Good Reading : December January 2016
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING DECEMBER 2014 / JANUARY 2015 52 What were the terrifying real events that Red Hot is based on? From 1964 to1968 a crazed arsonist went on a rampage, setting out to destroy the tranquil Hamilton Valley in NSW and the people in it. This lunatic terror ised the valley folk several times a week with up to four fires in one night. The fruit-growing community lived in fear of burning in their beds. What was it like growing up in a town besieged by random arson attacks? We were victims of the ‘Invisible Firebug’, as he was dubbed. We lost a huge shed full of valuable items that our parents owned. A car and another outbuilding were torched, and there were several grass fires surrounding our property. We lived on 22 acres and would watch as other property owners’ fruit-packing sheds and huge haystacks went up in flames, along with their livelihoods. The wail of sirens became the norm, as did living in fear. No longer could we roam the valley freely, walking through orchards and idly picking fruit; it was so extreme that we couldn’t even go to the outside toilet alone anymore. One Christmas Eve the hills surrounding us went up and the entire valley looked like it was lost. That was horrifying and is still so very vivid in our minds. Worse was to come when he targeted homes. It was a living nightmare. Red Hot also reveals scandals and a well-kept secret that could explain this act of obsessive vengeance. What prompted you to write a book about the attacks? We were always talking about the firebug mystery over the years. One day over lunch we just decided to write the story. There’s no other story like it out there. How did you research the book? Many of the residents were our family, and four of the properties belonged to our immediate relatives, who were fruit growers and farmers. We visited them and went over the whole ordeal. We also spoke with ex-detectives from the time who are still in the town and the firefighters who battled the flames year after year. We also talked with journos and other victims who are still alive. To what extent do fact and fiction intermingle in Red Hot? About 75 per cent of the story is fact. We obviously changed the characters’ names, but the fires are based on fact, as is the court case &A Q Q&A Heading: In the mid 1960s, Hamilton Valley, a suburb of the NSW town of Albury, was plagued by over 300 fires perpetrated by a pyromaniac who torched the houses, cars – and even outdoor toilets – of increasingly terrified residents. CHERYL and LEONIE ALLDIS, sisters who grew up in the area at the time of the attacks, have written Red Hot, a largely factual account of the terrifying four-year reign of terror by the still-at-large arsonist. We talked with Cheryl and Leonie about the events and what prompted them to write a book. E GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING DECEMBER 2015 / JANUARY 2016 52 INTHELINEOFFIR INTHELINEOFFIR E THE WHOLE SAGA RUINED LIFELONG FRIENDSHIPS.