Far North Queensland, Australia in the 1970s & 1980s is tough, tropical and sparsely populated. Infrastructure is minimal or non-existent. In a big wet, monsoon rains and cyclones cut highways and railways. The power gets knocked-out for days, sometimes weeks. Locals, for the most part, are hardy and self-sufficient.
Racism and misogyny is commonplace, the status quo very masculine. Men work hard, drink hard and fight hard. Anything less is suspect. Most women know their place, and the ones who don't cop a lot of shit. Corrupt politicians, violent police, land developers and their criminal friends rule the roost. Indigenous Australians are heavily persecuted; freaks and hippies too. At times, 'straight' society is enforced at the point of a baton or a gun.
In spite of these inequities, Far North Queenslanders appreciate the beauty and wildness of the natural world around them. Life goes at a slower pace, operating on local time. Social mores are less rigid, many niceties are discarded, and for those who seek it, absolute personal freedoms can be attained. It's still frontier country, and not just physically.
Seth Kelly is a local, born and bred, so he's grown up fishing, diving, shooting, riding motorbikes and driving boats. He learnt boxing at school and found an aptitude for brawling out of it. Though big and blonde - he's far from dumb. In a very macho world he's lucky to have had educated parents who instilled a strong sense of justice and fair play in him. Righting wrongs and helping others is important to him.
Yet he is no white knight. Sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, not to mention powerful cars, firearms and cold beer, have helped define who Seth is. In many ways he is a true son of the era, epitomising the tough guy ideal. But beyond the adventures, escapades and crimes, is the path he must travel on. Somewhere between the bent and straight worlds, between good and bad, the choices he makes, and their consequences, is his story.
Gawain Barker spent nearly 30 years cooking professionally around the world - especially in Far North Queensland, a story told in his memoir - 200 Kitchens: Confessions of a Nomad Cook.