Operation Clancy

Just before he turned twelve, Tony Jones got his picture in the paper…It was a close-up, showing little drops of water on his face, his hair still wet from the sea and a smile in his eyes. From that day on, his life went into a spin.

Tony knew something was wrong when he was roughed up by that tattooed kid after the protest march on his birthday.

He’d have to tell Uncle Nick.

And his Gang of Four, should he bring them into it?

What followed was more like a detective movie than anything Tony could ever have imagined would happen to him.

With the help of his three friends, Tony discovers the danger of being who he is. There are thrills and spills in this fast moving – easy to read thriller.

Discussion Questions for Readers

  1. What was happening to Tony?
  2. Who was Beady Eyes?
  3. And Ferret Face?
  4. Why was the car trailing him?

Suggested Activities for Writers

If you would like to try some writing activities that relate to a story like Operation Clancy, feel free to try some of the suggestions in Helene Smith’s Writer’s Notebook for Operation Clancy.

From the Author

goodies,  baddies and other secrets…

I know lots of goodies…in this story their names are Tony, Kim Pham, Anne and Franka – the gang of four- together since kindy – each one in a different family situation, each one with his or her own likes and dislikes, their own fears and joys and yet held together by the strong ties of friendship.  The Gang of Four are shown in this picture: from left, Kim Pham, Anne, Franka and Tony.

But the baddies? When ‘Ferret Face’ was invented he was a stranger to me… at least I thought he was, until I realized the idea of him arose from an animal- a ferret – one of the same evil litter.

The ferrets I knew as a child were not the cuddlesome creatures you find in pet shops. Pale eyed, foul smelling and furious; creatures with needle sharp teeth and nasty ways – it was my job to feed them when my brothers were away.  ‘Put your hand in their cage and they’ll bite off your fingers,’ Mum warned. Each time I dropped food through the bars I pictured myself torn and bleeding, disfigured for life. I was terrified. These creatures were trained to slip into the dark burrows of a rabbit warren and to kill – they were hunters with no mercy for the hunted.

Having invented Ferret Face, the man, I kept in mind his ferret like ways throughout the story. It was the classic ‘extended metaphor’ which made the story great fun to write, although I must admit I let the characters lead me and didn’t how it would end until the very last chapter.

Other secrets about Operation Clancy:

The idea for the railway station scene with Tony meeting a strange woman came to me when I was actually on the Perth railway station.

As a passenger in the family Landrover, travelling through Perth in tandem with our youngest son in his Holden Ute, I was busily inventing the car chase in chapter 26.

My eldest son has a red tool box in which he kept his treasures. He also loved the poem, Man from Snowy River which at eleven, he could recite all the way through.
I liked the idea too, of a poem about a boy who rode the ‘weedy’ horse and became the winner of the race to find ‘the colt from Old Regret’. It was a theme that blended easily with a modern day story. So the poem became a symbol of hope for Tony when things looked bad.


Review from NSW Dept of School Educator Feb 96

What a great read! I could not put this book down until I’d finished it as the story flows and the action is swift. Tony lives a normal life with his uncle, believing his parents to be dead. Then one day his picture appears in the newspaper and strange things begin to happen. This is a good adventure story involving everyday characters and is suitable for 11-14 year olds. However, it could easily be read to younger children. It would complement any studies involving family and community.

Extracts from Letters

Our class just read your book Operation Clancy and we think it’s fantastic… it’s wicked. … I particularly like all the action and the boating accident and especially the car chase.
MR  yr 9 

I reckon this story should be on TV…it would be great….because it would be in Perth. Where did you get the idea to write this book, especially the ferrets…the ferrets… a good idea.
 SDS Yr 9