… “Fatal Shore” by Robert Hughes, which I picked off the Free Books shelf in the café and, for which, I left “Masters of Sex” in exchange. (It went quickly too.)
Hughes is a fine writer and a smart guy. He seems to have read everything written about and visited every place relevant to his history of Australia, which begins about 1787. with its colonization by England, and ends about 1868, when it stopped dumping its criminals there.
That was the original idea. (The French liked it so much, they followed suit with Devil’s Island.) Take a (to the beholder) desolate chunk of land in the middle of nowhere, with weird plants, weird birds, weird mammals, some beings that barely qualified as human, and ship your bad guys (and gals) there. (You didn’t even have to be that bad. Petty theft got you seven years. Political agitation got you 14.)
Send a few guards, (where could they escape too?); barely house or feed them; work then till they dropped; scrimp on medical treatment or any other amenities; beat them bloody when you wanted. (Insolence got you 50 lashes; something worse 150 — or 500.) It was cheaper than building prisons.
Do me a favor. Don’t let Jeff Sessions hear about this.