You can’t go far wrong with a book about pubs in Australia. Lots of local history, classic architecture and earthy characters – on both sides of the bar – are bound to leap off the page. That’s definitely the case with this new 300-page hardback from motorcycle enthusiast, author and photographer Colin Whelan.
Whelan is a good storyteller and photographer. He was the official NRL photographer for many years and he combined those skills with a passion for motorbikes and country hotels in a series of ‘Pub of the Month’ columns for, ahem, one of our competitors. As he relates in the book, he gradually changed from a “motorcyclist who visited hotels” to “a pub aficionado who travels by motorbike”. Whelan immersed himself in the bush ‘kultcha’ of towns, communities and pubs, and became a go-to guy for rating places for their motorcycle friendliness.
Now he has produced this high-quality book about 50 memorable country pubs. No fewer than 20 of them go by the name of ‘The Royal’ – apparently there are almost 200 Royal Hotels in Australia, though the closest they’d get to royalty would be a Crown Lager. But they’re still, as Whelan points out, some of the richest pubs in the country.
Whelan’s well-crafted words are both entertaining and engaging, yet the real strength of this book is the photography – not just happy snaps but proper photojournalism that captures the colour and diversity of Aussie pubs and the country itself. Or at least its eastern states; perhaps Whelan needs to venture further afield for the follow-up. Until then, this book will surely inspire many others to travel too.
By David Hassell