Of Peaches and Maggots:
The Story of Queensland Fruit Fly
“disease and pain and ignorance … which are all members of one another”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea
A Romance is an attempt to connect a byegone time with the very present that is flitting away from us.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables
Fruit maggot-fly is a sensitive subject.
Gardening and politics are the interested parties but they make irritable companions. Few can attend to government or trade without falling down in entomology. Nor can students of a maggot avoid politics because their research funds are almost all donated by governments – whose real interest is trade.
Some who encouraged me at first changed their minds when I was half way through. During the writing, however, a period running through the 1990s, I received unfailing support from Dr D. Elmo Hardy, Professor Emeritus in Entomology at the University of Hawaii. He never lost sight of the end, sending me scores of published papers from his own collection, and it is thanks to him I lasted the distance.
I offer sincere apologies to any who find the story hurtful or untruthful.
The author’s friend Bryce Courtenay calls this manuscript ‘either a curiosity or a work of genius’. I’d call it both.
The author has impressive qualifications in both biology and literature, and uses his expertise to produce an extraordinary work. He writes lyrically, wittily, linking the fortunes of fruit fly with those of that other perplexing parasite – homo sapiens. He shows how control … has been delayed (by several hundred years) by the bombast, vanity, ambition, pettiness and social conditioning of those doing the seeking. Monarchs, Great Men, plantation owners, scientists, minor bureaucrats – all are presented with the same irreverence. Courtice knows them personally and like a Father Confessor forgives their flaws. Only the women are allowed their dignity.
As a general reader, I was entranced by the ease and elegance with which he moves between grand events in world history and the unremarkable duties of a fruit inspector.
The story is extraordinary and original. It’s accessible science for a general reader – but it’s more than that. It may not attract squillions of readers, but may become like Hawking’s A Short History of Time – frequently bought, but rarely read. It deserves better.
I found the story most unusual and quite fascinating. It reads easily and clearly. Unlike most of the books I have assessed, I found this work technically error free.
Head of Anatomy and Human Biology, University of Western Australia.
I read with increasing delight. At first, I confess, the story of a fruit fly did not strike me as a likely subject of literary delight. But I was soon caught by the sheer power of the narrative … a fascinating combination of science, philosophy and history all jammed together like a post-modern detective novel.
I couldn’t stop. I had to find out what had happened. I wanted to know the truth about the Adelaide infestation … who the masked figure would turn out to be …
And that is the real strength of the work. Readability.
The quarrel with Darwin is quite wonderful…
University of Manitoba.
Published 2006. 336 pages, illustrated paperback.
ISBN 0 9588239 0 1
Price: $29.50 plus postage as follows:
All prices in Australian dollars. Payment is by the secure PayPal service, including by credit card if you don’t have an account.