Lasseter’s Gold by Warren Brown is published by Hachette, rrp $35.
Lasseter’s Gold by Warren Brown is published by Hachette, rrp $35. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

BOOK REVIEW: Lasseter's Gold

WHO was Harold Lasseter?

Was he an extraordinary adventurer who managed to trek from Cairns to Carnarvon in 1897 with no apparent bush skills, discovering then losing the biggest gold reef in the world?

Was he a delusional, obsessive, paranoid, multiple bigamist who faked his own death more than once and claimed the Sydney Harbour Bridge design was stolen from him?

Or was he just a lying bastard, eventually betrayed to his death by an even shadier character who went on to become a Nazi spy and saboteur?

Warren Brown digs deep into the Lasseter legend in this thoroughly researched and engrossing retelling of the disastrous 1930 expedition into the unforgiving desert west of Alice Springs.

Using many sources and quoting dialogue lifted only from existing records, Brown brings to life the attempt to find the gold that would rescue Australia from the Great Depression - and how everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

The tale is rich with colourful characters and conflict, and none the worse for having been told in part before.

Greed was in charge at the formation of the Central Australian Gold Exploration Company, and greed drove the expedition - but it was not the sole reason for its failure. There were repeated human errors, miscommunications, secrets and lies, the deadly Australian outback, unwarranted faith in untested technology, and a string of bad luck that would make Murphy's Law look like an optimist's dream.

It's a quintessentially Australian yarn, well structured and well told. Thoroughly enjoyable.

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