’s had 15 years in the navy, 10 driving trucks and now he runs the Eltham Hotel with Lorraine. My wife and I lunch there every Saturday.

    Lorraine was the headmistress of Ballina High before becoming a publican and yesterday she accompanied Les to Brisbane. He goes to a cemetery in Brisbane every year on the anniversary of his wife’s death.

    Les doesn’t read much. Says he can’t settle down to it.

    Lorraine took a copy of The Bookmaker this time and said she read the first half dozen chapters to him on the trip up and back.

    He likes Lorrimer he told me today, and said he laughed out loud at the quartermaster’s rifle-care instructions.

    Reviews, you take them where you find them, right John L?

  5. I was in the Federal store this morning and Al walked into the shop from the storeroom and did a bit of this and that behind the counter.
    He looked up at me. I looked back at him.
    Last week I gave him a copy of the Bookmaker and said if you don’t like it, don’t stock it.
    ‘I’ve read a few chapters,’ Al said, deadpan.
    ‘Have I reeled you in yet?’
    Al shook his head, a small smile.

    He’ll come round, I know it.

  6. I read this right after it came out on Amazon and have been thinking about how to respond ever since. What I finally decided was that The Bookmaker from Rabaul is a lot like a a pointillist painting. In this case the dots are made from passages that create a moment, an incident, and an emotion. The story itself is not always clear until you keep reading. Then, as you go along, everything comes into focus, and the tale, and even some of its major themes, become clear.

    In the end I enjoyed this book. It left me with a feeling of discovery. Who was the Bookmaker from Rabaul? The Rubaiyat? What does that have to do with a story of an Australian as the chaos of retreat from Hong Kong consumes the character’s world?

    The focus of the book changes and changes, building up the pointillist tale. And then they end up on a beach, a mystery as deep as the Rubaiyat itself. And we know what happened. We can look back and see the entire canvas spread out in front of us.

  7. Thanks Thomas, much appreciated, your pointillist analogy is right on the button. I created a spreadsheet as the plot moved, purely to keep facts, dates, times, places and individuals in their right order – marrying it to the facts. Pictures and everything,
    Printed it, framed it and hung it on the wall.
    I’m glad you liked it, mission accomplished.

  8. I’m about one third into The Bookmaker today and loving it. The early scenes of wartime chaos and muddle across SE Asia, the US and Australia are totally convincing and engrossing. I haven’t the foggiest notion of where the story is going or what these early chapters have to do with an unsolved death in 1948, or how love gets into the tale, but I’m staying with it. I want to find out.

  9. Last night I reached page 145 and therefore read the short chapter entitled simply The Bookseller. I’ve re-read it this morning. Looks to me like a pivotal scene and there are details that didn’t register at first. I like the way you write PB. The book doesn’t shout at me; it doesn’t drone on; it nudges me and says “hey, look at that”.

  10. I used to know a bookmaker from Rabaul (when I lived there in the 1970’s). Is it too much to ask if part of the story is actually set in Rabaul, or if there are many references to Rabaul…or will you just tell me to buy a copy and find out. I ask because I’m in contact with a large number of ex-Rabaul-ites and would be happy to promote the book amongst them if it contained some Rabaul content.


  11. Bill, thanks for the comment. There are some passages in the book that take place in Rabaul, including a little tomfoolery with the Americans not long after the war ended, an old Rabaul hand told me the true story and I tarted it up with a little fiction.
    The yarn seemed to go down well with a couple of old boys who’d been around the South West Pacific traps.
    Thanks for the promo offer, accepted with thanks.

  12. I’m about to post my review on Amazon. Here it is:

    This is a book that doesn’t want to be pigeonholed. In part it is crime fiction because there is an unexplained death to which this book provides an imaginary backstory. It is equally a tale of espionage and counter espionage that brings in the security services of Australia, the UK, the USA and the USSR. And it is the story of the war in Southeast Asia and its aftermath.
    It is not a ‘literary’ novel but it is a well-wrought page turner with well-researched background colour and a convincing narrative. Nothing would induce me to spoil the plot but I would advise readers to have patience. The early chapters move about from Hong Kong to Singapore to Indonesia and beyond, introducing a wide cast list and there are many puzzles: who are these people, what are they doing and how do they connect? This is no simple whodunnit. But Peter Bowes is an accomplished writer of short stories and his short chapters paint such convincing scenes that the story slowly comes together like a jigsaw.
    There is also a lengthy afterword which sets out what is known about the actual body on the beach and which shows just how baffling was the evidence. It’s quite fun to look back at Peter Bowes’ story to see the use he has made of the many bewildering clues.
    The author’ style is accessible: conversational but literate. There is suspense but also wry humour. I plan to read it again some time, possibly on a long haul flight – the time will pass very quickly.

  13. You might not be surprised, JS, to learn that some of the drafts were written on the midnight flight from Brisbane to Hong Kong.

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