Khaki Town by Judy Nunn [5/10]

Khaki Town” plunges the reader into a sprinkle of Australian history we have barely heard of, the tale of Queensland’s Townsville in early 1942, when American soldiers, mostly African-Americans, flooded the town and brewed up a cocktail of simmering violence. Into this cauldron strides an unknown American senator, Lyndon Baines Johnson, charged with restoring order discreetly. It’s a fascinating tale and Judy Nunn unfurls the plot with a sure hand, but characterisation lets the story down. All the main players seem like puppets clumsily deployed. Nunn’s bold depiction of LBJ also irked me; I know the future president well from biographies and histories, and he was altogether a more complex and compelling man than revealed in “Khaki Town.” An enjoyable but by no means riveting read.

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