Smorgasbord Book Reviews – Devil in the Wind: Voices from the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires by Frank Prem

Delighted to review the latest release of Frank Prem, Devil in the Wind: Voices from the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, which is available on pre-order for delivery on May 31st. I reviewed his first book Small Town Kid and eagerly anticipated this new collection.

About Devil in the Wind

Devil In The Wind is an account of catastrophic fire and its immediate aftermath.

In this 21st century, the whole world seems to be on fire. America burns. Europe burns. Greece is reeling after its own tragedy of fire.

And Australia burns, as it has always done, but now so much more fiercely.

In February 2009, wildfires burnt through entire communities, taking 173 lives and injuring hundreds, while destroying thousands of houses and other buildings. Up to 400 fires destroyed 450,000 hectares of forest, native fauna and habitat, livestock and farmland.

In the aftermath of the fires, the voices of people who had lived through the experience — victims, rescuers, and observers — were spoken and were heard.

Devil In The Wind is Frank Prem’s poetic anthology of the personal, and very human, accounts of those who themselves experienced and survived Black Saturday. Poetry writing that interacts directly with readers emotions.

Buy the book for delivery on May 31st:

and on Amazon UK:

My review for Devil in the Wind.

Having enjoyed Small Town Kid and Frank Prem’s unique way of using verse to convey a story, I was eagerly anticipating this new collection.

The title is apt, as it is not just the frightening power of fire that strikes terror into the hearts of those in its path, but the knowledge that the direction of the flames and your fate is dependent on the fickle winds.

Frank Prem captures the growing concern of the communities in the area as they listen to the radio for the latest reports. So many factors to consider, including should they go or should they stay. Some leave it too late, caught in flight on the roads, families packed into a car trying to outrun the flames leaving everything they own to the mercy of the fire. Whole towns are engulfed in what seems to be minutes, and you can sense the growing terror as the author shares stories of families and individuals waiting desperately for information.

This is a true story, a devastating time of human loss and also of people’s way of life and their work, with livestock and wildlife consumed along with property. There are survival stories and moments of hope, particularly when an old Kangaroo, a frequent visitor to town, turns up in the aftermath by a water tank and people rally around to find some food for him.

This is not an easy read as far as the subject matter is concerned, but the author writes so well, that you are carried along in the flow, engaging with the men, women and children attempting to survive and also those brave men and women on the front line desperately trying to save them.

In the aftermath everyone wants answers… and justice for those who have perished… because nature was only the accomplice.

Also by Frank Prem

Read the reviews and buy the books:

And Amazon UK:

Read more reviews for both books and follow Frank on Goodreads:

About Frank Prem

I’ve been a storytelling poet for about forty years. Longer in fact, as I remember the first poem I wrote while at secondary school was about 150 – 200 words long and was accepted in lieu of a 500 word essay. I think that may have been the start.

I love to read my work to a live audience, and have audio recorded some recent recordings and popped them on my author page. I have also done some studio- recorded work under the direction and accompaniment of my wife Leanne Murphy that can be listened to there. These poems are on mythological themes and the accompaniment by Leanne makes them a little bit extraordinary.

By profession, I am a psychiatric nurse and have worked across most facets of public psychiatry and the mental health/mental illness spectrum. My experiences and reflections on what I have seen and done are the subject of a forthcoming memoir – scheduled for late 2019, or perhaps more likely, 2020.

I’ve been published in magazines, zines and anthologies, in Australia and in a number of other countries, but for a long time I haven’t sought much publication. The whims of editors are a little too capricious and unknowable, so I have preferred to hone my craft and self-publish on my poetry blogs

Leanne and I reside in the beautiful township of Beechworth in the North-East of Victoria (Australia).

Connect to Frank

Website Audio:
Seventeen Syllable Poetry:

Thank you for dropping in today and it would be great if you could spread the news of Frank’s new poetry collection.. thanks Sally.

The Creative Artist Interview – Blogger and Storyteller – Raili Tanska of Soul Gifts

My guest today is blogger and storyteller Raili Tanska of Soul Gifts. Raili is based in Australia and you will find a wide range of topics on her blog to interest everyone including poetry, short stories and articles on health and well-being. Before we get into the interview I asked Raili if she would tell us something more about herself.

This is an interactive interview and Raili will be delighted to answer any of your questions in the comment section of the post.. She will be popping in from time to time over the next couple of days.

Welcome Raili.. and over to you.

The youngest of three, I was born in Jyväskylä, central Finland, in 1952. I have an older sister and brother. My parents decided to emigrate to Australia at a time when things were pretty tough workwise. Dad was a carpenter and work was sporadic. Winter was tough. He travelled to Australia first to check and see if it was worth all of us moving all the way to the other side of the world. To a country far from everyone we knew. Where they a spoke a language we would all have to learn. He decided it was worth it. So Mum and us kids joined him in 1960.

I completed high school with a view to a career in nursing. Well meaning family and friends derailed my plans for a few years. However, I had always dreamed of being a nurse. And that’s exactly what I ended up doing after I had completed some university studies. Having completed my hospital based training in Adelaide, South Australia, I was accepted into the specialty of mental health nursing. I loved it. And that’s where I stayed until my retirement in 2012.

My family moved around a lot when I was growing up, following Dad’s work as a Minister of Religion with the Lutheran Church of Australia working in partnership with the Lutheran Church of Finland. He was ordained into the Church here in Australia having been closely involved with the Church and the Finnish migrants for many years.

I met my husband, also a Finn, in the mining town of Mt Isa, North Queensland. We married young and settled in Adelaide where we have stayed ever since. After fifteen years of unsuccessful attempts to start a family, we took the path of overseas adoption. We are blessed to have two sons. They joined our family from India and the Philippines, Marc as a 5 month old and Christopher as a two year old.

Time to put Raili into the hot seat.

What would you like the visitors to your blog go away with ?

A chuckle, a warm glow in the heart, something to think about, new and interesting information – and a desire to return because they enjoyed their visit

Which four famous guests would you ask to a dinner party and why?

Heston Blumenthal – I would like him to host and cater one of his famous themed feasts. I don’t much care which one. Any will do !
Victor Borge – to entertain us with his musical talent
David Attenborough – to spin many a fascinating yarn and conversation about his vast travels and experiences
Neil Armstrong – to tell us of stardust

If you were offered three wishes to change the world, what would they be?

For all of us to live with each other in


You clearly have a wonderful life in Australia with a multi-cultural extended family. What are the key elements of Australian society you love?

Australia is a BIG continent stretching . Its width is 2,500 miles (4.8 million square miles) with a population of over 23 million. Its landscapes are stunning – oceans, beautiful beaches, islands, awesome coastal views and roads ideal for touristing, snow, mountains, tropical rainforests, deserts, big timber country …. That means there is no end of exciting places to explore.

Our society here is a delightful mix of cultures. Which means that this diversity lends itself so well to learning and enjoying a rich mix of religions, cultures, traditions, heritages, cuisines.

Australia is still a young country in comparison to most with a dark history from its penal settlement beginnings as a nation. There are tensions yet to be resolved between the newcomers and those who preceded us – our Aboriginal population. It has yet to find its niche as a personality, character as a country. It is interesting to live here and see that emerging.

You enjoyed a long career in nursing working within mental health – challenging but also rewarding. You mention that you learned a great deal about life and the universe.. What three key points would you like us to understand about mental health?

Mental health is just another health condition like any other. Just because there are no visible signs of illness does not make it any less worthy of attention and treatment
Those who have been diagnosed with mental health issues find they need to contend with more than just the illness. They are amongst the most disenfranchised of our citizens, often denied access to the most basic of rights, respect and dignity. Yet anyone of us could find ourselves in the same position – in this mental illness does not discriminate

Not everyone who behaves ‘like a madman’ is ‘mad’. There are those who are bad, those who are mad, and those who are mad and bad. Those under the influence of drugs and alcohol are often mistaken as having a mental health condition. More often than not they don’t.

Do you have a wish list of activities you would like to take part in now that you are retired and if so what are the top three?

Oh yes, I have a bucket list!

The top of the tree would have to be to enjoy a White Christmas. Preferably in Finnish Lapland. Whilst there I would like to spend at least one night in one of those stunning glass igloos and skywatch the Aurora Borealis in the warmth and comfort of a cosy bed

And of course whilst up in the Northern Hemisphere I have a list a mile long of places and people I want to visit.

A must do is to enjoy a degustation meal at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck Restaurant in England. I better start saving !

I asked Raili if there was an extract of a blog post that she would particularly like to share and she chose this very poignant story.

The post that immediately comes to mind is one that I wrote about my father and his wartime experiences. It was an emotional and time consuming journey for me requiring much research. It gave me a whole new understanding of what he experienced and why it affected him as strongly as it did. I called it Too Young For War.

A true story.
Dedicated to my father – Voitto Olavi Pokela
Father’s Day – 4th September 2016

Just 16. They were calling for volunteers. He was eager. He wanted to defend his fatherland. Only to be told he was too young. So he lied about his age and at age 17 was accepted. Like so many others. The consequences of that decision were to haunt him for life. He lived through the horror that was war in Finland between 1939 – 1945. That man was my father.

A machine gunner, he also dug trenches, trudged through freezing winters, battled starvation. Amazingly, given his role and function, he survived. It was in these harsh conditions and limited food supplies that he learnt to eat blue vein cheese. It came supplied with the army rations. Others thought it was cheese gone bad and refused to eat it. He gladly took all of it. It staved the hunger. And he developed a lifelong love for it. He saw action across many parts of Finland from the south to the north in Finnish Lapland.

He called it a dirty war, the one he was in. It was well known that the Russian army did not like to take prisoners. If caught there was a high risk they would be shot just as they did their own troops if they were caught retreating. It made the Finnish soldiers fight all the harder to avoid capture and almost certain death.

Read the rest of this fascinatingly detailed post of historical interest as well as the personal story of Raili’s father:

Connect to Raili

Blog –
Facebook –
LinkedIn –

My thanks to Raili for joining me today and I hope you will head over and follow her blog if you are not already doing so. Here are details about the Creative Artist Interviews.

If you are an author then you can find details of the Book Reading at the Cafe and Bookstore in this directory.

Thank you for dropping in and please spread the news about Raili’s blog as far and wide as possible.

Please leave any questions that you have for Raili in the comments.. thanks Sally