Books by William Clarke

DON’T PAT THE WOMBAT! by Elizabeth Honey
Released: June 1, 2000

This journal, which chronicles a sixth-grade class trip to Cumbinya Pioneer Camp, is written through the eyes of Mike Ryder, a member of a crazy group called the Coconuts. As always, there are favored teachers, like "the beautiful Ms. Capelli," and holy terrors, such as Brian Cromwell, known to all as "the Bomb" for his explosive behavior. Adventures unfold: a hike to a gold mine brings on an attack of leeches, the kids put on a wacky talent show, and they get covered in mud learning how to build with wattle and daub. The wombat of the title plays only a minor part in the book, serving more as a metaphor for the eccentric style of the camp than as a character. The novel's major focus is Cromwell, an alcoholic teacher who delights in making Jonah, one of the more reclusive students, miserable. Readers will wonder why faculty members who were cognizant of his tactics tolerated such an abusive teacher for so long, but Cromwell does get his comeuppance. Unpolished, hand-drawn illustrations snake around the margins and interrupt paragraphs, much as they would if this really were Mike's journal; photographs, though sparse, are spot-on at capturing the daily events. While kids will recognize the more familiar camp events, the Australian setting and the unique activities offered to these campers are an exotic bonus. Challenging and often very funny, this gives new meaning the term "camp book." (Fiction. 9-12)Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 1995

A judicious audit of what happened or may have happened to the vast riches controlled by Russia's Romanoffs before they were executed by Bolshevik irregulars in the wake of the 1917 Revolution. Drawing on previously inaccessible Kremlin files, other archival sources, and globe-trotting legwork. Clarke (former financial editor of the London Times) first offers a brief but vivid history of the events leading up to the mid-1918 murders of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra, and at least two of their three daughters. He goes on to examine the recently developed forensic evidence that leaves only the monarch's heir (the hemophiliac Alexis) and one (as yet unidentified) daughter among the missing. He assesses the chances that Anna Anderson, who claimed to be the storied Anastasia, and Michael Goleniewski, the self-styled tsarevich, were telling the truth. Getting down to business, Clarke documents his painstaking search for the putatively lost wealth of the Romanoffs through Berlin, London, Moscow, New York, Paris, and other world capitals. As it happens, there were precious few assets left. The Communist regime confiscated virtually all of the extended family's in-country possessions, including art works, bank deposits, estates, and jewelry. The author also concludes that the deposed sovereign spent most of his ready cash to keep his consort and children in modest comfort. Nor, he proves, did the tsar have a hoard of gold stashed in the Bank of England; the billion on deposit there had been transferred by the state for safekeeping at the start of WW I and was eventually used to repay war debts. Despite the best efforts of ÇmigrÇ fortune hunters and their lawyers, moreover, no tsarist treasure trove has ever come to light, although Clarke hints there just may be a cache in Geneva. A fiscal detective's exhaustive accounting that focuses on the monetary aspects of an imperial dynasty's harsh fate. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) Read full book review >