Lord SydneyThe life and times of Tommy Townshend
William Charles WentworthAustralia's greatest native son
Air Disaster CanberraThe plane crash that destroyed a government
Australia 1901 - 2001a narrative history
From the time I was a toddler and first pulled books off my parents’ shelves, printed images and words have fascinated me. But it was only after 30 years in law and politics that I developed enough confidence to write a book.
After obtaining so-so results at law school and doing rather better in history, I practised as a barrister in Sydney before being elected to the NSW Parliament in 1988.
For eleven years, I sat on the front bench, among other things as shadow attorney-general and shadow leader of the House. In those jobs, I wrote my own press releases and soon learned that if the point I wanted to make could not be expressed on one A4 page, I was wasting my time.
It dawned on me that if I didn’t get a journalist’s attention by the middle of line one of the first paragraph, I was still wasting my time. Every word had to count. Having been indifferent to The Old Man and the Sea at school, I now appreciated Ernest Hemingway’s spare prose. And I better understand why my favourite composer is Jean Sibelius. 'Never write an unnecessary note', he said. 'Every note must live'.
To view a speech I gave, which outlines my writing journey (as well as an embarrassing graduation story), enter ‘ANU Graduation Ceremony 9’ in your search field, follow the prompts, and then scroll along to the one hour twenty-one minute mark.
I began dabbling in writing and in history which had been my favourite subject at school. After obtaining a contract with a publisher to write the first book length biography of William Charles Wentworth, I left Parliament in 2007. In 2010, William Charles Wentworth, Australia’s greatest native son won ‘The Nib’ CAL Waverley Award for Literature.
My second book, Lord Sydney [the life and times of Tommy Townshend], was released in mid-December 2011. This first comprehensive biography of Lord Sydney is now in its fourth printing.
Air Disaster Canberra the plane crash that destroyed a government, my third book, was released in April 2013. On 12 November 2014, the former prime minister, John Howard, launched my latest book: Australia 1901 – 2001 a narrative history.
To me, the importance of books was best expressed by the Scottish philosopher and historian Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881):
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