Life to the beat of a different drum

The beauty of this place isn’t diminished by the overcast sky and misty showers. We join Brian and Linda on Drumbeat off Noro, on the island of New Georgia, anchored inside a shallow reef separating us from the channel. I eye off the pass through the reef, and automatically compare the width of our boat. Hmmm…

A visitor drops in by canoe for a bit of “story”.  And maybe a bit of bartering.


Soon it’s  dusk and the sun shows momentarily below cloud as it waves goodbye for the night.


Tomorrow is another day, and the local market calls.

20160816_080638_HDR.jpg20160816_080558_HDR.jpgOur last chance for fresh stuff, so we stock up. Jakfruit? Yes. Coconuts, pawpaws, bananas, all types of fruit and veg.

Market bartering done, we dinghy out past a line of big fishing boats that supply the local tuna cannery, and back to Drumbeat after clearing customs and immigration. That took a while, lik lik longtaim, but hey – who cares? They certainly don’t and that’s a contagious attitude.

20160816_082648_HDR.jpgWe swing out past Noro houses, slide through the narrow gap in the reef and turn to follow the barge that just left the Noro wharf. It seems to disappear into the jungle as it turns into Diamond Narrows. On my last trip through here in a Beneteau 44, maybe ten years ago, it seemed too tight for boats to pass. Not so – deep water to the banks, and sufficient room as it twists and turns westwards. Overcast and windless, we motor on calm water.

Trying to pictur20160816_095137_HDR.jpge racing down this channel on a stormy night with a squadron of wartime US Navy torpedo boats. It was much easier to fictionalize in Payback than it could ever be in real life.


These pics don’t do the narrows justice.

Check ’em out some time on Google Earth, it’s Diamond Narrows in the Solomon Islands, near New Georgia.

AMAZON – John Bell Book



John BellA special ‘thank you’ to those hundreds of people from PNG who have ‘liked’ my book blogs, and those who’ve clicked on to check the books out.

Your interest provides fuel to the fire that keeps me writing. I’m now on Book 4 of my Williams Series, again a big PNG connection – no name yet – and all of you provide more incentive for me to push through the barriers that all authors encounter in their craft.

And let me talk for a moment about PURI PURI, Book 2 in the Williams Series

Being Kavieng born I know, as you do, that I’ve stretched author’s licence by linking ‘puri puri’ to an inherited gene. I’ve done so because it’s that deliberate bit of fiction on my part that lies at the very heart of the story.

It’s all about suspension of disbelief, and rolling with the concept.

On another point, I’m in the process of establishing a distributor in PNG for print copies of the books, to reduce the very expensive Australia Post cost of sending books to PNG.

All of my books are also able to be bought through Amazon, both as print editions, and as e-books, as well as print copies direct from me.  Click on the links below to find out more.

Thank you all once again, and for me now it’s back to the desk with renewed inspiration.

John Bell

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John Bell Books

AMAZON – John Bell Books

Bit of a Trip Down Memory Lane

Still doing it tough in Cairns. Only 23 degrees today.

Royal Hotel Cairns

How can it be so long ago I was a paper boy in this this city?  Plenty of memories.  Here’s a pic of the Royal Hotel much as it was when I was a paper boy.  You’ll front up to its bar early in MELTED WAX.

Carins 40s-50s

And here’s an aerial shot of how I remember Cairns.  Bit different now.

Carins Post building

Today’s Cairns Post building doesn’t differ much from this old photo.  For several years I delivered the Cairns Post before school, the full length of Lake Street, once a week out to Aeroglen.  After school, Courier Mail around the wharves and pubs. And The Truth on Sunday.

IMG_2576Lived a few years in a flat at 70 Sheridan Street.  Now gone – part of Rusty’s markets. Our old home at 277 Lake Street is gone, too, now a block of units.

Cairns Central State school 50s

Even my old Cairns Central State School is no longer there.

class photo cairnsNor that Where’s Wally pic of a school class.

Dad cairns collageBut the ever-hopeful fisherman is still here, still hopeful!

Glitch? What Glitch? The Books are up and running on Amazon! John R Bell

Success!  Jacquie the glitch-fixer talked it through with Amazon, whose Puri Puri lady cast the necessary spell and the eBooks are now downloading properly.

Yes, PAYBACK, PURI PURI and MELTED WAX … The Williams Series … are now in both paperback and eBook versions.   For a while there I thought this was never going to happen.  Without Diana who did the hard yards and Jacquie the glitch-fixer it probably never would have.  Think I’m a bit generationally challenged for all this tech stuff.

All three are available at  You can have a sample read there, and also you can check them out first at

I’ll have a supply in paperback version, by early August for anyone interested in a signed copy.  Email me: and I’ll gladly inscribe as instructed.

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Worthy of its own post… so you can wonder, just as I do.

This is the photo mentioned in my last post – Adventure, Greed and Rumours – that I received from my old friend. You’ll recall I’d sent him an article in the PNG paper about the legendary (?) Japanese World War 2 gold on New Ireland.

This is what he sent back.

So, what do you think? Did he or didn’t he?



PURI PURI - Book Cover

Carol and I met that fierce looking bloke on the PURI PURI cover.  With son-in-law Bruce we flew in his Cessna 210 around New Guinea as part of a Bonanza Society aerial safari.  Anti-clockwise from Port Moresby, around the coast, up the Sepik River, and over the big hill down to Daru then home. Unnerving to be at altitude and watch the jungle and cliffs going past and even higher.

mtn view from the plane

More connections – in his twenties, Bruce was a teacher in the New Guinea Highlands for several years.PNG pics for blogs-5

The bloke with the face was a member of a Highlands tribal sing-sing.  Fierce looking men, tough and hard, all painted up – wearing flashy gold watches!  Including, we were told, this bloke’s fake Rolex.

on the Karawari airstrip, Sepik

But note the gold ingots on the cover – these are what drive this story.  For decades rumours swirled around PNG about Japanese gold.  Rumours generally discounted as wishful thinking.  Until one day the PNG government placed ads in the media forbidding anyone who found the Japanese gold from removing it from PNG.

I cut out the ad and sent it to a friend of mine, born in Rabaul about the same time I was born in Kavieng.  He spent a lot of time in PNG and the Solomons, Vanuatu, tracking down lost WWII aircraft, generally for US families seeking some closure.  I asked him what did he think about the gold story.

In return, he sent me a photo of a bed sheet, on which he’d placed that newspaper article. No comment. Nothing.  Took me a while to realise that he’d pinned it down with a number of gold ingots.  With Japanese inscriptions!  I immediately rang him, and asked him.  His response – “that’s for me to know and you to wonder.”  Ken has since passed away, and the secret of the gold (maybe) passed with him.


Nick and Angie with friends become embroiled in a hunt for the gold. Unknown to them, a Japanese Yakuza gang is already there.  When the two groups collide and a third party intervenes, high drama follows. Nature plays a powerful hand, a volcanic eruption overwhelming the petty human squabbling.Carol & wigwam man

Karawari airstrip, Sepik