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[18 Jul 2017 | No Comment | 22 views ]

TELLING STORIES AT THE PERIPHERY OF A NATION
‘A Historian For All Seasons: Essays for Geoffrey Bolton’
Edited by Stuart Macintyre, Lenore Layman and Jenny Gregory
Monash University Publishing 2017
ISBN (paperback): 978-1-925495-60-7
ISBN (e-book): 978-1-925495-61-4
RRP $39.95
by Ross Fitzgerald
When our daughter Emerald was little, the only person she called by their full name was Geoffrey Bolton. She was obviously impressed by him and why wouldn’t she have been? After all Bolton, my friend and intellectual mentor, was tall and full-bearded and looked like an Old Testament prophet. He cut a striking figure.
In 1963, when his …

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[8 Jul 2017 | No Comment | 14 views ]

‘Hans Heysen’
By Lou Klepac
The Beagle Press, 216pp, $120 (HB)
The author of this impressive book, Lou Klepac, has had a long association with the life and work of German-born Hans Heysen, a pioneer of Australian art who transformed how we see, draw and paint the Australian landscape.
Indeed, when Klepac became curator of paintings at the Art Gallery of South Australia in 1966, Heysen was still on its board of trustees. Before he died in 1968, the then 90-year-old artist invited the author to The Cedars, a 60ha property near Hahndorf …

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[16 Jun 2017 | Comments Off on Review of Sydney Noir | 41 views ]

History
‘Sydney Noir: The Golden Years’
Michael Duffy and Nick Hordern
NewSouth, $34.99
Can a crime era be described as golden? That depends on your point of view, I suppose. If you’re a criminal or a corrupt cop, the description might, or might not, be apt. Hence ‘Sydney Noir’ is subtitled “The Golden Years” with more than a modicum of irony.
This compelling, well-researched and finely written book focuses on the Sydney underworld from 1966 to 1972. Good times to be a crim, apparently.
These “golden years” saw the replacement of illegal gambling as the main …

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[8 Jun 2017 | Comments Off on Behind The Headlines –with Rupert Murdoch’s Man About Town | 18 views ]

‘Making Headlines’
By Chris Mitchell
Melbourne University Press 2016
ISBN: (Paperback) 9780522870701
ISBN: (E-Book)9780522870718
RRP: $32.99 pb
Reviewed by Ross Fitzgerald
For years from the mid-1990s onwards I wrote a regular column for Chris Mitchell when he ran Brisbane’s ‘Courier-Mail’ and then, from July 2002, when he was editor-in-chief of ‘The Australian’. This was the case until he retired from his extremely demanding editorial position in December 2015.
My experience is that Mitchell genuinely believes in freedom of speech and in the free play of ideas. Indeed, I can’t remember a single instance when he tried to prevent …

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[3 Jun 2017 | Comments Off on Crucial month on the road to World War 11 | 15 views ]

‘Four Weeks One Summer’
By Nicholas Whitlam
Australian Scholarly Publishing, 284pp, $44
The causes of World War II are still debated, but was there a seminal moment?
As Australian author Nicholas Whitlam makes clear, there is almost universal consensus the conflict had its origins in the dubious settlement arrangements of World War I.
The breakdown of the established order in Europe, hyperinflation, the Depression and perceived political appeasement all laid the groundwork.
While there has been much speculation about how the war could have been avoided, Whitlam’s ‘Four Weeks One Summer’ centres on this question: when …

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[30 May 2017 | Comments Off on Labor’s Nemesis | 13 views ]

Labor and Santamaria by Robert Murray
Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2017
103 pages, $24.95
A disastrous division in its ranks in the mid-1950s kept the Australian Labor Party out of power federally for twenty-three years. Until Gough Whitlam was elected Prime Minister in 1972, there hadn’t been a federal Labor government since 1949, when Ben Chifley was defeated. The infamous Labor Split fundamentally reshaped Australian politics, both nationally and in the states, especially in Victoria and Queensland.
In 1970 Robert Murray published ‘The Split’, a groundbreaking analysis of Labor in …

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[20 May 2017 | Comments Off on Rollicking history of hosties | 35 views ]

Smile, Particularly in Bad Weather
By Prudence Black
UWA Publishing, 310pp, $29.99
The air hostess was an immediate symbol of the jet-set era. The hair, the uniforms, the fashions were all synonymous with the world of glamour and international travel.
We don’t call them air hostesses any more because that’s politically incorrect. Prudence Black’s fine book about Australian air hostesses is a nostalgic and engaging backwards glance at their heyday.
Some years ago, a friend in Brisbane put a personal ad in a paper that read: “Wanted — grounded Qantas hostie.” It worked. He …

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[22 Apr 2017 | Comments Off on The ‘spies’ who never came back from New Guinea | 36 views ]

REVIEW
Line of Fire
By Ian Townsend
Fourth Estate, 309pp, $29.99
Ian Townsend’s third book, ‘Line of Fire’, a work of nonfiction, is excellent. It follows two fine novels: ‘Affection’ (2007), based on the 1900 plague outbreak in north Queensland, and ‘The Devil’s Eye’ (2008), centred on the worst cyclone in Australian history.
The Queensland radio journalist and author has a talent for discovering little-known events and fleshing them out to make history come alive. His new book is a gripping yarn of espionage and war.
Townsend meticulously mined research archives in Australia, Japan and Papua …

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[8 Apr 2017 | Comments Off on Disposing of leaders, Australian-style | 18 views ]

POLITICS
Disposable Leaders
Rodney Tiffen
NewSouth Books $34.99
Coups are becoming increasingly common in Australia. This in turn means that, in recent years, party leadership has become much more precarious.
Rather clumsily subtitled “Media and Leadership Coups from Menzies to Abbott”, Rodney Tiffen’s ‘Disposable Leaders’ begins with the claim that in 1941 the later long-serving federal Liberal luminary, Robert Gordon Menzies was “the first Prime Minister to be overthrown by his own party.”
This is questionable on two counts.
In early 1923 W.H. (“Billy”) Hughes was forced to resign as Prime Minister due to the refusal of …

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[2 Apr 2017 | Comments Off on Red Ted’s Fall and Recovery | 47 views ]

The Curse of Mungana
by David E. Moore
Boolarong Press, 2017, 336 pages, $34.99
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Widely known as “Red Ted”, Edward Granville Theodore was Queensland Premier from 1919 to 1925 and federal Treasurer during James Scullin’s federal Labor government from 1929 to 1931. He was arguably the greatest Australian politician never to become prime minister.
In large part Theodore’s political career was killed by what became known as the Mungana Mines scandal. The Mungana mining leases were situated twenty kilometres north-west of Chillagoe, a north Queensland town which was part of Theodore’s state electorate from …

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[25 Mar 2017 | Comments Off on The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller | 45 views ]

The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller
By Carol Baxter
Allen & Unwin, 410pp, $32.99
Jessie Miller is one of our most fascinating adventurers, even if she is little known today. In the 1920s and 30s she was world famous.
She was born in Western Australia in 1901, the year Queen Victoria died.
Four years earlier Mark Twain published Following the Equator, a nonfiction travelogue about his whistlestop tour of the British Empire. Of his time in colonial Australia Twain wrote: “It is full of surprises, and adventures, and incongruities, and contradictions, and incredibilities; but they are …