Peter Long always had a certain view of his family heritage.
So news that the 'notorious' 1860s bushranger Larry Cummins was his great-grandfather came like a bolt from the blue.
"I became aware of my great grandfather late in life, when a family member unearthed the connection between James Long and Larry Cummins," Mr Long said.
"When I read the details of his life, I was viscerally affected. Larry wasn't a two-bit thug; he'd been a significant player in the Colony's landscape. The foundations of my identity, built upon a protestant, English myth, were shaken and I felt empathy for Larry and the harsh life he'd led.
"Unlike Ben Hall and others, Larry is barely visible, so I wanted to write something accessible, to both memorialise him and encourage my family to pass the story along."
The revelation gnawed away at Brisbane-based Mr Long. He became fascinated with the bushranger after reading read Maurice Cummins' book, A Long Way from Tipperary, which touched on Larry's life. As he acknowledged, he was a writer looking for a book.
The result, 11 years later, is a 214-page work, Identity: Larry Cummins Bushranger published by Hawkeye Publishing. It follows his earlier book Steve Hart: Last Kelly Standing.
Mr Long doesn't purport to be a historian. Instead he wanted to tell a story of "adventure, love, tragedy and redemption" in a literary way.
Larry changed his name to James Long in the late 1870s after his release from Berrima jail and move to Victoria. He married Ellen Cole and had 11 children, nine of whom survived. One of these was Sidney, Mr Long's father. The family settled at Wodonga.
By the early 1860s he was riding with the likes of bushrangers Ben Hall, Fred Lowry and Frank Gardiner, pillaging the NSW goldfields. Cummins was imprisoned at Berrima Jail in 1863 for his and Lowry's robbery of the Mudgee mail coach, one of the largest heists in the colony's history. Cummins was said to have been indirectly involved.
He escaped Berrima prison with another inmate by crawling through a sewer outlet. Mr Long said it was one of six escapes, including from the seemingly impenetrable Parramatta Jail.
"On one escape he roamed free for five months in the Abercrombies, robbing and terrifying residents to a point where the government applied the Dangerous Felons Act, allowing him to be shot on sight and, persons supporting him to be imprisoned," Mr Long said.
He and other bushrangers were active around the Crookwell and Taralga areas. Writing in the 1907 Old Pioneering Days in the Sunny South, Charles Macalister details a visit from Larry Cummins and two others at his Strathaird Arms Inn at Myrtleville in 1867.
"The ringleader, LC, assured me he was not aware that I lived in the neighbourhood etc or they would never have dreamt of visiting the place," Macalister wrote.
"... As matters stood they were quite content with the 'loan' of a couple sovereigns and having had breakfast, the 'terrible' bushrangers departed without anyone being worse for their appearance."
Macalister wasn't going to take the matter further but one of his employees, Tom Parker, reported it to police. When officers gave chase, the youngest of the trio, William Johnson, surrendered, while Cummins and another man escaped.
Larry continued his rampage but was arrested following the robbery of Webbs' store at Muttons Falls in the Central West in 1867. He was returned to Berrima Jail after pleading guilty to six charges of robbery with arms.
Mr Long said Larry and his mother pushed for a Commission of Inquiry into the lengthy detention and "ill-treatment" of prisoners, winning not just the jail governor's respect, but his release in January, 1876. At this point he decided to "go straight."
Cummins moved to Victoria and started a new life and marriage after his first wife had left. He worked as a drover and whip maker. One of his nine children by Ellen Cole became a religious sister.
Mr Long said as a country boy himself he related to Larry, his later droving life and horsemanship.
He explores who is responsible when a youngster "goes off the rails," who wears the pain, motivations and reformation.
"(In the end) I was quite respectful of him," Mr Long said.
"...Society loathed him but he raised nine children which was either a testament to him or Ellen. It is a story of redemption."
Cummins died in Wodonga in 1909 and was buried in an unmarked grave in the town's cemetery.
Mr Long, a lecturer in Government at Queensland Institute of Technology, launched the book in Brisbane on November 12.
It is available for $29.95 through most bookstores or through the publisher https://hawkeyebooks.com.au/identity-larry-cummins-bushranger/