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[18 May 2019 | No Comment | ]


The People vs The Banks

By Michael Roddan. MUP, 342pp, $34.95

Blackout: How Is Energy-Rich Australia Running Out Of Electricity?

By Matthew Warren. Affirm Press, 270pp, $29.99


As we head into this weekend’s federal election, few issues push the political buttons harder than banking and electricity. Both hit us where we live. As such, Michael Roddan’s The People vs The Banks and Matthew Warren’s Blackout are timely books.

On December 14, 2017, Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition government reluctantly established the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry. Its recommendations, released in February, take …

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[6 Apr 2019 | No Comment | ]


‘Don’t Hide the Madness: William S. Burroughs in Conversation with Allen Ginsberg.\

Edited by Steven TaylorThree Rooms Press, 341pp, $39.99 (HB)


I met Allen Ginsberg in the early 1960s in the Indian holy city of Benares (now Varanasi). In the late 1970s I arranged for William S. Burroughs to teach creative writing at Griffith University in Brisbane, where I was based.

This idea lasted until a humourless bureaucrat freaked out after reading one of Burroughs’s books — probably ‘Naked Lunch’ or ‘Junk’ — and cancelled the invitation.

So we will never know …

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[23 Mar 2019 | No Comment | ]


Jim’s Book: The Surprising Story of Jim Penman, Australia’s Backyard Millionaire

By Catherine Moolenschot. Wiley, 284pp, $29.99


The person who mows your lawn probably does a fine job, but is there a book in that? And who would imagine an enticing story behind the franchises of Jim’s Mowing, Jim’s Cleaning and Jim’s Fencing?

Subtitled The Surprising Story of Jim Penman, Australia’s Backyard Millionaire, this quirky, in-depth, warts-and-all book unravels the truthful tale of a bloke who built Australia’s largest home-service franchise.

Catherine Moolenschot explains how David J. (Jim) Penman, by ignoring conventional ­entrepreneurial …

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[23 Feb 2019 | No Comment | ]

Cavan Station: Its Early History, the Riley Legacy and the Murdoch Vision

By Nicola Crichton-Brown. HarperCollins, 232pp, $49.99 (HB)


If anything is a reminder that Australia rode on the sheep’s back, it is Cavan Station. This massive sheep-run near the NSW town of Yass is the sort of pastoral property that helped shape our nation’s economic and social future.

Cavan Station, now owned by Rupert Murdoch — co-chairman of News Corporation, publisher of The Australian — has a special place in the history of the pastoral …

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[2 Feb 2019 | No Comment | ]

The Squatters

Barry Stone


2019, pp. 245, $29.99


It’s tricky writing about the European
settlement of Australia. One has to keep in mind the fact that the
successes of settlement were predicated on the damage inflicted on the
peoples who lived here first.

Barry Stone’s The Squatters is a fine piece of carefully
researched popular history. And there’s no doubt that the story of Australia’s
pastoral pioneers is fascinating.

Stone tells the epic tale of those mainly British settlers and
selectors who spread across Australia claiming land,
constructing windmills and fence-lines, dry-stone walls and storehouses,
livestock yards and droving routes, a number of which are still etched …

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[15 Dec 2018 | No Comment | ]

‘Mutiny on the Bounty’
By Peter FitzSimons
Hachette Australia, 613pp, $49.99 (HB)
‘Mutiny, Mayhem, Mythology: Bounty’s Enigmatic Voyage’
By Alan Frost
Sydney University Press, 336pp, $40
‘By Sea & Stars: The Story of the First Fleet’
By Trent Dalton
Fourth Estate, 138pp, $24.99 (HB)
It’s an epic tale of human frailty and alleged tyranny that has fascinated us for two centuries. The mutiny on the Bounty may have occurred in a remote part of the western Pacific on April 28, 1789, but it is well known and not just by history buffs.
The Bounty continues …

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[8 Dec 2018 | No Comment | ]

‘King of the Air: The Turbulent Life of Charles Kingsford Smith’
By Ann Blainey
Black Inc, 377pp, $49.99 (HB)
by Ross Fitzgerald
If you happen to be in Brisbane rushing to or from the airport, take a slight detour on Airport Drive and have a look at the Kingsford Smith Memorial. It’s a hidden treasure that most travellers pass by.
Dedicated to our greatest aviator, Charles Kingsford Smith, the memorial features his preserved Southern Cross aeroplane. Brisbane Airport is a custodian of this important relic for the commonwealth and the memorial is free …

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[1 Dec 2018 | No Comment | ]

‘Honeysuckle Creek: The Story of Tom Reid, a Little Dish and Neil Armstrong’s First Step’
By Andrew Tink
NewSouth, 264pp, $34.99
Stories about the first men on the moon continue to attract our attention. Those of us who were alive at the time probably remember exact­ly where we were and what we were doing when the Apollo 11 moon mission’s lunar module ‘Eagle’ landed on July 20, 1969, at 20:17 UTC.
This story is on screen at the moment in the moving film ‘First Man’ starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, the …

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[1 Dec 2018 | No Comment | ]

‘John Curtin’s War. Volume II: Triumph and Decline’
John Edwards
​Viking, $49.99
History has a surprising way of coming up with individuals who seem able to face momentous challenges on behalf of us all. As we used to say, cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Britain had Winston Churchill when it needed him and we had John Curtin. The first volume of John Edwards highly accessible John Curtin’s War showed us how Curtin was the right man at the right time, even if – like all of us – at times he …

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[19 Nov 2018 | No Comment | ]

Let Him Eat Cake
by Richard Laidlaw
Review of Ross Fitzgerald and Antony Funnell,’So Far, So Good : An Entertainment'(Hybrid Books, Melbourne, 2018)
IT must be very difficult being a political satirist these days. So many politicians, to a man and woman, get underfoot with plots that would outdo a Goon Show episode and leave their writers wringing their hands in frustration: Why couldn’t we think of that?
So we owe a deep debt of gratitude to Griffith University historian professor Ross Fitzgerald and ABC broadcaster Antony Funnell for giving us …

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[6 Oct 2018 | No Comment | ]

‘The House’
By Helen Pitt
Allen & Unwin, 411pp, $32.99
It’s one of the great untold Australian stories and it just happens to be about a Dane. A month after the death of Jorn Utzon in 2008, journalist Helen Pitt emailed publisher Richard Walsh, who was once her boss at ‘The Bulletin’. She thought he might be interested in a book about Utzon, the architect who designed the Sydney Opera House.
Pitt reckoned, rightly as it turns out, that it might be time for a narrative nonfiction book about the Utzon …