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H.A. Willis, (born Howard Alan Willis on 15 November 1948), is an Australian essayist, critic and editor.

H.A. Willis
H.A. Willis, 2013.
H.A. Willis, 2013.
BornHoward Alan Willis
(1948-11-15) 15 November 1948 (age 70)
Colac, Victoria, Australia
OccupationEssayist, critic, editor
Notable worksManhunt (1979), a.k.a. Bad Blood (1981)

Early lifeEdit

The son of a Lands Department inspector in Victoria, Willis was born at Colac and grew up at Apollo Bay, Kyneton and Ballarat. He subsequently lived in Darwin and Auckland, New Zealand (1970–80) and rural Tasmania before settling with his wife and two young sons in Perth in 1981.[1]

As a student at La Trobe University in the late 1960s, Willis was part of a group (which also included Philippe Mora, Peter Beilby, Rod Bishop and Demos Krouskos), that wrote and produced the first issue of Cinema Papers (October 1967).[2]

While studying at the University of Auckland, Willis was a founding member of Alternative Cinema, an Auckland film-makers’ cooperative established in 1972. He contributed articles to and edited several early issues of that group’s journal, Alternative Cinema. Willis later (1976) wrote an in-depth account of the New Zealand film industry for Cinema Papers.[3]


Willis (under the credit "Alan Willis") produced a half-hour television documentary, Stanley, filmed in October–November 1974 for the NZBC.[4] The film concerned the twelve-day manhunt (in October 1941) for mass killer Stanley Graham. Based on his interviews with participants in the manhunt, and his access to the previously closed Police files, Willis wrote Manhunt, the most detailed account of the event.[5][6] The feature film Bad Blood, based on his book,[7] starred Jack Thompson and Carol Burns. In 2012, Willis returned to Hokitika, where Graham is buried. His account of his trip to Westland and the Graham story was published in the "Travel" section of The West Australian.[8] Willis's 2012 visit to New Zealand also generated articles paying homage to the earthquake damaged city of Christchurch and the philosopher Karl Popper (a resident of Christchurch in 1937–45).[9]

After settling in Western Australia, Willis worked as an archival researcher, film script assessor (WA Film Council, 1991–93), book editor and reviewer. Between 1989 and 2006, he wrote about 250 reviews for The West Australian, The Age and The Canberra Times.[10] He also wrote a number of longer articles on subjects that included the closure of the old Metters Limited stove factory in Perth,[11] chronic pain,[12] east European cultural and political history,[13] cultural stereotyping,[14] and environmental issues.[15][16] In an essay on Colonial frontier violence[17] he identified and reproduced the first known photograph (1865) taken in the Kimberley region. His essay on pain was selected as the Western Australian finalist for the MBF Health and Well Being awards for 1994.[18] In 1994 he interviewed Tim Winton for Eureka Street;[19] Winton later dedicated his novel Breath (2008) to Willis.

Willis has been involved in two aspects of the Australian "History wars". When Keith Windschuttle published The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Volume One (2002), Willis undertook a detailed analysis of the author's cited sources in order to dispute his figure for Tasmanian Aborigines killed during hostilities in Van Diemen's Land. In relation to that debate, Robert Manne described Willis as “a conservative scholar ... known for his scrupulousness”.[20] In 2010, he joined the debate over the introduction and history of smallpox in Australia, arguing that the origin of the 1789 outbreak near Sydney was most likely from a Macassan introduction through Northern Australia.[21]

As a non-fiction editor, Willis prepared for publication (including the title) The Last of the Last (2009), the autobiography of Claude Choules, the last combat veteran of World War I. At the time of publication Choules was 108, making him the world’s oldest first time author.[22] Other titles edited by Willis include From Kastellorizo (2006), Michael (Stratos) Jack Kailis’s memoir of his extended family,[23] and Nurses with Altitude (2008), a collection of stories by Western Australian nurses of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.[24]

Between 1982 and 1991 Willis published eleven short stories in various literary journals, including Overland,[25] Australian Short Stories,[26] Brave New Word,[27][28] 'Going Down Swinging,[29] The Weekend Australian,[30][31] and Island Magazine.[32][33]

In 2010, Willis indexed and was one of the editorial annotators of The Australind Journals of Marshall Waller Clifton 1840-1861.[34] In 2011 he wrote the introductory essay to a reprinted edition of Thermo-Electrical Cooking Made Easy,[35][36] by Nora Curle-Smith,[37] first published in Kalgoorlie in 1907,[38] and claimed to be the world’s first cookbook for an electric stove.


  1. ^$Yq
  2. ^ Murray, Scott (March – April 1984), "A Personal History of Cinema Papers", Cinema Papers (Melbourne), 44-45: 41, ISSN 0311-3639
  3. ^ Willis, Howard (March – April 1976), "Renovations in Earthquake Hotel", Cinema Papers (Melbourne): 325–28, ISSN 0311-3639
  4. ^
  5. ^ Willis, H. A. (Howard Alan) (1979), Manhunt : the story of Stanley Graham, Whitcoulls, ISBN 978-0-7233-0629-0
  6. ^ Willis, H. A. (Howard Alan) (1981), Bad blood : the story of Stanley Graham, Fontana/Collins, ISBN 978-0-00-634925-9
  7. ^
  8. ^ South Islands buried past in online version: variant editing in newsprint version The Scene of the crime page 2 of travel section of paper of same date, 19 July 2012
  9. ^ Christchurch rising from the ruins in online version: variant editing in newsprint version Picking up the pieces pp 8-10 of travel section of paper of 14 July 2012
  10. ^ See, for example, reviews of Killing Mister Watson, by Peter Matthiessen, The Age, 15 September 1990; Invisible Invaders, by Judy Campbell, The West Australian, 20 July 2002; and The Historian’s Conscience, edited by Stuart Macintyre, The Canberra Times, 13 November 2004.
  11. ^ Willis, H. A. (29 October 1982), "Shutdown", The National Times
  12. ^ [1]Willis, H. A (March 1994), "On the Rack", Eureka Street (Melbourne), 4 (2): 28–33, ISSN 1036-1758
  13. ^ [2]Willis, H. A (26 January 2017), "A Drohobych Diptych", The Fortnightly Review
  14. ^ Eureka Street (as Howard Willis)
  15. ^ Willis, H. A (as Howard Willis) (27 March 1982), "Saving our Caves", The West Australian
  16. ^
  17. ^ [3]Willis, H. A (January – February 1997), "The Colour of Blood", Eureka Street (Melbourne), 7 (1): 20–25, ISSN 1036-1758
  18. ^ [4]"Eureka Street", Eureka Street (Melbourne), 4 (7): 3, November 1994, ISSN 1036-1758
  19. ^ [5]Willis, H. A (September 1994), "According to Winton", Eureka Street (Melbourne), 4 (7): 20–25, ISSN 1036-1758
  20. ^ [6]Manne, Robert (October 2003), "Windschuttle's Whitewash", Eureka Street (Melbourne), 13 (8): 23–27, ISSN 1036-1758
  21. ^ Willis, H. A (September 2010), "Poxy history [Smallpox and Aboriginal history.]", Quadrant, 54 (9): 70–73, ISSN 0033-5002
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ Willis, H. A (December 1987), "Daydream", Overland (Melbourne), 109: 40–42, ISSN 0030-7416
  26. ^ Willis, H. A (1989), "Charity", Australian Short Stories (Apollo Bay), 25: 22–25, ISSN 0810-4468
  27. ^ Willis, H. A (May 1988), "Otherwise", Brave New Word (Melbourne), 9: 37–40, ISSN 0725-5543
  28. ^ Willis, H. A (August 1989), "Party Trick", Brave New Word (Melbourne), 11: 57–63, ISSN 0725-5543
  29. ^ Willis, H. A (1988), "Losers Weepers", Going Down Swinging(Melbourne), 8: 81–88, ISSN 0157-3950
  30. ^ Willis, H. A (as W.A. Hallis) (28–29 September 1985), "Daylight Robbery", The Weekend Australian, Literary Magazine
  31. ^ Willis, H. A (18–19 April 1987), "Wasted", The Weekend Australian, Literary Magazine
  32. ^ Willis, H. A (1982), "Waiting for the Axe to Fall", Island (Sandy Bay), 11: 35–39, ISSN 0156-8124
  33. ^ Willis, H. A (1991), "How I ended up with Narelle", Island (Sandy Bay), 48: 59–61, ISSN 1035-3127
  34. ^
  35. ^ Curle Smith, H. Nora; Willis, H. A. (Howard Alan), 1948- (1907), Thermo-electrical cooking made easy : proved recipes for guidance in the use of the Rational electric cooking stove (D. Curle Smith's patent), Hesperian Press, ISBN 978-0-85905-492-8CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  36. ^
  37. ^ Nora Curle-Smith was the sister of Walter Murdoch, aunt of Keith Murdoch and great-aunt of Rupert Murdoch.
  38. ^ Curle Smith, H. Nora (1907), Thermo-electrical cooking made easy : proved recipes for guidance in the use of the Rational electric cooking stove (D. Curle Smith's patent), Bird & Annear, retrieved 1 November 2012