"Pete, look mate I'm sorry but there's no easy way to say this. Lydia's dying."
So begins a British author's audio book about small town Australian life that owes much to an East Albury man's childhood memories.
Lazarus Remembered: A story told with words and music is a family drama by EJ (Jean) Harper, a former colleague of retired Border scientist Ian Thomas.
Thomas released his own book on marathon running in 2018 and the pair reconnected in recent years through that shared interest.
With a long-held ambition to write a novel, Harper wanted to set it in Australia ("I think it's quite a magical country in so many ways") but knew her own knowledge was limited.
"It became obvious to me that because Ian had grown up through the period the book's set, I could ask him questions that I was spending hours looking into on the internet, I've got the perfect resource here," she said.
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They would Skype regularly both to catch up and so Harper could raise any queries about Aussie life.
"If he didn't know the answer there and then, he'd always find a way of getting the answer," Harper said.
Her questions included what a typical 1960s kitchen was like, what a heavy drinker with little money would choose, what beers were on tap, what does Albury War Memorial look like and feelings about the Vietnam war.
Thomas, who grew up in Mooroopna, was surprised how much he remembered.
"I sat down and I thought about it and I was able to draw the main street and tell you every shop," he said.
"You don't know what you know and there's stuff you just take in as a kid, and you just take it for granted."
In mid-2018, Harper and her husband Andy, a composer who's written 13 songs for Lazarus Remembered, visited Australia and toured towns like Corowa to gain more insight.
Even competing in the Outback Marathon with Thomas filled in extra details, such as Australians saying lollies, not sweets.
Thomas proofread Harper's manuscript to "Australianise" it while Border friend Peter Drummond found and captured the gum tree that became the audio book's cover image.
"He went down every day for days ... trying to get the perfect photo," Harper said.
Lazarus Remembered will be released on Australia Day, go to lazarusremembered.com for more information, and includes a voice cameo from Thomas - unplanned but "really fitting after all the work he'd put in".
Harper said the first Australian to critique the work "absolutely loved it, gave it a fabulous review".
"She said as part of the review, 'I was shocked to discover that the author isn't Australian'," she added.