Review: Roger Rogerson By Duncan McNab

9780733634505If you have read any books about Australian crime in the 1970s and 1980s, the name Roger Rogerson most likely will not be a stranger to you. He was certainly no stranger to the news media, having actively courted them for years. More recently, people like myself made a point of reading the Sydney newspapers to see what was happening in the trial of Rogerson and his accomplice Glen McNamara for murder.

Duncan McNab has previously written about Rogerson, in his 2006 title, The Dodger: Inside the World of Roger Rogerson. Once Rogerson was back on trial again, McNab obviously also followed it quite closely to produce an updated version of The Dodger, including the murder trial.

There is a quote on the book’s rear cover: “a poisoned, evil little man.” And that seems a pretty fitting description of Rogerson. He openly boasted about the men he killed in the line of duty, despite one of those being pretty much a murder that he got away with. Anyone who got in his way on the job seemed to find themselves shoved on the outer. He was a blatant criminal in his drug dealers and apparent involvement in the murder of others getting in the way. Overall there is a sense of astounding arrogance that comes through in the depiction of Rogerson. Despite earlier prison time and being thrown off the force, he still seems to have had an attitude of ‘can’t touch me.’ But by the end, then aged 73, he wasn’t as sharp as he used to be or thought he was. It seems to have never occurred to him that a self-storage facility would have security cameras around the place. Or that driving your own vehicle to a drug-deal-cum-murder was not the brightest of stunts. Or that hiring a block and tackle to lift a body into a boat for disposal might get traced back to them.

McNab is a former police detective, private investigator and investigative journalist as well as being personally acquainted with Rogerson on the job, which gave him a possibly unique outlook in being able to write this and the earlier work. It covers a lot of ground about both Rogerson and McNamara, making it a fascinating account. If you have any interest in true crime, corruption and seeing a truly bad bloke getting his come-uppance, then this is definitely the book for you.

The only negatives for me were the lack of an index or bibliography to help with further reading if interested. But that is all too often the way in publishing of non-fiction titles these days.

Recommended.

Buy the book here…

Review – Carry A Big Stick by Tim Ferguson

9780733629358I am from the generation that laughed at and were shocked by Doug Anthony All Stars on the ABC television program, The Big Gig. They became such a part of the Australian landscape.

Jump forward to 2010 and I leapt at the chance to do a narrative comedy workshop with Tim Ferguson, the ‘tall, pretty one’ of the DAAS trio. He wasn’t what I expected. Perhaps I had foolishly been expecting him to be his DAAS persona in real life? The workshop was brilliant stuff. But it was obvious that something was physically up with Tim. It was later that year that the came out on national television, telling the world that he had Multiple Sclerosis. I thought “good on you, mate, take that bastard bull by the horns.”

Ferguson’s autobiography came out not long ago and I just grabbed myself a copy. It is great stuff. We get to see how the Tim Ferguson that we think we know, came to be. Then there’s the wonderful chance encounter that lead to DAAS. We get to see just how incredibly wild DAAS could really be. It is almost a case of ‘name a place and they’ve played there, metaphorically pissing on the audience.’

On some things, Ferguson doesn’t pull his punches. With others he treads much more carefully, with integrity.

Just as DAAS were a huge part of his life, so too has the continuing development of MS. He denies being brave, instead treating MS as an obstacle rather than something to be feared.

I read the entire book in one afternoon. It is that engaging. It was made all the more poignant for me by episodes of ‘oh I remember that’ or ‘wow, I didn’t know that.’

My original impression of Tim Ferguson after spending an intensive workshop with him was ‘this is a good bloke with a lot to share that’s worth listening to.’ This autobiography has merely reinforced that view.

With the ‘holiday season’ fast approaching, go and grab a copy to spend some quality time with Comrade Tim. Then aspiring comedy writers should head off an grab a copy of his The Cheeky Monkey as well.

Ross Hamilton is an author and occasional stand-up comedian, sometimes found hanging out at wordsbyross.com

Buy the book here…

 

Review of The Spider Goddess

First posted at www.awritergoesonajourney.com

The Spider Goddess- Tara Moss
Pandora English 2
Pan Macmillan
ISBN:978-1-7426-1003-0

There’s a new designer in town- and she has Pandora in her sights. Who knew the fashion industry could be so venomous.

It’s now been two months since Pandora first moved to the mysterious Spektor to live with her equally mysterious Great-Aunt Celia. And it’s certainly been anything but boring. She’s encountered counting-obsessed vamps, ghosts, zombies and a myriad of characters she never thought possible.

Now there’s a new threat to New York, and Pandora seems to be a beacon for the strange and unexplained.

I had mixed feelings about the first in the Pandora English series but my final feeling was that I was looking forward to seeing the next in the series.  Unfortunately the old brain box was working rather sluggishly for a while there after the brain surgery and only now am I getting to writing up my review of this second Pandora English novel. Sorry about that.

I suspect one of the reasons, probably the major reason, why I had those mixed feelings about The Blood Countess was that I was not expecting this from Tara Moss, being used to and a fan of her crime novels.

With The Spider Goddess, I was much happier. I felt some of the problems I had with its predecessor had been addressed (not that I am arrogant enough to suggest I am the reason why they were addressed!) and along the way, these added to the greater development of the larger plotline. For example, cartoonist Charles Addams gets a mention in such a way that I half-expect him to play some sort of role in a future novel.

There is definitely a creepy feel to the story but not to the point that I would be uncomfortable with younger readers getting their hands on the story. I have given a copy to a young friend, fully expecting this young adult to also enjoy it.

I felt Pandora was a stronger character this time, adding to the story. I also liked Moss’s exploration and use of various mythologies. But it is a paranormal story, after all. I even found myself feeling a little sorry for Pandora and her feelings for the deceased Lieutenant Luke – bit hard to see a relationship developing with a ghost who only seems to be able to appear in certain places.

I enjoyed this novel and read it quite quickly.

 

Ross Hamilton

REVIEW: Bossypants by Tina Fey

Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true. And now, here is her story.

My more usual reviewing gig is speculative fiction with occasional diversions into history. So why am I reviewing this autobiography by Tina Fey?

Well, firstly, only ten copies were being made available to blog-based reviewers in Australia. I put my hand up for a copy, not expecting to get one. It was a rather delightful surprise to receive an email a few days ago that a copy had been tossed into the post for me. Next, Fey is a writer and I believe in learning what we can from those who have gone ahead of us on the writing journey. Finally, I think Tina Fey is very funny and talented. And cute. There. I said it, OK?

When I first elevated myself to the luxury of pay television here in Australia, The Comedy Channel was running old episodes of the long-running US comedic icon, Saturday Night Live. The humour did not always do a lot for me but it must be incredibly difficult to keep turning out comedy sketches year after year. My favourite part of the show was easily the Weekend Update piece featuring a quirky, bespectacled lady who was not above throwing the occasional comment to the audience.

To many people, Tina Fey is “that” woman who did the impersonations of Sarah Palin even though this was just one small part of her story, albeit one that brought her a much wider audience and attention.

This was a very entertaining book. While some cultural references are naturally US-centric and I did not necessarily always get them, it is fast-paced and very easy to get right into. It is a confession, the story of a journey, an account of life in the entertainment business, genuine admiration of others, biting sarcasm, self-deprecating humour and some lovely lunacy.

With all the many people Fey has worked with, particularly the special hosts on Saturday Night Live, there must have been a temptation to do a ‘tell-all’ about some of the ‘d-bags’ (Palin’s expression) but she has resisted that. But some people from earlier in her life come in for some biting sarcasm and ridicule but are generally kept anonymous.

I am left with the impression that Fey is a bit puzzled by the attention she has received in more recent years as an attractive woman. Her list of self-perceived body flaws includes her feet.

“My Father’s feet. Flat. Bony. Pale. I don’t know how he even gets around, because his feet are in my shoes.”

I was also a little puzzled by Fey’s references to the alleged low popularity of her current creation, 30 Rock. That is easily one of my favourite programs.

As a biography, Bossypants will appeal to more than just Tina Fey’s fans. It is a delightful reflection by a very entertaining and perceptive person and keen observer of life, not to mention giving an insight into life working in comedy and television.

I have also reviewed this at www.awritergoesonajourney.com and my own blog, Words by Ross.

 

A Massic to end all Massics

In an early post on her Poisoned Apples & Smoking Caterpillars blog here at Boomerang, Aimee Burton discussed the emergence of what she described as mashups, the combining of literature with monsters.

I prefer the term ‘massics’ (classics with monsters). However as the originator of the term, I get to include pretty much whatever I feel like adding to that classification, including Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter, where a young Queen Vicky becomes something of an action hero (Bruce Willis in drag?).

While this blending of literature with the Monster Mash probably offends the purists, I find it amusing in a quirky sort of way, although that probably says more about my warped sense of humour than anything else.

This cross-genre infestation of Austen with horror devices  has not been happening in isolation. At the same time we have seen vampire slut fiction… er… that is to say, paranormal romance, really take off. Increasing amounts of shelf-space in bookstores is being devoted to this merging of the horror and romance genre.

I blame Buffy the Vampire Slayer for romanticising the Undead. Of course I only watched the program to enjoy Joss Whedon’s story telling, not for the visual delights of Sarah Michelle Gellar… Charisma Carpenter…

Sorry, the mind wandered there for a bit. Now where was I?

Oh yes – romanticising vampires. I don’t really see anything terribly romantic about someone wanting to hack into my jugular and suck up copious amounts of my caffeine-impregnated red stuff. Besides, I read of a study that found the greatest incidence of homosexuality in the animal kingdom is found in colonies of vampire bats. Makes you wonder just what the good Count D was really looking for when he started hanging around the windows of Victorian bedrooms, finding nubile young women abed, their camisole-clad chests gently rising and falling in sleep, long dark tresses strewn across the pillow, revealing a pale, slender neck….

Sorry. Mind wandered again.

So what will become the next big thing? I predict a giant merging of all genres.

We start with young Muffy the Monster Molesterer, sitting in her kitchen, cleaning some of her monster-molestering equipment. There is a shimmer in the air and two men clad in unconvincing velour uniforms suddenly appear.

“Curious, captain,” remarked the one with pointed ears, holding up what appeared to be an old tape recorder in a leather holder.

“Who says… thatI’m…. curious?” asked the other.

“Whoever you are, haven’t you heard of knocking?” Muffy snapped.

“Miss, we… have come… fromthefuture… the fate… of… the world… liesinyourhands. Tonight… you must-”

“Tonight? Sorry – all booked up. Monster molestering, you know? So, bugger off.”

The two in velour shrug their shoulders.

“Well, we tried,” said the one without the pointy ears. “Beam us up, Snotty.”

With another shimmer, the pair disappeared.

Apparently used to things appearing and disappearing, Muffy buckled on her equipment belt of molstering doo-dads and headed out to rid the world of evil. Again.

Just down the footpath, she tripped over the body of a young, bespectacled lad, clad in the uniform of Fartsworth College for the Magically Inept.

“Help me,” the lad whispered through the bloodied froth on his lips. “Voldemart…”

“The new supermarket? About three blocks over. But I think what you really need, buddy, is a doctor.”

Satisfied at doing her good deed for the day, Muffy continued along the footpath until the whisper of leathery wings made in spin around, reaching for a number three spike.

“I vant to suck your – oi! Wot you doin’ stickin’  me wiv dat pointy thing, missus?”

Ignoring the now crumbling pile of vampiric ash, Muffy dashed across the road to the bus stop. A man clad in goatskin, came plodding along the footpath past the bus stop bench, muttering to himself.

“I say, my desert island is becoming rather busy these days. You simply cannot be shipwrecked in peace any longer.”

The bus arrived and Muffy boarded, taking a seat along side a burly, tattooed, half-naked man who was holding a large harpoon.

“Morning, Ishmael.”

“Morning, Muff. I got a new tatt. Wanna look?”

Muffy’s perusal of the tattooed bicep was interrupted by a clean-cut young man leaping from his seat.

“If this bus goes under 50mph, it’s going to explode!” he cried.

A lanky man, wearing his best 1970s polyester slacks, unfolded himself from his seat and pointed a revolver the size of an ICBM at the young hero.

“Go ahead – make my day.”

His finger tightened on the trigger and, with the gunshot still echoing the passenger’s ears, the young hero lay in a bloodied heap in the aisle.

“Good one, dipstick,” Muffy snapped. “I think he was supposed to be the good guy.”

The bus driver turned around to reveal a hideously burned face and brandishing a leather glove with blades emerging from the fingertips.

“Ready for a ride, boys and girls?” the driver cackled.

At which point, the bus drove off a convenient cliff, putting all the passengers, as well as the readers, out of their misery.

What do you think? Should I start making plans to purchase a personalised jet? Nah, you’re probably right.

Now you will have to excuse me, yet again. My laptop is feeling suicidal after being forced to type this gibberish.

ross hamiltonRoss Hamilton is an author of speculative fiction, some-time poet and a book reviewer. Among other places, he can be found loitering in the vicinity of www.awritergoesonajourney.com or his website www.rosshamilton.net. Unfortunately, he thinks he is funny. We would rather you didn’t encourage him.

Review: ANZACs in Arkhangel – The untold story of Australia and the invasion of Russia in 1918-19

Anzacs in ArkhangelANZACS IN ARKHANGEL: The untold story of Australia and the invasion of Russia in 1918-19 by Michael Challinger

Review by Ross Hamilton – [email protected]

I was quite interested in this book when it first appeared on bookshelves and have ripped into it after obtaining my copy via Boomerang.

The author states from the outset that this is the story of the Australians who took part in this venture rather than a history of the campaign as such. Challinger sticks to that although there is plenty of information in there to give an overal view of what was happening.

This is a story in two parts – first that of the initial force despatched in secret, nominally to seize control of military stores and keep them from falling into German hands, particularly after a miscaluation by the Russians (and especially by Trotsky) in their peace treaty talks with Germany, resulted in the Russian government under Lenin giving up large tracts of territory to Germany. The second part of the story is that of a second, larger force sent to withdraw the now-stranded mission in northern Russia.

Challinger clearly paints a picture of a mission that was a confused mess from the outset. Many of the participating troops in the different forces supplied to the mission, were inexperienced, poorly supplied and poorly led. There are some remarkable parallels to more modern history such as involvements in Vietnam, Iraq and Afganistan where there are conflicting reasons for why the combatants are there and what they are trying to achieve. Various forces were sent to Northern Russion on the understanding that they would not  be combative forces, such as the 5,000 Americans sent as part of the original mission, only to have the British General in charge blithely ignore that restruction.

With the ending of WW1 and apparent failure of that original mission to Northern Russia, it was determined to send a second force to relieve and remove the first. However a certain, Bolshevik-hating British politician, one Winston Churchill, decided to reinterpret the instructions of the British cabinet and sought to turn this into a full-scale combat against the Bolsheviks in what was always going to be a doomed campaign. Where have Australians’ come up against a similar pig-headed, poor decision by Churchill, I wonder? Fortunatley for the Australian combatants, this venture  did not turn into quite the same disaster as Gallipoli.

I have to admit to being less-than informed of the situation in post-revolution Russia, and the extent of the civil war that resulted was interesting reading. Challinger also clearly depicts the immediate pre-Revolution scenario of dissatisfaction among the Russian populace and the poor conduct of the Russian involvement in War World 1. There is little wonder that people, including the soldiers, revolted. Even before the peace treaty with Germany, there were mass desertions from the Eastern front by Russian soldiers.

My only real criticism of this book is that it seems to bypass most of the actual combat. For example, a reader could be forgiven for getting the impression that the original force did not engage in combat as so little is said about it. However a crucial passage does comment that there were skirmishes and massacres. Unfortunately this is not greatly elaborated on, which left me a little dissatisfied.

That criticisim not withstanding, I found this an interesting account which painted a clear picture of a poorly considered and enacted venture that for some reasons, governments seemed to continue to fall folly to.