Nganberra is the story of a young man making his way in life at the height of the Vietnam war. Vernon Short leaves Queensland and begins a struggle to become couth and elegant against a bucketload of prejudices, weaknesses and haughtiness to work as a clerk in Canberra. The major preoccupation of the time was Vietnam. The story is his attempt to climb the hierarchy of the public service and his hopes of being sent to the Saigon cash office as a Lieutenant. In this rite of passage, he has to confront living in a hostel on his own. His attempts at forming bonds with people including young women his own age are excruciatingly painful to witness and drag the reader through a tawdry tale of a juvenile, farouche life laced with sex, alcohol and violence. He bounces off people like a drunken sailor but all the while seeing his encounters as the actions of a suave, no-nonsense, macho he-man who brilliantly plans and executes his stratagems.