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Way back in 1953, war veterans Frank Overton and Lyle Tynan manned the Moolanong garbage truck on its gruesome daily rounds of the fledgling suburb of Moolanong, a barren swampy place on the far outskirts of Melbourne. Over the next thirty-three years, as the suburb develops, the two men remain mates, linked by a tragic incident, and despite the fact that their lives follow very diverse courses.
Frank Overton exploits every opportunity to rise in the local council ranks and, aided by a small inheritance, is able to use his position to pull off a land deal—buying up an enormous swamp for a song and then using council facilities to have it reclaimed and subdivided, propelling him into the world of the rich and powerful. He builds a huge suburban empire, still based on garbage disposal but now fully diversified into property, construction and hi tech, and reaching out for the media. But along the way Frank incurs many debts, often of the more troublesome non financial kind, and the day is coming when those debts will have to be repaid.
Conversely, Big Lyle Tynan stays right where he is, boss of the yard at Moolanong Rubbish Tip. A huge man with giant muscles, no intellectual but not stupid either, Big Lyle watches as, over the years, society's need of his great physical strength diminishes through the increasing employment of machines until eventually it isn't needed at all. But when finally Frank blatantly replaces him with a machine, Big Lyle decides to stand and fight with devastating results.
After more than three decades, the day of reckoning has come and the two men meet to fight it out to the finish. For now Lyle is an urban avenging angel and his campaign is causing Frank's whole empire to sink back into the swamp from which it first arose.