Cheeseburger Gothic

Three Crooked Kings.

Posted March 14, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

<span style="line-height: 1.6em;">I jaunted across town to Matty Condon's book launch on Monday night. Three Crooked Kings, a kick arse piece of literary non fiction that's the first real, long horizon view of 1980s Qld I've seen anyone take. I'm glad to see Matt turning his hand to long form journalism/history. He's an amazingly talented writer who seems a little out of favour with the judges of literary competitions. He should have shelves full of glittering prizes and I'm kinda hoping this one carries off all of this years non fic baubles. It deserves too.</span>

Today's Blunty is really just a pimping effort on its behalf. We may even do this one in bookclub later this year. On which front I am sorry to report that tomorrow night I will trapped inside yet another parental commitment. I seem to do nothing but drive from one to the next at the moment.

36 Responses to ‘Three Crooked Kings.’

Surtac has opinions thus...

Posted March 14, 2013
Ah well. So it goes.

I was planning to use the bookclub as an excuse to lock myself in the study well away from the girlie cosmetic 'party' planned for the other end of the house.

Such is life.

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Murphy reckons...

Posted March 14, 2013
Ah, the Land of Mad Cab Driver. I have indeed been there.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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johnbirmingham mutters...

Posted March 14, 2013
I could post something to kick off, I guess, but I wont be here to contribute to any actual discussion.

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Surtac ducks in to say...

Posted March 14, 2013
Oh, I'm ok with re-scheduling it.

I feel your pain, btw. The amount of re-scheduling and child taxi/ferry duties going on here at Chateau Dysfunction since SWMBO has started Uni studies has to be seen to be believed.

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Matthew F. puts forth...

Posted March 14, 2013
I'm cool with rescheduling too, or just holding it over and doing it in April. I have the book now, but something's odd on the Kobo and I can't increase the text size. Only being able to read the thing in the brightest of light with glasses on (which I don't wear for anything else) is slowing me down on it a bit.

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Murphy mumbles...

Posted March 14, 2013
I hate to ask but what was this month's book going to be?

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Surtac would have you know...

Posted March 14, 2013
Murph, it's Iain M Banks' The Player of Games.

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Lulu reckons...

Posted March 14, 2013
This Crooked Kings sounds like the kind of thing I'd enjoy, and according to the website for my local library several people agree - already got 4 reserves on it.

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yankeedog puts forth...

Posted March 14, 2013
Pardon my ignorance of the local politics, but was that when Bjelke-Petersen's bunch ran Queensland? Old Joh would have been a perfect American Southern governor ala Faubus, Wallace, and the Longs from Arkansas, Alabama, and Louisiana respectively. Ran their states like little medieval fiefdoms, they did, and with a heap of patronage and a bit of the iron fist. Won't see the likes of those guys again...

What am I saying? We put our last two governors in jail. Of course we will!

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JG ducks in to say...

Posted March 14, 2013
Good on you for putting Matt's book out there, JB. It's doing so well. I enjoyed the book launch of it at the State Library of Queensland. I've lent Three Crooked Kings to my daughter, Tina. She's in her final year of a BA in creative and professional writing at QUT and wants to review it for a course in non fiction. I'll read it after her. So many good things have been written about it. Can't wait. It covers an important part of Queensland's dark history.
Joanna :)

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JG reckons...

Posted March 14, 2013
Speaking of CBG book club, John (I know it's tomorrow night for The Player of Games), will Gone Girl still be on Friday, 5 April seeing as this month's has been put back a week? Also, how about doing Three Crooked Kings as a book club book -- for May perhaps.
Joanna :)

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johnbirmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted March 14, 2013
Joanna, I think the entire month is written off, so we're gonna push Player back til next friday, and Gone Girl into the following month. I'm getting buried by parenthood at the moment.

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Murphy asserts...

Posted March 14, 2013
Ah, that is why I didn't remember it.

I'll see about getting Gone Girl and reading that. Banks is pretty much a wash for me.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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JG is gonna tell you...

Posted March 14, 2013
OK. Cool. Thanks, John.

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pitpat ducks in to say...

Posted March 14, 2013
No wuckers. Planet parent hood has a heavy gravity all it's own.

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Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted March 14, 2013
Cool with first Friday in April for Player of Games, gives me more time to craft awesome critical analysis of PoGs comparing it to the The Crisis of the Late Middle Ages as reflected in the power dynamic of Jernau Morat Gurgeh as a future Michel Eyquem de Montaigne and Azad signifying a Foucaultian response to the archaeology of the Kant's philosophy.

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pi asserts...

Posted March 14, 2013
Would definitely like to see that in a book-club review.

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NBlob asserts...

Posted March 14, 2013
I believe there are contexts that define a childhood. For Greybeard it may have been the late cambrian. For me it was the late Joh years. It surrounded me like the sunny yellow paint in the dining room of my parents house, the cordorouy pants my mum made, the Simon & Garfunkle albums. I probably have a closer emotional association with the resistance to Bjelke-Peterson & Co than either set of grandparents. The SEQEB protests were more real than some uncles. The Springbok Tour, Sand Mining Fraser Is, Drilling for oil on the GBR, Gordon below Franklin and other protests were fodder for dinner table conversations, where as other families discussed the footy.
It probably inculcated me just as effectively as if I'd been raised by evangelical Jeebus jumpers.

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Therbs ducks in to say...

Posted March 14, 2013
Mr Barnes - Emmanuel Kant was a real pissant who was very rarely stable.
Mind you Renee Descartes was a drunken fart, "I drink thereofre I am".

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Matthew F. asserts...

Posted March 14, 2013
I have the same sort of background, NB. One of my earliest memories is my mother sitting on the end of my bed explaining to me how a man named John Kerr had told Mister Whitlam he couldn't be Prime Minister any more.

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Brian would have you know...

Posted March 14, 2013
Barnes. . .bloody Kant. He was just regurgitating late Stoa propaganda. (rushes to the Plato cabinet . . .oops thats the Pluto and Mickey stash). . .mumble. . .bloody Greeks . . . .

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damian ducks in to say...

Posted March 14, 2013
We did the vote with your feet thing and left Queensland. Came back in '88, just in time for Fitzgerald and the first time I voted was to vote the buggers out.

I remember being in a supermarket in Adelaide with my mum in '75, the "well may we say God save the Queen" speech was framed by Jif commercials on a black and white TV on a plastic bucket chair almost on the footpath (remember when supermarkets were not all air conditioned and had vast open doors that almost embraced the entire street?). And remember the commercial with the ice skates (because apparently the only two ways to clean a stove were to scrape it with ice stakes or use Jif)? On an unrelated note I seem to find myself spending hours flicking through photos on the Lost Brisbane page on facebook at the moment, usually late at night.

Everyone's perfectly aware that the gang who rolled Ahern never went away, right? You know the "agrarian socialism" view of the Nats is a crock, too? The main message is that a sharklike eat-the-weak libertarianism applies to people the Nats don't like, while they think people and activities they do like ought to be supported and subsidised to whatever extent is feasible. The difference between being liked by the Nats and not is a cultural one, where the in-crowd is relatively exclusive compared even to the Libs. That's because it's as much hereditary as anything else. I'd be in, even though I've been an unapologetic and feckless lefty most of my adult life, on the strength of my rural connections and roots, being capable of conversing at length about cows, and that not-quite-secret fascination with country music.

I'm horrified that a stretch of the Warrego Highway has been renamed Darren Lockyer way. Partly because it suggests after enough time people will assume the whole valley was named for that fuckwit. It sidelines the real hero with that name, Paul. Frankly if I had the spare money and time I would take an industrial shredder on the back of a ute, spend a few weeks carefully removing and shredding every single sign (this would do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHSwy6Goej4). Which is another way of saying I dislike (well that's an understatement... "despise" would be an understatement too) things the Nats like, and I am quite sure they feel the same way about things I like. Hence axing the Premier's Literary Award at the same time as devoting 3 x as much to the Western Queensland Camel Festival. Not that I have anything against camels.

Anyhow... Bill Gunn was my grandad's local MLA. Which is another way of saying quite a few awesome things came from the Lockyer Valley tyvm.

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Bunyip is gonna tell you...

Posted March 14, 2013
Mathew, as a ten year old, I used to get taken by my mum when she attended the local ALP branch meetings. I can remember sitting up the back of one meeting, trying to complete my homework, whilst two little old ladies told everyone about their last successful visit to Canberra. Apparently they had definitely managed to hit the GG with one, possibly two eggs.... I cannot remember more, as it was a long time ago, and I was actually trying to do my homework.

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Darth Greybeard has opinions thus...

Posted March 14, 2013
NBlob is right (except about the Cambrian) and brings back vivid memories of that era. I was a pinko student street marcher and Fifi was on the receiving end of the infamous police charge during the Springbok tour - not the 15 yo calmly batoned about the head by one of Qld's finest fortunately. And I still like Simon & Garfunkle.

Damian is also right about the Nats/Country Party. I met Joh BP at a do in Surat. As authors often say, his smile never reached his eyes. What stunned me a bit was that everyone there that night seemed to have a derogatory story about him. Illegal clearing, illegal air-dropping of bulldozer parts, misusing govt staff & equipment. Not even "ho ho, what a lad" stuff - most of the locals seemed to vaguely dislike him and wouldn't want to do business with him. But they voted Country Party anyway. One localish member was famed for shooting dogs from his verandah, just for fun. Also reputed to have some family ties that wouldn't be out of place in Game of Thrones. He won every election with an absolute majority, thanks to the very people who told & retold those stories, I guess because he was "one of us".

Also camels may be pests, but I've often ridden them and sometimes eaten them.

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Matthew F. mumbles...

Posted March 14, 2013
Bunyip, my folks were too bourgeois and respectable to throw anything, but my mother got photographed by the Canberra Times standing in a demo in front of Old Parliament House. We still have the "Kick The Squatter Out" sign she was holding up somewhere. (But she was very displeased about the caption referring to her as a "Canberra housewife", she being a senior lecturer and PhD student at the ANU at the time.)

Greybeard, what's camel meat like? One of the butchers in Fyshwick sells it and I'm curious.

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Darth Greybeard reckons...

Posted March 14, 2013
Matthew, I guess more like lamb or even mutton than beef. Definitely not like chicken! It's always been fairly well spiced but quite pleasant.

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ShaneAlpha asserts...

Posted March 14, 2013
Only in Joh era Queensland.

Russ Hinze gets pulled over for speeding by young constable. Whips out a map of Queensland from his glove box and says " Show me where you're going to be transferred to son."

"There are no illegal gambling establishments in queensland."
Ignoring the time they closed down half of Ann Street on a Saturday morning to crane the new gaming tables through the front wall of the illegial casino. The early Les Norton story by Robert Barrett is the fiction version.

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Matthew F. is gonna tell you...

Posted March 14, 2013
Hm, cool. There are some pretty good lamb curry recipes floating around in the GF's family (lots of keen cooks and several marriages to Indians and Pakistanis) and it sounds like those might adapt pretty well. On the other hand, I suggested buying some camel last time we passed that place and got a Look. So we'll see.

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Bunyip reckons...

Posted March 15, 2013
Mathew, that was in Sydney, at the Lane Cove branch of the ALP. IIRC, the local member was a then youngish suburban lawyer called John Winston Howard.

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insomniac reckons...

Posted March 15, 2013
Just make sure you get a good clean camel


One time there was an army camp in India that just received a new commander. During the new commanders first inspection everything checked out except one thing. There was a camel tied to a tree on the edge of the camp.
The commander asked what it was for, one of the soldiers who had been stationed there for a while explained to him that the men sometimes get lonely since there where no woman there so they have the camel. The commander just let that go, but after a few weeks he was feeling very lonely so he ordered the men to bring the camel into his tent. The men did, and he went to work on it.
After about an hour the commander came out zipped up his pants and said, “So is that how the other men do it?”
One of the men responded, “No we usually just use the camel to ride into town.”

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JG asserts...

Posted March 15, 2013
Hehehe. Funny sick joke, Sleepy :D

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NBlob would have you know...

Posted March 15, 2013
I suspect there is much to be learnt from Pre-Fitzgerald QLD WRT entitlement.

It was explained to me that QLD cops felt that kickbacks and Special gifts were an accepted part of the salary.
Having worked in law enforcement I can see just how easily people of otherwise good character could slip. Parallels could be drawn with unhealthy eating; it would be just so easy to grab a donut, or a burger. The “right” path is almost always the more difficult, the one that takes moral backbone, the one that requires will power. The dark path is just so painfully easy to self justify, “just one won’t hurt,” “No-one will ever know,” “I deserve it” they don’t know what it like,” “It’s victimless.”

If you think it’s easy I’d suggest you place yourself in the shoes of a police officer; paid a pittance, under manned, under gunned, under resourced compared to the dark forces you battle, conducting a raid and faced with a fat wad of folding. No dealer is ever going to complain that he had more ill-gotten funds than appeared on the evidence sheet –to do so would be self incriminating. How easy would it be to just misplace a percentage? Welcome to the dark side.

I consider myself acutely aware of the principles and practice of Justice and the little abuses that undermine it, yet I’ve found myself *this* far away from verballing villains, “enhancing” testimony etc. It is Siren easy to justify it; after all “he’s a grub and deserves it,” “its effectively impossible to gather enough evidence for a slam dunk,” “chicken sh!t prosecutors require an impossible evidentiary level before proceeding” and Hey presto I’m just as bent as an ’85 Qld Cop.

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Timmo reckons...

Posted March 15, 2013
Thanks JB, picked this one up on my way home last night - it looks like interesting reading. And I'm pleased to see there's a second volume due out towards the end of the year.

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damian is gonna tell you...

Posted March 15, 2013
Of course I'm right ;)

Bob, I think most ofbus get what you say and most of us wiuld find that kind of behaviour understandable, maybe even ultimately forgivable if not actually excusable. But I think the Joh era history was chockers with examples that went a long, long way beyond. These were blokes content to rewrite the parameters of the job, the focus and purpose of police work in Queensland, into stbuffing their pockets and getting their dicks attended to. It's one thing to verbal some scumbag who'd otherwise walk free, it's another to verbal him because he didn't give you your cut.

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NBlob mutters...

Posted March 15, 2013
@PTSD, I certainly agree.
Its one of the few valid Slippery Slope arguments and a place were absolutism is unhelpful.
All I *know* is that my perceptions have been altered by 7+ years of chasing ne'er do wells, without the resources to do so properly and the ease with which one could slip into injustice.

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Sturt asserts...

Posted March 16, 2013
Really looking forward to reading Condon's book. It's an absolute travesty that The Trout Opera isn't as famous as Cloudstreet.

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