Khaki Town by Judy Nunn: Your Preview Verdict

Khaki Town by Judy Nunn: Your Preview Verdict

Our most recent Preview was Khaki Town by Judy Nunn, a breathtaking historical novel set in Queensland during World War II. The novel is inspired by a true wartime story that has remained a well-kept secret for over seventy years. Our Preview readers loved how thoroughly researched the book was and the insight they got into wartime Queensland. It was unputdownable!

Here are some of their highlights:

I love books with a compelling, well-paced storyline and characters I really care about. Khaki Town absolutely ticked these boxes for me; I loved it and didn’t want to put it down. Khaki town is a beautifully written novel, set in Townsville during 1942. World War II had well and truly reached Australia, and everyday people were learning to adapt to their ‘new normal’. While numerous books are set during World War II, Khaki Town really stood out for me as it is situated in Australia and deals with the theme of racism in a unique way. The central storyline, inspired by relatively unknown true events, details the ways in which overt and systemic racism influences interactions between locals, Australian and US soldiers, and international politicians. The story moves swiftly across a large cast of well-developed characters, contributing to the fast pace of the book. I loved many of the characters and didn’t have any trouble keeping track of them as the book is divided according to three perspectives: civilians, soldiers, and politicians. Some of the events depicted in the book are heartbreaking but the story is ultimately uplifting and it stayed with me long after I finished reading it. – Amanda, QLD, 5 stars

Judy Nunn delivers again. Her latest novel, Khaki Town, transports the reader back to war time Townsville, as an influx of Australian and US troops descend upon the town, resulting in underlying tensions between the Aussies and the Yanks, as well as between black and white, and the simmering hostilities are ignored and hidden by both governments until the situation reaches boiling point. Based on true events that are little known to most Australians, Khaki Town gives a wonderful insight into life in Northern Queensland in the early 40’s, and the marvellous characters bring the story to life. As the reader gets swept along with the characters, the story can be heartbreaking at times, but heart-warming as well. A wonderful mix of mystery and romance, the book had me hooked from the start and I found it hard to put it down. Khaki Town get 5 stars from me, I loved it! – Amanda, QLD, 5 stars

Khaki Town is the newest novel by Judy Nunn. In this novel, Judy Nunn explores the time during World War 2 in Townsville, where America establish a military base in the town. There is an aboriginal population in the town and Val Callahan owns The Brown’s Hotel. Val is a strong woman who has seen and been through a lot and helps her friend Edie find her feet and establish a business for herself. I am a fan of Judy Nunn and her novels about Australian experiences and this one does not disappoint. She has impeccably researched the wartime era and interactions between the Americans and Australians. The novel raises themes of racism, love and violence in the town. I give the book 5 stars. – Brenda, NSW, 5 stars

I’ll admit that I lost quite a few nights sleep in order to finish Khaki Town to see how Judy Nunn concluded this spellbinding story. This book was emotional, inspiring and gripping to the very last page! – Jessie, VIC, 5 stars

Judy Nunn is a brilliant story teller and she really brings the Townsville of 1942 to life. Her characters are colourful and she doesn’t shy away from the racial discrimination issue, tackling it head on. Action, humour, romance, song and dance: what more could you need? My first by Judy Nunn, but not my last! – Marianne, NSW, 5 stars

The locals who have stayed in Townsville, North Queensland, despite the threat of a Japanese invasion are out to make the best of it. A black market is burgeoning, pretty girls enjoy attending dances with the troops, and in various ventures entrepreneurial women are making their fortunes from the ‘over-paid, over-sexed and over here’ Yanks. The town is full of khaki uniforms and Brown’s Hotel is thriving. A newspaper reporter is noting the casualties of war at home. He discovers Ross River Fever is the convenient cover story for the deaths of an unknown number of soldiers – and they’re all Negro. All the black troops are unarmed, and appear to be used as slave labour in the levelling of the harsh terrain for airstrips. Their lack of access to recreational pursuits lead to a tragic outcome. His report, silenced not only by wartime censorship but governmental policy, is passed to the American Congressman Lyndon Baines Johnson investigating the 96th Battalion’s mutiny. Over a Bundy or two, and over almost 70 years later. what is eventually revealed is a tale of bullying and racism by individuals and governments. A shameful part of Australia’s history, but (like Betty’s first orgasm) this Judy Nunn read did not disappoint. – Anita, QLD, 5 stars

Through a lot of research by Judy Nunn ‘Khaki Town’ has come to fruition exposing a subject that many would prefer to have been ‘swept under the carpet’. It brings to life the complexities and hardship of war; the loss, the lonliness, the courage and the ability of some people who, in the face of adversity rose above it all to succeed and to help others to do likewise. It also showed the ugliness of racism and how the bitterness of one man in particular brought about by his narrow-minded upbringing made others suffer. Whilst another’s upbringing taught her ‘Colour is only skin deeo, people are people, good bad or indifferent. Make no assumptions until you get to know the person inside the skin.’ I enjoyed reading this book and felt totally immersed in the story. Brilliant, Judy Nunn! Just brilliant! – Laurel, NSW, 5 stars

I was extremely lucky to win an advance copy of Judy Nunn’s new book Khaki Town from Better Reading . Judy is one of my fave authors and I love how she weaves historical details/events into a great storyline. Your learning about history whilst enjoying a fantastic read. Khaki Town is a war novel set in Townsville, Queensland in 1942 during World War 2. On the first page of the novel Judy states the following : This book is about racism and there are some passages that readers may find offensive and even shocking. Well that’s totally true. The racial tensions between the black and white American army troops deeply saddened me and made me quite angry. The blacks were treated like second class citizens and they basically were slaves. I loved reading about the characters of Betty and Amelia and how they changed throughout the story. I also felt deeply connected with the characters of Ant and Kasey. Absolutely loved reading this book. – Yvette, NSW, 5 stars

Judy Nunn’s eagerly awaited “Khaki Town” has delivered in spades what we have come to expect from Judy – a truly fine Australian read, with fact and fiction seamlessly melded into a book where pages almost turn themselves. Khaki Town brings to life Townsville in the last stages of World War 2, when US and Australian troops in their thousands changed the landscape of Townsville forever, as Australia bunkers down against the looming invasion by Japan. The diversity of the Aussie and Yank in this era is clearly revealed in Judy’s characterisation of both fictional and real characters through the book, which in many cases have a basis on true events during the time the American Army was based in Australia. The issues of Aussie vs Yank are equally challenged with those of white vs black, as well as those of military vs civilian. Definitely one to read if you love real historically based Aussie fiction – Judy’s ability to combine impeccable research with a beautifully scripted story has again resulted in what is sure to be a top seller. – Jane, NSW, 5 stars

I was hooked on this book from the opening scene where President LBJ and Senator Robert Kennedy we’re drinking Bundaberg Rum in the Oval Office. The characters are well described. It’s an interesting insight into race relations. A very readable and enjoyable book. – Julie, ACT, 5 stars

Judy Nunn has woven a great fictional story around factual events which occurred in Townsville Qld during WW2. This is a story mainly about racism directed at African American servicemen who were billeted in Townsville. They were not welcomed in Townsville by some of the locals and Australian soldiers but they mainly received this treatment from white American soldiers who were also there at the time. These African American soldiers were used as labourers building airstrips and not as fighters. The story revolves around a good hearted female pub owner, black market booze, romance but mainly about the treatment and death of many of the African American troops. I loved her characters and the use of Townsville’s locality. This book is a great read. – Andrew, ACT, 5 stars

Judy Nunn has once again produced a well writen and enjoyable storey. Set in Townsville, a war time storey about racial prejudice which has been secret for so long. The storey was thought provoking. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, from the locals to the soldiers and the background of the part in the war Townsville had. Such a moving book and I would recommend to anyone. – Rachel, QLD, 5 stars

Before I’d even finished the first chapter I knew this was going to be a good read, and I wasn’t wrong! With lively characters weaved throughout a story based on little known events it kept the pages turning with anticipation and intrigue. The content of the story could be viewed as somewhat confronting, but I found it refreshing that there was no censoring in how this story was told. A story that they wanted to keep a secret has inspired a novel that is rich in both history and culture, a brutally honest retelling of a time that is well known about, and events that are not. An exciting read that pulls the heart, and the head in many different directions forcing you to think and feel in unexpected ways as the story unravels in all of it’s brilliance. Thank you Judy Nunn for the wonderful read and to Penguin Random House Australia and Better Reading for the opportunity to review this book. – Belinda, VIC, 5 stars

Absolutely loved Khaki Town! This book is such an eye opener. Judy Nunn has the knack of blending well research history into a very readable story. This book highlights the plight of non Australians which is being echoed by items in our news today. – Sue, QLD, 5 stars

Khaki Town is the first book by Australia actress and author Judy Nunn that I have read. Judy most certainly has a new fan – what an incredible book. I struggled to put this down. The last few nights I have been immersed in the life of 1942’s Townsville. My preferred genre is crime and thriller but 2019 for me has been about branching out and reading different genres and definitely more Australian writers. Best decision I have made as I have discovered some incredible books and this is definitely high on my list of favourite books for 2019. Khaki Town is an emotional book in so many ways. This book made me cry, it made me laugh, it was inspiring and it made me so angry! This story is inspired by a true story of a story that the government did not want told. But a story that needs to be told, of Australia’s history, of America’s history and the truth of what happened in WW2. Australia is on the brink of invasion from Japan. Townsville, in far north Queensland is a major hub for both Australian and American troops. The locals are loving the thriving economy, the America’s have plenty of money to spend on alcohol and girls. The local pub The Brown’s Hotel is packed to the rafters every night and day and the owner Val Callahan is counting her money. It is a safe place for all the soldiers – both black and white to wind down and relax. The Australian’s are accepting of all the visitors, although the Aussie men are jealous of the wealth. The American military is still run but racist leaders and the black soldiers do not have an easy time of anything. The behaviour of those in charge is appalling and trouble is brewing. And when it kicks off it really kicks off. This is a fantastic story of history, racism, love, drama and death. I can’t recommend this book more. Thanks to Penguin Books Australia and Better Reading for my advanced copy of this book to read. Released in Australia in October you need to read this story. All opinions are my own and are in no way biased. – Mandy, NSW, 5 stars

Another book of Judy Nunn’s I couldn’t put down! Nunn explores a well kept secret that most Australians have never heard about but happened right here in Australia in WWII! It was well written, not focusing on one characters view of the story but a number of people, all tied together to tell an interesting but horrifically sad story. Existing fans of Judy Nunn will love this book and many new fans will be created once reading Khaki Town. – Emma, VIC, 5 stars

Khaki Town Book Review. A thoroughly readable and insightful book by Judy Nunn about a series of long buried, and forgotten disturbing ‘incidents’ during World War 2. The Australian government welcomes US help in the Pacific and on home soil, so, although still clinging to its colonial White Australia Policy, it must put aside its objections to ‘Negro’ troops being stationed in Townsville. The locals, like shrewd, attractive publican Val, her attractive barmaids and her black marketeer, gambling operator have no trouble accepting and welcoming the men of the “96th Battalion Engineers (Coloured)” who are charmed by the lack of southern American segregation signs and can let off steam playing jazz, drinking, dancing, falling in love -and even learning to write. Mercilessly bullied by their own commander-as if still slaves- tensions boil over when some local residents treat those who’ve come to protect them as invaders. Wartime censorship prevents the publication of these dark episodes by a determined local journalist whose private documentation eventually becomes part of an internal US investigation starring a wily and up and coming Congressman. A timely book coinciding with the release of the film ‘The Great Australian Dream’ and maps of historical Australian Indigenous massacres… – Jane, NSW, 5 stars

Khaki Town is a wartime novel set in Townsville North Queensland, although this is a work of fiction there is quite a lot of factual events that actually took place, This is a book I couldn’t stop reading and throughly enjoyed. – Deborah, NSW, 5 stars

Khaki Town by Judy Nunn Fact or Fiction what a great question, So much of this book is fact easy to forget it’s a work of fiction absolutely brilliant how Judy Nunn has combined both, Will definitely be a best seller. – Gavin, NSW, 5 stars

This book was impossible to put down from start to finish. Set in Second World War Australia, Judy Nunn has managed to write a compelling novel while also staying true to historical accuracy, which is commendable. The research which has gone into this book is evident throughout, and the story and characters are compelling. This is the first of Judy Nunn’s books I have read, but I would be keen to read another! – Ash, ACT, 5 stars

What an awesome book by an incredible story teller. Well done Judy Nunn you have just won yourself a new fan that is so looking forward to reading more of your books. I’ve always picked up a Judy Nunn book but have never opened one to read……something to do with the acting career. Home and Away does that, but am I glad I started reading Khaki Town. Man I love historical fiction especially ones based in Australia. OK, it’s 1942, Australia is on the brink of invasion from Japan. Townsville, in far north Queensland is a major hub for both Australian and American troops. The Americans come along, loaded with money and ready to spend on the local economy of Townsville. Only problem is, many are black Americans and man, how the white Americans hate them having privileges. So you can imagine what happens. We also read about the White Australia Policy describing the horrors that aboriginal women went through on Palm Island and North Queensland. And what the government wanted to do if Japan invaded Australia. Along the way we meet some colourful characters and learnt their backstories. These are the stories I mostly enjoyed. Like Val who worked hard to establish The Brown’s Hotel with her famous snake competition. Edie was also a favourite with her great laundry service. Both strong females making a marked when it was hard for females. Putting all of these together, you get a story full of history, racism, love, drama and death. If you love all of these then Khaki Town is for you and it’s a book I highly recommend. – Maria, SA, 5 stars

Read all reviews from our Khaki Town Preview here


Preview Reviews: Khaki Town by Judy Nunn

Review | Preview

15 October 2019

Preview Reviews: Khaki Town by Judy Nunn

    Great Storytelling: Read an Extract from Khaki Town by Judy Nunn

    Review | Extract

    8 October 2019

    Great Storytelling: Read an Extract from Khaki Town by Judy Nunn

      An Exceptional Novel from one of Australia's Best Authors: Read a Review of Khaki Town by Judy Nunn

      Review | Our Review

      8 October 2019

      An Exceptional Novel from one of Australia's Best Authors: Read a Review of Khaki Town by Judy Nunn

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            Publisher details

            Khaki Town
            Judy Nunn
            Australian Fiction, Fiction
            20 October, 2020


            It seems to have happened overnight, Val thought . How extraordinary. We’ve become a khaki town. It’s March 1942. Singapore has fallen. Darwin has been bombed. Australia is on the brink of being invaded by the Imperial Japanese Forces. And Val Callahan, publican of The Brown’s Bar in Townsville, could not be happier as she contemplates the fortune she’s making from lonely, thirsty soldiers. Overnight the small Queensland city is transformed into the transport hub for 70,000 American and Australian soldiers destined for combat in the South Pacific. Barbed wire and gun emplacements cover the beaches. Historic buildings are commandeered. And the dance halls are in full swing with jazz, jitterbug and jive. The Australian troops begrudge the confident, well-fed ‘Yanks’ who have taken over their town and their women. There’s growing conflict, too, within the American ranks, because black GIs are enjoying the absence of segregation. And the white GIs don't like it. As racial violence explodes through the ranks of the military, a young United States Congressman, Lyndon Baines Johnson, is sent to Townsville by his president to investigate. ‘Keep a goddamned lid on it, Lyndon,’ he is told, ‘lest it explode in our faces …’ Judy Nunn’s exciting new novel, a no.1 bestseller, is inspired by a true wartime story that has remained a well-kept secret for over seventy years.
            Judy Nunn
            About the author

            Judy Nunn

            Judy Nunn’s career has been long, illustrious and multifaceted. After combining her internationally successful acting career with scriptwriting for television and radio, Judy decided in the 90s to turn her hand to prose. Her first three novels, The Glitter Game, Centre Stage and Araluen, set respectively in the worlds of television, theatre and film, became instant bestsellers, and the rest is history, quite literally in fact. She has since developed a love of writing Australian historically-based fiction and her fame as a novelist has spread rapidly throughout Europe where she is published in English, German, French, Dutch, Czech and Spanish. Her subsequent bestsellers, Kal, Beneath the Southern Cross, Territory, Pacific, Heritage, Floodtide, Maralinga,Tiger Men,Elianne, Spirits of the Ghan, Sanctuary and Khaki Town confirmed Judy’s position as one of Australia’s leading fiction writers. She has now sold over one million books in Australia alone. In 2015 Judy was made a Member of the Order of Australia for her "significant service to the performing arts as a scriptwriter and actor of stage and screen, and to literature as an author."

            Books by Judy Nunn


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