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[23 Nov 2019 | No Comment | ]

Convict Colony
By David Hill. Allen & Unwin, 369pp, $32.99
Why are convicts so much more interesting than respectable folk? Being related to one of the poor sods who was transported to the early colony is a badge of honour now, which is just one of the reasons David Hill’s latest book is so fascinating.

‘Convict Colony’ is a well-researched and clearly expressed populist history of early British Australia. In it, Hill, author of the bestselling ‘1788: The Brutal Truth of the First Fleet’, concentrates on colonial Sydney to chronicle …

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[15 Nov 2019 | No Comment | ]

Review of Ross Fitzgerald & Ian McFadyen, THE DIZZYING HEIGHTS, Hybrid Publishers: Melbourne, $24.99

   Culture Club by Phil Brown

It’s not often that an author apologises for writing a book. Frankly I think there should be more of it, considering some of the dross which crosses my desk.
The apology in this case was by comedian and writer Ian McFadyen and was also on behalf of his co-author, the historian and author Professor Ross Fitzgerald.
They are the authors of the newly released novel ‘The Dizzying Heights’, the seventh in Fitzgerald’s landmark satirical …

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[9 Nov 2019 | No Comment | ]

Bjelke Blues: Stories of Repression and Resistance in Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s Queensland
Edited by Edwina Shaw. AndAlso Books, 256pp, $30
   They say you should never forget where you came from. Maybe add this: never forget what happened there. Those of us who lived through the regime of a certain Queensland premier have those years indelibly printed not only on our memory but on our psyche.

It is important not to forget just how vicious and corrupt was the authoritarian regime of the “Hillbilly Dictator”, Johannes Bjelke-Petersen. From 1968 to 1987 …

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[1 Nov 2019 | No Comment | ]

Australian Books
The Dizzying Heights
Ross Fitzgerald and Ian McFadyen
Hybrid Publishers: Melbourne.
ISBN No: 978-1-925736-30-4 
pp. 248, $24.99.
Review by Neal Price
Ross Fitzgerald and Ian McFadyen’s previous collaboration Going Out Backwards: A Grafton Everest Adventure was shortlisted for the 2017 Russell Prize for Humour Writing.  The Dizzying Heights now carries the bumbling anti-hero Professor Dr Grafton Everest to new heights and previously unimagined depths.
The Dizzying Heights is Fitzgerald and McFadyen’s second novel together. In a post Donald Trump era, it paints a disturbingly contemporaneous view of Australian and American friendship that tips its hat to George Orwell but is a distinctly Antipodean comedy thriller. It’s truly …

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[1 Nov 2019 | No Comment | ]

Review by Richard Laidlaw
The Dizzying Heights
Ross Fitzgerald and Ian McFadyen
ISBN No: 978-1-925736-30-4
Hybrid Publishing : Melbourne
pp. 248, $24.99.
It’s plainly very difficult being a political satirist these days, when the politicians seem to have cornered the market themselves and to have requisitioned all the best scripts, in the national interest, naturally. No matter. Those with the wit and the will to soldier on will scribble regardless. Someone will get a laugh, or a wry smile, or perhaps break down and sob uncontrollably at the hopelessness of it all, and give us all a …

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[30 Sep 2019 | No Comment | ]

Tony Abbott and the Times of Revolution
by Gerard Charles Wilson
Self-published, 2019, 393 pages, $44.95
Decades before Tony Abbott, as our 28th prime minister, was challenging the zeitgeist by scrapping the carbon tax, stopping the boats and knighting Prince Philip, he’d been annoying the hell out of the campus left as a student leader, as this fascinating book revels in telling. In Tony Abbott and the Times of Revolution, Gerard Wilson sets out to do three things: to claim Abbott as Australia’s leading “Burkean conservative”; to analyse the university counter-culture that …

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[24 Aug 2019 | No Comment | ]

Sundowner of the Skies: The Story of Oscar Garden, The Forgotten Aviator
By Mary Garden. New Holland, 192pp, $29.95
They arrived out of nowhere at sundown and were gone by morning. They called them “sundowners”, these swaggies who once wandered our wide brown land with the green bits around the edge. Their life was hard but there was a certain romance to the notion.

With that in mind The Sun newspaper called aviator Oscar Garden the “Sundowner of the Skies” after he landed on November 4, 1930, at Wyndham aerodrome in Western …

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[11 Jul 2019 | No Comment | ]

Australian Books
Vengeful pygmies
Plots and Prayers: Malcolm Turnbull’s Demise and Scott Morrison’s Ascension 
 by Niki Savva
Scribe, $35.00 (paperback) 408pp
ISBN : 9781925849189
   It says almost everything that needs to be said about Niki Savva’s latest book that its original title was Highway to Hell: The Coup that Destroyed Malcolm Turnbull and Left the Liberals in Ruins.
      Savva denies that the book was rewritten after the election, insisting that just about all she did at that point was compose the final chapter. Quite possibly, she’s telling the truth because the book reads …

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[4 Jul 2019 | No Comment | ]

Before I Forget – Geoffrey Blainey

Publisher: Hamish Hamilton, 2019
ISBN: 9781760890339
RRP: $45

Reviewed by Ross Fitzgerald
As the Kenny Rogers country song says, you’ve got to know when to hold them and when to fold them. Here Rogers is talking about playing cards as a metaphor for life.
Historian and author Geoffrey Blainey certainly knows when to fold them, although he may have done so too early in the piece. Hence his wryly-titled memoir Before I Forget, tells the story of only the first half of his remarkable and often controversial life.  This captivating book comes to a …

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[22 Jun 2019 | No Comment | ]

The Catalpa Rescue: The Gripping Story of the Most Dramatic and Successful Prison Break in Australian History’
By Peter FitzSimons. Hachette, 405pp, $34.95
Peter FitzSimons’s new book, ‘The Catalpa Rescue’, passionately and dramatically canvasses one of the great jail breaks of Australian history.
Until now this 19th-century tale, set in England, Ireland, Australia and the US, has been relatively unknown to general readers, especially in the eastern two-thirds of our nation.
As befits the chairman of the Australian Republic Movement, FitzSimons regards the rescue of a clutch of Irish republican radicals as …

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[9 Jun 2019 | No Comment | ]

Lofty: My Life in Short
By Ian Fulton, with Nicole Partridge.
HarperCollins, 343pp, $19.99

His grandmother reckoned Ian “Lofty” Fulton should have just stayed at home and be locked away from the world.

But for better and worse Fulton, the Australian-based voice-over artist who was born with achondroplasia (a form of dwarfism) had other ideas. Despite suffering from a condition that results in the shortening of the arms and legs and enlargement of the skull, Fulton has flourished. And he grew to be taller than expected, reaching 142cm.
Born in Launceston, Tasmania, on …