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[2 Feb 2016 | No Comment | 20 views ]

‘The Secret War: Spies, Codes and Guerrillas 1939-1945.’
By Max Hastings
HarperCollins Publishing London 2015
ISBN: 9780007503742
ISBN 10: 0007503741
RRP – $32.99
Reviewed by Ross Fitzgerald
While almost all historical narratives, including the recent account of the intertwined lives of John and Sunday Reed, are of necessity tentative and speculative, as Sir Max Hastings argues in his most recent book, ‘The Secret War’, “they become far more so when spies are involved”.
As Hastings explains, when chronicling battles, writers can relatively reliably record how many ships were sunk and aircraft shot down, how much ground was won …

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[2 Feb 2016 | No Comment | 12 views ]

GRAFTON TAKES A TUMBLE
GOING OUT BACKWARDS: A GRAFTON EVEREST ADVENTURE
By Ross Fitzgerald & Ian McFadyen
Hybrid Publishers 2015
ISBN: 9781925272109
RRP – $26.9 pb
Reviewed by Gerard Henderson
Barry Humphries has described Grafton Everest as “a wonderful creation” in the same ranks as Philip Roth’s Portnoy and Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim.
Dr Everest (for a doctor he is) makes a welcome return in ‘Going Out Backwards: A Grafton Everest Adventure.’ This is the fifth appearance by Professor (for a professor he also is) Grafton in print. On this occasion via the combined work of Ross Fitzgerald …

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[30 Jan 2016 | No Comment | 16 views ]

‘Mind Beyond Matter
By Gavin Rowland
Burdock Books, 349pp, $30
As a devout atheist I’ve always been puzzled about why people believe in God. At the same time many of my God-believing friends are equally puzzled that I don’t believe in a deity that influences personal lives and world events.
I’ve never been at all clear about the notion of God, and in ‘Mind Beyond Matter’ clarity is not Gavin Rowland’s strong point either, with his writing style tending towards the opaque. But perhaps this lack of clear expression is not all that surprising …

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[2 Jan 2016 | No Comment | 10 views ]

POLITICS
Review of ‘Australia’s Second Chance: What Our History Tells Us about Our Future.’
GEORGE MEGALOGENIS
HAMISH HAMILTON, $34.99
Australian politics can be confusing. We’d probably all agree on that. But it has been this way for a long time. In fact in 1913 even the Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin found it so. After federal Labor’s narrow defeat by the Liberal Party’s Joseph Cook, Lenin, watching from afar, was baffled.
“What sort of peculiar capitalist country is this, in which the workers’ representatives predominate in the Upper House and, till recently, did so …

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[26 Dec 2015 | One Comment | 28 views ]

Review of ‘The Protest Years: The Official History of ASIO, 1963-1975’
JOHN BLAXLAND
ALLEN & UNWIN, $49.99
REVIEW BY ROSS FITZGERALD
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation of 1975, at the end of the controversial federal Labor government of Gough Whitlam, was very different from 1963 when the long-serving Liberal prime minister Robert Menzies was still in power.
As John Blaxland explains in this rather pedestrian account of our signature intelligence agency, the so-called “Protest Years”, from the expulsion from Australia of the Soviet spy, Ivan Skripov​, in February 1963 to the ascension of …

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[19 Dec 2015 | No Comment | 12 views ]

Top 2 books for Summer – Gerard Henderson’s Media WatchDog No 300
1. How To Be Liked By Others by Fr Harry H.W. Wade C.SS.R. (Liguori Publications, Missouri, Circa 1960) [This provides important skills for dog owners who need to have a few inter-personal skills in order to undertake canine driven walks – and return home without being attacked on, say, Bay Road by the savage Dipsey.]

2. ‘Going Out Backwards: A Grafton Everest Adventure’ by Ross Fitzgerald and Ian McFadyen (Hybrid Publications, Melbourne, 2015). ‘Going Out Backwards’is also available as an …

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[15 Dec 2015 | No Comment | 18 views ]

The captain may have been replaced but for the second year in a row the $600,000 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards have been marked by split decisions.
However, it is understood the first awards under Malcolm Turnbull do not include any “captain’s picks”, as with Tony ­Abbott’s tendentious intervention last year.
While the key history and non-fiction prizes were shared at the awards ceremony in Sydney last night, this was the unanimous decision of the three judges, which was accepted by the Prime Minister, who has the final say in all six categories.
Each …

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[12 Dec 2015 | No Comment | 7 views ]

It is a great thing when you discover an early and long unpublished novel by a writer you like in other genres. Malcolm Muggeridge is, I think, the supreme memoirist of the 20th century. I liked all his journalistic books. A few years ago I came upon a 1987 edition of an early novel, ‘Picture Palace’, which he had written in the 1930s. It was a satire of the famous ‘Manchester Guardian’ editor CP Scott and had been suppressed as libellous.
The satire on Scott had elements of brilliance and was …

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[12 Dec 2015 | 3 Comments | 147 views ]

Battleground: Why the Liberal Party Shirtfronted Tony Abbott
By Wayne Errington and Peter van Onselen
MUP, 234pp, $29.99
This hastily put-together book is unambiguously focused on the failure of leadership of the 28th prime minister. It relies heavily on anonymous sources. However, it is worth pointing out that Tony Abbott and his chief of staff Peta Credlin both refused to be interviewed by authors Wayne Errington and Peter van Onselen.
The title has echoes of Abbott’s 2009 memoir ‘Battlelines’, also published by Melbourne University Press. Intriguingly, Abbott’s book was published while he was a …

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[3 Dec 2015 | No Comment | 29 views ]

‘Going Out Backwards’, by Ross Fitzgerald & Ian McFadyen.
Ross Fitzgerald & Ian McFadyen
Hybrid, $26.95.
Kingsley Amis and his repulsive hero “Lucky” Jim Dixon have a great deal to answer for, not least an enduring strain of fiction writing devoted to charmless, sexist, self-indulgent, academic anti-heroes.

GOING OUT BACKWARDS belongs in this tradition, the fifth of historian Ross Fitzgerald’s books featuring the hapless Grafton Everest, with this one co-written by actor and writer Ian McFadyen.
Grafton is, as ever, preoccupied with his own appetites. He’s obsessed by his penis, which after prostate surgery …

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[1 Dec 2015 | No Comment | 23 views ]

Going Out Backwards: A Grafton Everest Adventure
by Ross Fitzgerald and Ian McFadyen
Hybrid, 2015, 185 pages, $26.95
“An Appalling Undeniable Vision” by Michael Wilding.
Thirty-five years ago I took the first of Ross Fitzgerald’s Grafton Everest novels from a publisher’s heap of unread manuscripts. I found it an unmitigatedly vulgar, politically incorrect, tasteless and offensive slapstick farce set in an allegedly fictional university. ‘Publish it,’ I recommended. ‘Nothing else has captured the world of academia so convincingly.’
In the intervening years the universities have accelerated their headlong rush into degradation, and Fitzgerald has continued …