By Shelby Brooks
A 13,000-YEAR-OLD mammoth skeleton is the protagonist in a new novel by renowned Phillip Island author Chris Flynn, launching on April 28.
‘Mammoth’ is the (mostly) true story about how a collection of prehistoric creatures came to be on sale at a natural history auction in New York in 2007 and follows the mammoth’s story from prehistoric times to today where teams across the world are working on cloning the woolly beasts.
Chris’ childhood wonderment about all things dinosaurs and mammoths was sparked by visits to Belfast’s Museum of Natural History.
“To see a huge creature like that when you’re a kid, when you’re already small, looked like an impossible thing that it had ever been alive,” Chris recalled.
“So, I was fascinated by the fact these creatures used to walk the Earth and then were gone – as a kid that’s quite a thing to get your head around.”
Six years ago, Chris read some of the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson’s, letters from 1800, in which Jefferson wanted to procure mammoth bones.
“I thought, what a weird thing that he would be after that,” Chris said.
“And then I read about the  auction where they were selling all these mammoth and dinosaur bones and I thought that we are still sort of fighting over these bones.”
As things often do, inspiration came to Chris in threes.
The third thing he read about mammoths was a plan by teams in America and South Korea to clone the woolly mammoth to eventually repopulate Siberia.
Permafrost melt in Siberia is expected to reveal hundreds of mammoth corpses and bones with viable DNA for cloning.
“When I read about the cloning, I thought oh God, there is something happening here with these ancient creatures – the Jurassic Park fantasy seems it might finally come true in our lifetime,” he said.
It took six years for Chris to piece together the story.
“I was scared of it for a while because I thought there is definitely an interesting story here, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be capable of doing it justice,” he said.
“It took me a while how to work out how to do it but once I thought, why don’t I just get the bones themselves to tell the story of how they died, when they were dug up and what’s been happening to them since, it was loads of fun making the bones talk to each other.”
Chris used many historically accurate events, people and dialogue in the book.
“I’d say about 80 to 85 per cent of the story is true and most of the historical people and characters were real people,” he said.
“Once you’re done reading the book, you’ll have so much useless historical information in your head.”
Teenage boys and scientists alike are giving the book rave reviews, and there is an audio book in production.
A Zoom book launch is being hosted by Readings Tuesday on April 28 at 7pm where Chris will be interviewed by ‘The Slap’ author Christos Tsiolkas.
Viewers can sign up to watch the livestream at here.
Chris will also be a guest on the livestreamed Yarra Valley Writers Festival on May 9.