Reviewed by Pauline Seath
All the Burning Bridges, written by veteran Australian actor Steve Bisley, is a sequel to his highly acclaimed first book Stillways, a memoir published in 2013, and nominated for several literary awards.
Steve, a born storyteller, grew up in Lake Munmorah, near Newcastle NSW.
Stillways tells of his childhood, candidly, sometimes humorously, managing always to paint vivid pictures of his surroundings, encounters and most of all, his feelings.
In the epilogue to his first book, Steve included several of his mother’s poems. He rote: “Mum is the reason I was able to write this book. She taught me about the music of words”.
All The Burning Bridges begins with Steve, at the tender age of just 17, heading to Sydney to leave his childhood behind. He has managed to secure a job, and the address of a boarding house. On the 27th of Dec 1967, Steve waits by the highway attempting to hitch a ride to Wyong, then catch a train to Sydney.
“Cars come and go, no one stops. It’s hot this December day. A boy beside a road, a suitcase with his life inside.”
Finally, a car.
“I throw the suitcase in, and we’re gone before I get the chance to have a last look at what I’m leaving, what I’ve lost. It’s risky in here in a stranger’s car, for all I know there could be a body in the boot with its head cut off by a chainsaw.”
The very essence of Steve is revealed as his journey continues. With no qualifications, after 6 years Steve decides he wants to be an actor and applies to NIDA. He waits nervously for his turn to audition.
His name is called. “Fear strikes my heart and bowel in equal measures. My brain ceases to function; sweat glistens on my forehead. I wish I was in Vanuatu.”
After a bungled audition, disappointed in himself, he thinks that perhaps he is not cut out to be an actor. However, the gods disagreed, and he is accepted. A new life begins. Along the way, Steve meets “someone special” and they go on to have four children.
Successful in the Australian industry, Steve is chosen to play the lead in a BBC series in London.
“Sometimes in my life as an actor, wonderful things have happened; this was one of them.”
All The Burning Bridges reflects many different aspects of Steve’s life. He shares his battles with depression, his addiction to lust, alcohol and drugs.
It’s not ‘just another autobiography’, There is a great deal more to this story than the story itself, you will see why when you read it.
Some sequels can’t be appreciated without having read the predecessor, this one works just as it is. It’s not entirely necessary to have read Stillways first. However, I highly recommend you read both, in any order.
By Steve Bisley
Echo Publishing/A & U