Category Archives: Biography

Joyce Morgan: Martin Sharp


Martin Sharp: cover image.

‘Martin wore tight pants that were striped red, white and blue, like a Union Jack, and an embroidered Afghan vest. In front of his face he carried, like a lollipop, a smile on a stick. As he went, he bowed to passers-by. Even on King’s Road, he stood out.’

Martin Sharp’s art was as singular as his style. He blurred the boundaries of high art and low with images of Dylan, Hendrix and naked flower children that defined an era. Along the way the irreverent Australian was charged with obscenity and collaborated with Eric Clapton as he drew rock stars and reprobates into his world.

In this richly told and beautifully written biography, Joyce Morgan captures the loneliness of a privileged childhood, the heady days of the underground magazine Oz as well as the exuberant creativity of Swinging London and beyond.

Sharp pursued his quixotic dream to realise van Gogh’s Yellow House in Australia. He obsessively championed eccentric singer Tiny Tim and was haunted by the awful deaths at Sydney’s Luna Park. Charismatic and paradoxical, he became a recluse whose phone never stopped ringing.

Martin Sharp, “Young Mo”, poster, 1978. Thanks to the Estate of the late Martin Sharp.

There was no one like Martin Sharp. When he died, he was described as a stranger in a strange land who left behind a trail of stardust.

 

Valerie Lawson: Mary Poppins, She Wrote

Valerie Lawson: Mary Poppins, She Wrote

Mary Poppins She Wrote cover image
Mary Poppins She Wrote cover image
The story of Mary Poppins, the quintessentially English and utterly magical children’s nanny, is remarkable enough. She flew into the lives of the Banks family in a children’s book that is now hailed as a classic, then became a household name when Julie Andrews stepped into the starring role in Disney’s hugely successful film. Now she is a musical sensation all over again in ‘Mary Poppins’, the musical. But the story of Mary Poppins’s creator is just as unexpected and outstanding.

The fabulous nanny was conceived by an Australian, Pamela Lyndon Travers, who in 1924 left Sydney for London, where her career as a writer blossomed.

She travelled in the elite literary circles of the time and, most famously, clashed with Walt Disney over the adaptation of her books into film. Disney accused her of vanity for ‘thinking you know more about Mary Poppins than I do’. This struggle formed the center of the recent movie “Saving Mister Banks”, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.

Like her mysterious character, Travers remained inscrutable and enigmatic to the end of her ninety-six remarkable years. Valerie Lawson’s illuminating biography provides the only glimpse into the mind of a writer who fervently believed that ‘Everyday life is the miracle’.

Andrew Main

Andrew Main
Andrew Main
Andrew Main

Andrew has been a financial reporter since 1979, albeit with a brief but exciting interlude as an institutional stockbroker in Sydney, Paris and London between 1987 and 1992.

 

Other People's Money, cover image
Other People’s Money, cover image

He spent about 14 years with the Australian Financial Review as a senior reporter between 1993 and 2007, having previously done his cadetship at The West Australian and moved to the Sydney Morning Herald in 1984.

He’s written a book on the collapse of HIH Insurance and a biography of stockbroker Rene Rivkin, and was also part of the AFR team that won the 2004 Gold Walkley Award.

Rivkin biography, cover image
Rivkin biography, cover image
In his own words, he ‘tries to make business comprehensible and interesting’ and does that as Business Editor for The Australian as well as in his regular spot on 702 Mornings on ABC Radio with Deborah Cameron, Tuesdays after the 9am radio news on the ABC.

Murray Waldren

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Photo, left: Murray Waldren.

Christopher O’Doherty, aka Reg Mombassa, has infiltrated our culture for more than thirty years with a unique, laconic view of our world. His wit, sense of mischief and larrikin energy resonated in the songs and performances of one of Australia’s most beloved bands, Mental As Anything.

mombassa-cvrYet long before he became a Mental or transformed Mambo shirts into collector’s items, Mombassa was first and foremost an artist. From his idiosyncratic pop art to the delicately realised fine art landscapes and images that celebrate and elevate the suburban, his artworks are sought by collectors around the world. Who else could stage the biggest one-man art show in history at the Sydney Olympics? Who else could have Elvis Costello producing his records, or Johnny Rotten and Crowded House seeking his record cover designs?

mombassa-wolvesBut there is much more to Reg Mombassa, as fellow New Zealand-born writer and painter Murray Waldren shows in this illuminated journey, illustrated with over 300 artworks, photographs, posters and band memorabilia.

See Reg Mombassa’s page.

Prior works

Dining Out With Mr Lunch, a collection of literary profiles, was published by the University of Queensland Press in 1999.

Murray’s analytical feature on the Moran trial, A Family Act, was shortlisted for a Walkley Award.

He then went on to write a book on the turbulent Moran family, Moran v Moran, which was published by HarperCollins Australia in 2001.

Andrew Tink

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Australia 1901-2001 — A Narrative History

Andrew Tink’s superb book tells the story of Australia in the twentieth century, from Federation to the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

It was a century marked by the trauma of war and the despair of the Depression, balanced by extraordinary achievements in sport, science and the arts. And it witnessed the emergence of a mainly harmonious society, underpinned by a political system that worked most of the time.

Tink’s story is driven by people: prime ministers, soldiers, shopkeepers, singers, footballers and farmers, be they men or women, Australian-born, immigrant or Aboriginal. He brings the decades to life, writing with empathy, humour and insight to create a narrative that is as entertaining as it is illuminating.

Air Disaster Canberra: The Plane Crash that Destroyed a Government

At 11am on August 13, 1940, with Australia having been at war for almost a year, a dual-controlled Hudson bomber, the A16-97, crashed into a hillside near Canberra airport. In what is still Canberra’s worst disaster in terms of loss of life, all ten aboard died, including the chief of the general staff, Cyril Brudenell White, and three of Robert Gordon Menzies’ closest cabinet supporters: minister for the army Geoffrey Street, minister for air James Fairbairn and information minister Henry Gullett.

NewSouth, 309pp, $45 (HB)

Prior works

Lord Sydney: The Life and Times of Tommy Townshend
Just who was the man whose name is proudly borne by Australia’s oldest city, and by another city in Canada? A John Bull figure, full of bumptious ambition and self-confidence, Sydney had a remarkable political career, largely in opposition. He had sympathised with rebellious American colonists while holding true to British interests, and in 1782 he led in settling the peace between Americans and Britons. As a peer he chose the name Sydney for his barony in memory of his distant uncle Algernon Sidney, beheaded in 1683 for writing ‘the people of England… may change or take away kings’. This very fine biography is a story to savour.
Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2011

William Charles Wentworth,  Allen & Unwin in 2009.
This is the story of the man Manning Clark described as ‘Australia’s greatest native son’. Best known as one of the first Europeans to cross the Blue Mountains, Wentworth led a life full of firsts. One of the first born Australians of European parents, the first Australian author to be published and co-founder of Australia’s first independent newspaper, Wentworth gave the colonists an Australian voice. One of Australia’s first barristers who fought for trial by jury, for the first Parliament in Australia and for self-government in an Act the British called ‘a legislative declaration of independence’ Wentworth was a physical and intellectual giant. Ruthless when it suited him, he purchased the South Island of New Zealand for a pittance until a furious Governor made him give it back. With his rough charm, colonial cunning and English education, Wentworth was equally at ease addressing a rowdy meeting of ex-convicts as he was lobbying Ministers in the corridors of Whitehall.


Following eight years at the Bar, Andrew Tink spent nineteen years in the New South Wales Parliament, including eleven as a Shadow Minister and three as Shadow Leader of the House. After stepping down in 2007, Andrew became a Visiting Fellow at Macquarie University’s Law School, where he concentrates on his writing.

Susan Swingler

swingler-cvr
The House of Fiction:
Leonard, Susan and Elizabeth Jolley

One daughter, two wives, and the man they all loved…
The House of Fiction is a memoir about a daughter’s quest for her absent father. It sheds a new and surprising light on one of Australia’s most important writers — and the complex fabrications Elizabeth Jolley weaved in her personal life across time.

jolley-leonard-monica

Photo, right:
Leonard Jolley and
Monica Knight
(later Elizabeth Jolley),
late 1930s-early 1940s.


Susan Swingler was born in Birmingham, UK, and lives in rural Gloucestershire. Her jobs have ranged from freelance photographer to gardener, university lecturer to curator and researcher. She and her husband travel widely and have made regular visits to Australia since the late 1970s.

Margaret Simons

simons-stokes-cvr-loresKerry Stokes: Self-Made Man

Kerry Stokes came into the world with no advantages. Unlike his rival magnates, he built his empire from nothing. But what has he discarded along the way?

Prior works

Journalism at the Crossroads

The Australian mainstream press is in crisis, and the future of Australian journalism is uncertain. In response to plunging sales and profitability, and an inexorable increase in online and social-media platforms, the Fairfax and News Limited organisations have embarked on major cost-cutting and restructuring exercises.

World rights: Scribe


Margaret Simons’ first novel The Ruthless Garden won the Angus and Robertson Bookworld prize for new novelists in 1993.
A collection of her gardening columns, titled Wheelbarrows, was published by New Holland in 1999.
Her last novel was The Truth Teller.
Margaret’s investigative book on the inner workings of the parliamentary press gallery in Canberra, Fit to Print, was released in 1999 by UNSW Press.
In 2003 Hodder Headline released The Meeting of the Waters: Secret Women’s Business. Australia is the world’s oldest continent. The Murray is its longest river. The Meeting of the Waters is the story of what happened at the mouth of the Murray, when modern western European culture met older indigenous ways in a dispute about the building of a bridge.
A recent title is Resurrection in a Bucket, a book on the philosophy and implications of composting, published by Allen & Unwin.
simons-fraser

Margaret has also completed a Quarterly Essay for Black Inc. on Mark Latham.

Her biography of Malcolm Fraser was published by Melbourne University Press in 2010 and won the Book of the Year award in the 2011 New South Wales Premiers’ awards.

Andrew Riemer

riemer

A scholar, essayist and cultural journalist, Andrew was born in Budapest and arrived in Australia in 1947. In his latest book, Between the Fish and the Mudcake, he reminisces on writers, books, food, music and places.

The first volume of his memoirs, Inside Outside — Life Between Two Worlds, won the NSW Ethnic Affairs Commission Prize in 1992. This was followed by The Habsburg Café (1992); America with Subtitles (1995); and Sandstone Gothic (1998).

Andrew’s biography of Robert Hughes, Hughes: End of Modernism, was published by Duffy and Snellgrove in 2001.

He has recently turned to the translation of French literature. His translation of Ce Que Racontait by Catherine Rey was published by Giramondo.

A new non-fiction title, My Family’s History of Smoking, was published by Melbourne University Press in 2008.

Sarah Minns

Kath’s Miracle

minns-cvr“This book isn’t a manual on how to survive cancer or have your prayers heard… I’ve had five kids, been married twice, owned and lost a small business and a house. I’ve known what it is like to come close to death, and how to live again after that. I’ve been involved in the process of proving a miracle and making a saint. And I have discovered so much along the way… My hope is that you’ll find some comfort from my story.”

When Kathleen Evans was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, she was given weeks to live. All she had left was prayer. She was sent a relic of Mary MacKillop’s clothing — she wore it, and friends and family joined in praying to the founder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Ten months later, the cancer had completely — miraculously — vanished. No matter what your religious beliefs, Kath’s message of hope and redemption will lift your spirit.

All Kathleen Evans’ royalties are donated to the Trustees of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.

Australian and New Zealand Rights: Penguin Australia


Kathleen Evans is mother to five and grandmother to twenty-one. When she isn’t on the road exploring Australia with her husband, Barry, she lives in Lake Macquarie on the NSW central coast.

Sarah Minns is a writer who lives in Sydney with her husband and three daughters. Kath’s Miracle is her first book.

Robert Milliken

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Robert Milliken is an acclaimed international journalist. His latest work is Mother of Rock: The Lillian Roxon Story, a biography of Lillian Roxon, the fast-living Australian journalist who compiled the world’s first Rock Encyclopedia and who died tragically in New York in 1973 aged 41.

It was published by Black Inc. in Australia in 2002. US publisher Thunder’s Mouth Press (at http://www.thundersmouth.com/) released their edition in 2005, and a new edition was released by Black Ink in 2010.

A documentary on Lillian Roxon, inspired by the biography, premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2010, and was shown on SBS-TV. Film rights to the book have been sold to Decade Films.

In 1986 Robert published No Conceivable Injury (Penguin) regarded as the definitive account of the British atomic weapon tests at Maralinga, in the Australian desert.

David Marr

David Marr
David Marr

David Marr, Faction Man

‘Australians distrust Shorten almost as much as they distrust Abbott. That’s why this election will be fought on trust. It’s going to be dirty. At the heart of the contest will be Shorten’s character. All the way to polling day, Australians will be invited to rake over every detail of his short life and hidden career.’

David Marr, cover of Faction Man
David Marr, cover of Faction Man

David Marr is the author of Patrick White: A Life, Panic, The High Price of Heaven and Dark Victory (with Marian Wilkinson). He has written for the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age, the Saturday Paper, the Guardian and the Monthly, and been editor of the National Times, a reporter for Four Corners and presenter of ABC TV’s Media Watch. He is the author of four previous bestselling Quarterly Essays.

David Marr: Panic

Cronulla. Henson. Hanson. Wik. Haneef. The boats… Panic shows all of David Marr’s characteristic insight, quick wit and brilliant prose as he cuts through the froth and fury that have kept Australia simmering over the last fifteen years.

“all [these dispatches] grew out of my wish to honour the victims of these ugly episodes: the people damaged and a damaged country.” — David Marr

David’s first book was Barwick (Allen & Unwin), a biography of the former Chief Justice of Australia, which won the 1981 NSW Premier’s Literary Award.

This was followed by The Ivanov Trail, the story of the spy scare in Canberra.

Then in 1991 the brilliant and universally critically acclaimed biography Patrick White — A Life was released by Random House in Australia, Jonathan Cape in Britain, and Random House in the USA. This biography of the Novel Prize winning novelist won seven major Australian awards.

In 1994 Patrick White — Letters was published in Australia followed by publications in the UK and USA.

The Henson Case, released by Text Publishing in 2008, examined the uproar caused by the withdrawal of some of Bill Henson’s photographs from a Sydney art gallery on the grounds that they may have been obscene.

marr-book-cvr
Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott fought for leadership of the nation. Here, in one volume, are their definitive portraits by Australia’s pre- eminent biographer and investigative journalist. Power Trip shows the making of Kevin Rudd, from the formative tragedy of his life — the death of his father — to his years as Wayne Goss’s right-hand man, his relentless work in federal Opposition and finally his record as prime minister. Throughout Rudd’s life, Marr finds recurring patterns: a tendency to chaos, a mania for control, a strange mix of heady ambition and retreat — and what has until recently been an unbreakable bond with the public. But that bond broke.

In Political Animal, Marr examines the question that Australians are asking of Tony Abbott: what kind of man is he and how will he run this country? Part fighter and part charmer, Abbott is deeply religious and deeply political. What happens when his values clash with his absolute determination to win? That is the great puzzle of a career that began as a wild university politician in the 1970s and found culmination in the prime ministership.


David Marr is the multi-award-winning author of Patrick White: A Life and The High Price of Heaven, and co-author with Marian Wilkinson of Dark Victory. He has written for the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age and the Monthly, been editor of the National Times, a reporter for Four Corners and presenter of ABC TV’s Media Watch. In 2010 he wrote the Quarterly Essay Power Trip: The Political Journey of Kevin Rudd.

Panic is published in Australia by Black Inc. at http://www.blackincbooks.com/

Mark McKenna

mckenna-clark-cvr

‘This big, dramatic and intellectually enthralling book will surely become a landmark in Australian biography. Mark McKenna… cross-questions the reputation of the teacher, the family man, the drinker and the historian; as well as Clark’s extraordinary later incarnations as prophet, political Cassandra, bush mountebank and genuine visionary. He… finally establishes Manning Clark as one of the key figures in the new assertion of Australian cultural identity in the mid-twentieth century, alongside Patrick White and Sidney Nolan.’ – Richard Holmes

Mark McKenna’s biography of historian Manning Clark was recently published by Melbourne University Press: An Eye for Eternity: The life of Manning Clark.


Currently a Research Fellow at the Australian National University, Mark McKenna is an outstanding historian, and author of The Captive Republic (Cambridge University Press, 1996) and Looking For Blackfellas’ Point: An Australian History of Place (University of NSW Press, 2002) which won the Australian Cultural Studies Prize 2002; the NSW Premier’s Award for Non-Fiction 2003; and the NSW Premier’s Award (Book of the Year), 2003.

Malcolm Knox

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One of Australia’s most highly acclaimed and versatile writers,
Malcolm Knox
has published many books.

The Wonder Lover : cover image
The Wonder Lover : cover image

What’s the worst thing that can happen to a man with three secret families? He falls in love.

This is the story of John Wonder, a man with three families, each one kept secret from the other, each one containing two children, a boy and a girl. As he travels from family to family in different cities, he works as an Authenticator, verifying world records, confirming facts, setting things straight, while his own life is a teetering tower of astonishing lies and betrayals. The Wonder Lover is a stunning novel that again and magnificently confirms Malcolm Knox as one of our brightest stars, an imaginative tour de force that ranks alongside the best work of Nabokov, Amis, Ireland and Carey.

‘It is a compulsive and thrilling read, a dazzling achievement. There is a word that should be used very rarely but I believe is absolutely right for this book: The Wonder Lover is superb.’ — Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap.

knox-b-w-cvrBradman’s War told how the 1948 invincibles turned the cricket pitch into a battlefield. The Australian and English Test cricketers who fought and survived together in World War II came home knowing the difference between sport and war. They planned to resume the Ashes in a new spirit of friendship. Australia’s legendary captain had something else in mind.

World Rights: Penguin Australia

knox-m-the-life-cvrNovel: The Life

Now bloated and paranoid, former champion surfer and legend Dennis Keith is holed up in a retirement village, shuffling to the shop for an ice lolly every day, barely existing behind his aviator sunnies and crazy OCD rules, and trying not to think about the waves he’d made his own and the breaks he once ruled like a god. Out of the blue, a young would-be biographer comes knocking and stirs up memories he thought he’d buried. It takes Dennis a while to realise that she’s not there to write his story at all. knox-the-life-aust-cvr200wThe Life has been published by Allen and Unwin in Australia and Allen and Unwin/ Atlantic Books in the UK.

‘(his) new novel, The Life,  is alternately evocative and lacerating, tender and unflinching, a gloriously honest, brutal and moving story of a man who was at the top of his game and then pissed it all away… Malcolm Knox is one of the best novelists writing in the world today.’ — Christos Tsiolkas

‘Funny, heartbreaking and humane, The Life confirms what the Literary Review has known all along — Knox is, quite simply a fabulous writer’.

Prior Work

Malcolm was named as one of 2001’s Best Young Novelists by the Sydney Morning Herald for his first novel, Summerland, which was published by Random House in 2004 and sold into the U.K. and U.S.A by Picador. It was published in Germany, Italy, Argentina and The Netherlands.

He is the author of eleven previous books including the novels Summerland, Adult Book, winner of a Ned Kelly Award, and Jamaica (Random House Australia, 2007) winner of the Colin Roderick Award. His nonfiction books include Secrets of the Jury Room and Scattered: The Inside Story of Ice in Australia. Formerly literary editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, he has twice won Walkley awards for journalism and been runner-up for the Australian Journalist of the Year award. He lives in Sydney with his wife and two children.

“As a remembrance of things past, Knox’s novel is exquisite, blending a lyricism and exuberance of language with subtle undertones that point towards the denouement… Summerland works on many levels and Knox is, quite simply, a fabulous writer.”  — Literary Review, UK

Scattered, the terrifying story of ‘ice’ or “speed” in Australia, was published by Allen and Unwin in 2008.

knox-never-cvrNever a Gentlemen’s Game

Cricket in the early years was fraught with often violent Australian-English rivalry, gambling, match-fixing, cheating and bitter politics. It was cricket in the raw. Full of colourful characters and with a genuine affection for the legends of the day — players like WG Grace, Fred Spofforth and Victor Trumper are among those finely drawn by Malcolm Knox — Never a Gentlemen’s Game brings to life the crusades against chucking; the short and often tragic lives of many of the early Test cricketers; the riots on the field, and fisticuffs behind the scenes; and the lust for money on all sides.

World Rights: Hardie Grant

Margo Kingston

kingston-nhjHer personal account of Pauline Hanson’s 1998 election campaign, Off the Rails, was published by Allen and Unwin in 1999 and won the Dobbie Award for the most outstanding first book by a female author.

Margot’s analysis of the Howard Government, Not Happy, John!, was published by Penguin in 2004 and went straight to the best-seller lists.


Margo Kingston is a Canberra-based journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Margaret Harris

Margaret Harris
Margaret Harris

Margaret Harris held positions in the Department of English, University of Sydney, including the Challis Chair of English Literature, from 1969 to 2007. Since 2007, she has been Director of Research Development, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, at the University of Sydney.

Her major research projects have in common intensive investigation of the manuscripts of creative writers. Her research in Victorian fiction has established new interpretations of the careers of two major authors, George Eliot and George Meredith, based on original analysis of their unpublished writings such as notebooks and diaries, and knowledgeable and imaginative commentary on their novels. These contributions to the field were put into circulation initially in scholarly editions of previously unpublished writings, as well as of editions of each writer’s novels. Both The Journals of George Eliot (1998, with Judith Johnston) and The Notebooks of George Meredith (1983, with Gillian Beer) expand the published corpus of the work of the author, and provide insight into the creation and production of the work.

The Hanging Garden, cover image
The Hanging Garden, cover image
Professor Harris has published also on Australian authors, notably Christina Stead, in articles and a major collection of letters, Dearest Munx: The Letters of Christina Stead and William J. Blake (2005). She is currently engaged in an ARC-funded project on Patrick White in collaboration with Elizabeth Webby, which includes an edition of his working notebooks and publication of an unfinished novel, The Hanging Garden, in 2012, the centenary of White’s birth.

Julia Baird

 Victoria, the Queen

Julia Baird, “Victoria the Queen”, cover.
Fifth in line to the throne at the time of her birth in 1819, Victoria was an ordinary woman thrust into an extraordinary role. Born into a world where women were often powerless, Victoria went on to rule the most powerful country on earth with a decisive hand. As a teenage queen, she eagerly grasped the crown. She loved sex and delighted in power. She was outspoken with her ministers. She gave birth to nine children and survived eight assassination attempts over the course of her lifetime. And as science, technology, and democracy were dramatically reshaping the world, Victoria was a symbol of steadfastness and security—queen of a quarter of the world s population at the height of the British Empire’s reach.

It’s Baird’s gift as a storyteller, her knack for human detail and the idiosyncrasies of the era, that makes this book so superb. Through her eyes, the stolid Victoria we thought we knew comes thrillingly alive. An extraordinary story, told with brilliance and tenderness by one of Australia‘s most perceptive writers. — Annabel Crabb

Julia Baird makes this remarkable, complex woman absolutely come alive. Only an Australian — and one with Julias vivid storytelling abilities — could write this fresh, unafraid and completely compelling biography. — Lisa Wilkinson


Julia Baird is a journalist, broadcaster and author based in Sydney, Australia. She hosts The Drum on ABCTV and writes columns for the Sydney Morning Herald and the International New York Times. Her writing has appeared in a range of publications including Newsweek, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Guardian, the Good Weekend, The Sydney Morning Herald, the Sun-Herald, The Monthly and Harper’s Bazaar. You can follow her at http://www.juliabaird.me/about/