Allen & Unwin, 2008

Available from
Allen & Unwin

Born into a life of privilege, Charlotte Atkinson was raised by her widowed mother on a vast estate near Sutton Forest, New South Wales, enjoying an idyllic early childhood in the great stone house still known today as Oldbury. But in the summer of 1836, a violent incident in the Belanglo wilderness set off a chain of events that transformed Charlotte’s existence. Inexplicably, her mother was prompted to marry again, thereby surrendering her property, fortune and offspring to Charlotte’s vicious and degenerate new stepfather, George Barton. His presence turned Oldbury into a place of madness and terror, casting a shadow so long that it continued to haunt Charlotte for years after his mysterious death. Based on the true story of a colonial family, this compelling tale features a memorable cast of characters, including Australia’s first female novelist and one of the country’s earliest, most notorious serial killers.

‘Based on a true story, the plot flows easily over the years, bringing the time, place and people brilliantly to life.’
Woman’s Day

‘With finely drawn characters, poignant relationships and a dramatic, moody backdrop, The Dark Mountain cements Jinks’s reputation as one of Australia’s great storytellers.’
The Sunday Telegraph

‘Fast-paced, emotional, frightening and full of detail, it’s history made as entertaining and as gripping as a night at the movies.’
The Australian Women’s Weekly

‘A great big hulk of a book that, given its definite page-turner status, nonetheless goes by very quickly … An engrossing read.’
Bookseller and Publisher

  • Sharon Honnery

    Hi Catherine,

    Wondering if you can provide me with some information regarding the journal mentioned in your book, The Dark Mountain. The journal of Mrs Louise S.A. Cosh is mentioned on Page 470. ‘I remember his exact words, because I recorded them directly afterwards in my journal. ( I kept a journal in those days, though not any longer- I have far too much else to do!) Does this journal still exist, maybe held in State Library of NSW or elsewhere. You mentioned the memoirs of Louisa regarding her mother as well.?
    Also would like to know who I could contact about information on James John Atkinson (junior) and his children Horton, Tertius etc. We recently visited James and Sarah’s headstone in Berrima cemetery and as we are doing family history was wondering where you found your information in the latter part of the book especially regarding the information about James Atkinson (the son), Louise refers to her uncle on page 467 ‘Though my uncle was a kind man, he was also extremely quiet and melancholy.’ Also you mentioned the names of servants who worked at Oldbury, was wondering if the names came from a particular source? or made up. Any contacts or information would be very helpful. Regards Sharon H.

    • Catherine Jinks

      What you should probably do, Sharon, is go to my ‘Latest News’ page, then click on ‘Archive’, then check out my old ‘Adult Fiction’ messages. You will find on that message board a whole RAFT of Atkinson descendants, both seeking and giving information. Their messages might prove very useful to you. Incidentally, the authors Kate Forsyth and Belinda Murrell are both descendents of Charlotte Barton – you might want to contact them as well.
      Finally, you should read the book ‘Pioneer Writer’, by Patricia Clarke. It’s an exhaustive account of Louisa Atkinson’s life, and includes the information that James Atkinson was quiet and melancholy, thanks partly to some major financial setbacks; apparently she got that information from Janet Cosh.
      As far as your specific questions go – I have to admit that I made a lot of stuff up in that book, because there were big lacunae in the records. I made up the journal, and I had to make up most of the servants; it was hard to find records of them. I also got a couple of things wrong. Apparently Thomas McNeilly didn’t work on the railways in Mittagong – he kept a shop, which suggests that he was probably more educated than I portrayed him. Also, I doubt that any of Charlotte Barton’s daughters would have been at her actual funeral, which tended to be the preserve of men, in that era.

      Subject: Re: New comment posted on The Dark Mountain

  • 4uanok

    Hi Catherine, I just perused through The Dark Mountain after my mother having mentioned it to me. I was wondering about one of the people in it, at the beginning of the book you mention my maternal great great great great grandparents, John and Mary Hollands. Their Daughter, also Mary married James Ritchie (Riches, Richards, Richey), My paternal G G G Grandfather. His father was Robert Riches later Richards, Richey and finally Ritchie, who was also assigned to James Atkinson, In 1822. Atkinson also helped in bringing out his wife and children in 1825 and later in his being assigned to his wife Ann. He received his certificate in 1829, after a brief stint in the Rocks, returned to Sutton Forest. Could your Robert the dairyman be him?, as there is a later history of Dairy in the family. I don’t actually know what he did on returning to Sutton Forest, except for farmer/ carrier and he drops out of records after 1836, following an application for land at Paddy’s river. we don’t know where or when he officially died. My G G grandfather James does mention Lynch in an article he did for the local papers in 1935.
    Thanks for your Time, Regards.
    Mark Ritchie

  • Catherine Jinks

    Hi Mark – I’m sorry about this, but I wrote that book so long ago, I’ve forgotten most of what I put in it. I only wish I’d known all this stuff while I was writing it! I did try to get things right, but I can’t remember a thing about the servants in that book. I’m so sorry.

    • 4uanok

      Hi Catherine, thanks for the reply, not to worry. Robert has been a hard man to track down. I enjoyed the book and it was nice to have a one set of paternal grandparents, not maternal as I had mistakenly written mentioned.
      Cheers Mark Ritchie

      • Brooke Wooldridge

        Hi Mark, I’m a descendant of Robert Ritchie too. I’ve just heard about this book. Will be an interesting read.
        Best regards,