After reading about Michael Robotham in the Weekend Australian magazine of 02-03 August 2014 and his childhood in Casino, Gundagai and Coffs Harbour, a few days later I was pleased to find a copy of one of his books I hadn’t read – The Wreckage.
The front cover caught my eye – not for its striking image, but for the rider "Among the very best of British thriller writers". Did I misread the weekend article? Certainly Robotham worked as a ghostwriter in London, Empty Cradles being one of his successes. Luckily a quick check in PANDORA revealed the truth.
PANDORA is the Australian web archive, hosted by the National Library since 1996. The Library was one of the very first agencies worldwide to recognise the import of heritage lost merely because it was born digital, and it created this exemplary collaboration between Australia’s memory institutions. Thousands of websites have been selected for archiving, which are now all findable in Trove.
Robotham’s own website, captured in PANDORA, states that he was born in Australia, ergo, he is not British.
But another interesting conundrum came to light. The cover for the book showed exactly the same image, but with a different quote: "A writer of the highest class who can create terror from the commonplace and crush the breath out of you".
It is not unusual for different editions of monographs to show tweaked messages and culturally attuned images on their dustjackets when published in different countries.
Trove, courtesy of catalogue records supplied by Libraries Australia, demonstrates this for Michael Robotham very clearly.
Another benefit of Trove is the unsung value of “party” identifiers.
Part of the transparent national information infrastructure, these unique national identifiers for people and organisations are assigned when records are loaded into Trove’s identity manager.
This file was the foundation for the People Australia project, which confirmed at least 50 sources of information about Australians. While much of it is authoritative, a key goal of the project was to ensure that noone is required to search each source individually. It is still a work in progress.
The National Library also works closely with other national sources of author information, particularly university repositories which archive academic research - theses, conference papers, monograph chapters, and journal articles. Some websites, linked to via Trove, are manuscripts in their own right. Trove supports academics by linking up behind the scenes with global identifiers such as ORCIDs. This ensures that a person and their work, whether it is made available in print or digital form, are automatically co-located by Trove.
For Michael Robotham, it means that everyone can know with certainty that he is an Australian. Which can still leave him amongst the best of the thriller authors in Britain.