My mother was born in Laverton, the wildest town in the west. At one time it was claimed the only person buried in the cemetery who died of natural causes was a six-week-old baby. I was born in Agnew, a shanty gold-mining town on the edge of the remote and inhospitable Great Victoria Desert, population 200. But it was in Gwalia where our story started to resemble anything; Gwalia, where the Sons of Gwalia mine, with its huge black smokestack belching into the cloudless blue sky, kept vigil over all of us misfits, migrants and malcontents. The north-eastern goldfields of Western Australia gathered in all manner of exiles from across the globe: Italians, Yugoslavs, Britons; criminals, ex-servicemen, drunks, journeymen; those wanting to keep their heads down and those determined to hold them high. What they found there was both a fresh start and an abyss, where troubles underground were brought up to the surface and played out in the dusty streets. Roland Rocchiccioli spent his childhood watching the dramas of the town unfold: the pit ponies that lived in the mines and went blind when they resurfaced; the men who lay in the bushes outside his house, waiting to jump his stepfather; and the women who dispensed advice on ‘the polio' with their cheese and lettuce sandwiches. He saw the population of crickets take over their chook house, the priest who wouldn't dance with women in public but bedded half the town in private, and the mother who refused to toe the line of 1950s Australia. In And Be Home Before Dark, his confronting, revealing and frequently hilarious memoir, Roland recounts his formative years in the tough goldfields town, bringing to life his cantankerous mother, Beria, her husband, Ginger, and Slavic lover, Steve, along with an unforgettable cast of rogues and renegades. And Be Home Before Dark is an evocative portrait of a unique childhood in an Australia that no longer exists, in the same vein as Raimond Gaita's Romulus, My Father and Robert Drewe's The Shark Net.