If we must look for demons in our lives, we may also try to destroy them before we die. In James Twining’s life the demon of his declining memory, like Don Quixote’s windmill, is a tractor. Forged in Germany, the machine came to be known as Hitler’s tractor – it ploughed, sowed and reaped. But did Hitler’s tractor have a sinister purpose? This is a story that takes the reader through chapters in the lifetime of one man – childhood, adolescence, a professional life and finally old age when he struggles to remember. It tells of hardship farming in 1930s Australia, the confusion of a boy’s conflict with a teacher traumatised by war, his artistic mother’s battle against the unforgiving land, a father who dreams of something better, and a marriage under strain. But glowering over an apparently simple tale is the ‘evil one’ – the German tractor that seems to have an unimaginably dangerous machine-like power over those who would dare to stoke its fire and tame its strength. Character rich and sweeping from the Depression years to the Australia of today, Hitler’s Tractor speaks to the strength of human spirit when faced by adversity – drought, flood, cruel fate and the futility of revenge. It is a poignant, beguiling and exquisitely told Australian story.
Jan Smith was born at Dalby, Queensland in 1935, and was educated at Toowoomba, Southport and Canberra. He began a journalism career with a cadetship on the Toowoomba Chronicle. He has been a journalist on daily newspapers in Mackay, Toowoomba, Sydney; ABC radio and TV Mackay, Toowoomba, Canberra; Federal government media liaison Canberra, local government Mackay City Council. In a self- assessment, Jan Smith would like to be thought of as a private, humble and sensitive person who grieves over the loss of dogs, deeply regrets hurt he may have caused others and sometimes despairs of Australia’s apparent inability to understand aboriginal culture, land degradation, climate change, refugees and the importance of the Arts.