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[30 Sep 2019 | No Comment | ]

Review by ROSS FITZGERALD
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
review by ROSS FITZGERALD
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
by ROSS FITZGERALD  
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 | ]

REVIEW
The Catalpa Rescue: The Gripping Story of the Most Dramatic and Successful Prison Break in Australian History’
By Peter FitzSimons. Hachette, 405pp, $34.95
BY ROSS FITZGERALD
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

by ROSS FITZGERALD
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 …

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[18 May 2019 | No Comment | ]

Review

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

by ROSS FITZGERALD

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 | ]

Review:

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

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

by ROSS FITZGERALD

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 | ]

Review 

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

By Catherine Moolenschot. Wiley, 284pp, $29.99

by ROSS FITZGERALD

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)

Review by ROSS FITZGERALD

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

Allen&Unwin

2019, pp. 245, $29.99

By ROSS FITZGERALD

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 …