An evocative name in 20th century history.

The first atomic bomb obliterated this city. August 1945 changed the world, and wiped out thousands upon thousands of people in a few seconds. The blast, the enormous heat and destructive shock waves was a turning point in man’s history on this planet.

The Peace Park provides a sombre reminder, the museum details the orgy of destruction, while everything is hoping for a future without nuclear weapons.

An admirable  wish, shared by millions the world over, but seeming more unlikely by the day as more nations acquire the technology, and men with no thought for history – when will they ever learn – poise their fingers over nuclear buttons.

Buttons that can summon weapons hundreds of times more powerful that the two that finally halted the carnage of the Pacific war.

This blue white sign, in origami cranes, means “peace”



Sombre. That’s  the feeling Hiroshima left with me.

Yet the cherry blossoms still burst forth every spring for their 7 to 10 day life, while young families putter along their river in curious circular outboard powered boats. The word “boat” doesn’t seem to fit these strange craft.

By the way, pronunciation is optional. The Japanese alternatively use it with the accent on the “o” or on the “i”.





AMAZON – John Bell Books

CONTACT – John Bell Books


PURI PURI – by John Bell – Book 2 | Williams Series

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00073]The Kokoda Track, a dense inhospitable jungle track across the rugged mountains of Papua New Guinea, 1942 … a bloody battle fought by a small band of Australians holding off the Japanese invasion.  

“Ilolo, Uberi, Ioribaiwa, Nauro, Menari, Brigade Hill, Efogi. And Myola, Kagi. Yes, bloody Kagi.”  Angie turned to stare at Johnno, his eyes still closed, face white and sweating, jaw clenched. His mouth closed!  Lips not moving! … “Templeton, Eora Creek, Alola, Isurava,”  the litany slowed, the voice softened.  She heard the agony. “Isu-bloody-rava.”  A long pause, “and – oh Christ – Kokoda …” 

On the 1st of July 1967 two events are set to occur.  The first is a ceremony commemorating the 25th anniversary of the sinking of the Japanese p.o.w. ship Montivideo Maru, with the death of 1053 Australian prisoners.  The second is Angelique Condor’s 25th birthday. Both events are to take place in the township of Kavieng, a couple of degrees south of the Equator, on an outer eastern island off the coast of New Guinea.

Angie Condor, adopted orphan from war-ravaged Europe and now an Australian photo-journalist, is sent on assignment to Kavieng to cover the Montivideo Maru ceremony.  Full of the excitement and boundless enthusiasm that only youth can provide she accompanies an old warhorse correspondent, Johnno, into this ancient land.  As they lumber out of the heat of Port Moresby on a tired DC3, Angie is gripped by memories and feelings that are not her own.

Through the swirling mists travels the ancient tribal lore that distils the essence of New Guinea tribal spirituality, the lore of Puri Puri.  How can a blue eyed, blond girl from another land possibly have any connection to Puri Puri, an inherited gene found only amongst the tribal people of New Guinea?  And who is Meri Melera, why is she protecting Angie?   Why does the man Karl Frederiksen appear in her “trances”?

Angie finds herself attracted to the ruggedly handsome Nick Williams, who leads her into a dangerous treasure hunt.  Her old friend Giselle had stumbled across a map indicating a haul of Japanese ingots was left behind after World War 2 somewhere on the New Ireland west coast.  Filled with curiosity and excited by the possible discovery of hidden treasure, the friends venture on Nick’s sailing boat to the black, sulphur filled caves, stumbling across a dangerous Japanese Yakuza gang in the process of stealing the gold.

The pace builds as Mother Nature intervenes, and yet another party arrives looking for gold.

Will the love developing between Angie and Nick be enough to survive the temptation of the sensual Giselle, or the mysterious decades-long blood feud between the Williams and Frederiksen families?  A story told in the first book of the series, PAYBACK.

PURI PURI is an action adventure packed with hints of fact, making the fiction so much more compelling.

PURI PURI – Book 2 in John Bell’s Williams Series – Purchase by following the links below:

AMAZON – John Bell Books

John Bell Books

PAYBACK – by John Bell – Book 1 | Williams Series


“He leaned on an old bamboo cane, its carved handle smoothed by the years.  A sharp eye might pick out the Sepik River motif, but only a wantok could explain.  Eyes wet, the old man looked up to where the crows hunched … the movie suddenly stopped, then began to roll forwards … Ben Williams was once again seven years old.”

Paradise is shattered the night Lu, niece of a respected and proud Chinese merchant family, was brutally raped.  Such an act cannot go unpunished.  Payback is required, is expected.

And so begins the feud …

Ben Williams – The serious eldest child of Harry and Victoria Williams, leader of the pack, as wild as his adopted country.  From an early age Ben proved a quick study, displaying a raw toughness beyond his years.  While still wet behind the ears, he mastered knife, gun and explosives, not for sport but survival.  His strong business sense expanded the family’s interests beyond copra, into gold, crocodiles, timber and shipping.

Jack Williams – Ruggedly handsome, untamed and competitive.  His vivid blue eyes miss nothing over the bow of his schooner, Garamut. As formidable as his brother Ben in the art of weaponry, the glorious Jane Bifold presented his greatest challenge.  Spiriting her away at high tide against the furious protestations of her father, Jack and Jane find themselves caught up in a war that this tiny nation is ill prepared for.

Josh (Joseph) Williams – Highly competitive, his blue eyes would flash in challenge at his older siblings as he strived constantly to be the best.  Josh quickly discovered that quality crocodile skins were a much sought after commodity, and one he could produce well. He wasn’t prepared for Khanitha, the poised and elegant daughter of the merchant Wong Yuk Chong.  Were his skills enough to win the love of this most magnificent creature as well as the respect of her formidable family.

George Williams – The youngest of the William’s clan.   Born after the tragic death of sister Ethel, he grew up to be a solemn and quiet young man often shadowed by the imposing Ben, passionate Jack and impetuous Josh.  It was the freckle faced young Margaret who would be the one to crack the shell and bring him to life.  A life sadly cut short when captured somewhere in New Ireland, then lost at sea with over 1000 others with the sinking of the Japanese p.o.w. ship Montivideo Maru.

Gustav Hart – With a German father and Tabar Island mother he found himself despised by the Germans and disowned by the Islanders … he grew bitter as he aged.  This bitterness flowed on to his five sons to three mixed-race women.

Karl Frederiksen – A product of Gustav’s brutal parenting, his upbringing created a thug. Blond, cunning and clever.  He is forced to flee Lavongai in the darkest hour of the night following the discovery of his involvement in the rape of the Chinese girl.  Payback is heading his way.  He does not want this exile – for those who forced it upon him their time for payback would come.

Praise for John Bell

“Once I started, I couldn’t put it down.  A real page turner. Congratulations.” KL, NSW

“Payback is a great read, I couldn’t put it down.  A heartbreaking story especially knowing it is based on a true story.” LB, TVL

I have just finished my reading of Payback last night. This was a book equal of any that I have read … it was a novel that was hard to put down, and for some the epic would be seen as being profound in the history of Australia.” GB, QLD

“Outlandish, but has a ring of truth.  Payback is a true story disguised as a novel.  Based very closely on Bell’s family history, it is set in New Guinea … The temptation for the reader in this book is to try and work out what is true and what is fiction, but this is a fruitless exercise … Bell has produced a great read – tragic, funny, engaging and throwing a new light on our nearest neighbour, PNG.  In a word: ENGROSSING.”  Excerpt of review, Townsville Bulletin’s Weekend Extra

Purchase by following the links below:

AMAZON – John Bell Books

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!





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