Batavia’s Graveyard tells the story of what is surely the strangest and bloodiest mutiny known to history. The book chronicles the loss of the Dutch East Indiaman Batavia on a coral reef off the coast of Western Australia in 1629 and the fate of her survivors at the hands of a psychopathic mutineer named Jeronimus Cornelisz, a failed apothecary and suspected heretic who – over the course of several months of terror, and with a gang of cut-throats at his back – had more than 120 men, women and children drowned, decapitated or hacked to death.
Mike first came across the story while on honeymoon in Sydney back in 1994 and says it is still the most remarkable true story he’s read. ‘History,’ he told one newspaper, ‘isn’t usually as neat as this. The story of the Batavia not only has well defined heroes and villains, but a distinct beginning, middle and end that makes it ideal for narrative history.’ Determined to do his story justice, Mike spent years digging into the subject in the UK, the Netherlands and Australia, working with Australian forensic scientists to reconstruct the fates of victims from their skeletal remains and, with the help of a research assistant, on obscure middle Dutch manuscripts in a variety of little-visited provincial archives. The result is a deeply-researched book with many of the characteristics of a thriller. Not surprisingly, Batavia’s Graveyard became a major hit in the Netherlands and – thanks to brilliant reviews – also performed exceptionally in the UK and Australia.