Spikeback Books was formed in early January 2017 when two friends Tony and Howard, gathered together in West Melbourne for the first time since they had parted at Upwey High School in the 60s. They discussed various ideas of how they might bring their creative output to the world at large and in encouraging other ‘grey people’ to do the same. They are now active in their partnership, in the emerging Spikeback Books which believes that older unpublished writers and creative people, deserve to be fostered and encouraged into the world of readers, whilst they still have the time. It is the place, Where Grey Matters.
Howard Birnstihl had been a teacher in Victoria, in the country where he pioneered teaching film and photography. Eventually he founded with his wife Gil, a business where they developed books to help students and teachers in the classroom, make more sense of their programs and their learning experiences. It was a career choice that lasted for more than twenty years. Concurrently Howard developed his skills as a creative photographer and became well known and well regarded for his creative output, acknowledged in various photography prizes. He is still very active in this field.
Tony London began teaching in country Victoria in the Technical Education sector. After three years he went to work in the independent sector in Western Australia as a deputy principal and principal, and consultant. During this time he retained his role as a teacher of literature. His writing interest was poetry, where he could ‘fit it in’. Subsequently he has been published in literary journals, newspapers and other media outlets. Since leaving schools he has written several commissioned books, including High Hopes, published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives and launched in India in 2016.
Subsequently Howard and Tony co-opted four other writers with a wide range of interests and experience.
Alan Pearson, also at school with them, was an art teacher in regional schools in Gippsland, where he honed his painting, cartooning and illustrating skills whilst intimately involved in the communities where he was teaching. Alan has long been water-based in his activities, sailing and navigating Gippsland waters, often the source of material for his art works. Benito’s Treasure is his first foray into writing and illustrating a children’s book and is included in the first offering from Spikeback Books.
Sam Spencer, his heart torn between two homes - Australia and his native USA, has an insatiable thirst for the history of both countries. Combined with his taste for romance and adventure and an uncanny understanding of human nature he reminds us what life was like for the pioneers who helped make us who we are today.
Garnet James must bear a constant smile as he writes his tongue in cheek views of Australian life. Whimsical and insightful, his often rambling yarns weave many of our cultural foibles into his often complicated plots – some gentle, others with a hefty bite.
Robyn Collins, already loved by Australian children for her many adventure novels, adds a degree of experience to the Spikeback group. Energetic and enthusiastic, she will be a driving force behind the development of this creative group of senior Australian writers.