James Lester Burke is the most neglected Tasmanian author. Paradoxically, he is also a best seller. His Martin Cash—The Bushranger of Van Diemen's Land has sold 32,000 copies since it first appeared in 1870. Yet Burke himself is virtually unknown. Only Frank Clune in his book on Martin Cash has attempted to give Burke some credit. The first edition of Martin Cash acknowledges him as the editor, but later editions omit his name altogether. It is, however, clear from the manuscript of Martin Cash that Burke was more than the editor; he was recounting and embroidering a story which could only have been told to him in part. There are verbal experiments, attempts at versification and variations of the story which indicate a work in flux and not reportage. The appendix of newspaper references indicates the research which went into his original work.
Please sign in to access this article and the rest of our archive.