James writes provocative essays about important things. From working in a mine in Bolivia to share the miners’ stories and compare a miner’s life in Bolivia to those in Australia, to revealing the story (inside and out) of the short-lived Pontville Detention Centre; from discovering the uncanny parallels between Tasmania and Tierra del Fuego, to interviewing former guerrilla fighters in El Salvador and Colombian presidential candidates; from running a decrepit hostel on the coast of Ecuador to pondering society without imagination; from the death of a dear friend, to the birth of a son; James’ experiences and encounters illuminate his writing.

His articles and essays have been published widely and in 2012, he spoke at the International Congress of Rural Sociology in Lisbon, Portugal, on the role of the media in amplifying the voices of the world’s poor. In 2014, James’ first book was launched: Essays from Near and Far (Walleah Press).

He lives in Hobart.

An inspiring young man I interviewed in El Salvador says: “If I read and don’t write, I am in debt to the world.” I agree with him.


I believe in the essay, not only because my poetry is terrible and I lack the genius required for fiction, but because to me it is one of the simplest, most effective, forms of communication.


When reading we are freed of the need to compete, win an argument, take sides, agree or disagree – we can secretly ponder and no one needs to know what we felt or how it changed us. In this regard, an essay is more powerful than a debate or conversation. Ultimately, reading is an act of solitude, as is writing, a personal discussion with your self.