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Write away (or punning for a living)

Posted on Thursday, March 12, 2009 in Books

Once upon a time, all I wanted to do was write a book.

About 20 years ago I wrote a novel called “Own Goals”, set in my home town, Dumfries, and related in a bizarre way to Scottish football fans. I sent it to one publisher who told me he didn’t want it but added that if I could find an agent, he was sure it would find a publisher. These were my glass-half-empty days and I took that as a crushing rejection and thought no more about it.
Soon after that, I met my current literary agent Selwa Anthony and everything changed.

Selwa introduced me to Sandy MacGregor, who, as a young officer in the Australian Army in the early days of the Vietnam War, led a troop of volunteer engineers who not only defused Viet Cong booby traps but were the first to actually go down into the now-famous tunnel systems.  Sandy told me about his experiences but I interviewed a lot of the men who served there and got the other side of the soldier’s life; the stuff they don’t write about in military histories.

My wife Sue Williams was approached by artist Eric Lobbecke who wanted her to write a children’s story for him to illustrate.  She was too busy but I was keen and the reult was The Koala Who Bounced.

And then there’s Apartment Living which I wrote with Sue , and which led to the weekly Flat Chat column in the Sydney Morning Herald and then, oddly, to the Ultimate Guide to Buying and Renting … which I wrote for Fairfax.

I was approached to write the biography of cricketer Shane Watson but Watto sold only modestly at a time when the sports book reading public seemed to be more interested in bad boys than good guys.

I then revisited the 3 Field Troop story with Tunnel Rats, which has done well and is still selling, and a more expansive story about all the Sappers in Vietnam called A Sapper’s War.

Eric and I also revisited the  bouncing koala with The Koala Bounces Back 

This year (2013) Simon and Schuster published my biography of bad boy turned good guy Wendell Sailor which contained a few shocking revelations that answered a lot of questions about this genial giant of both rugby codes.

Meanwhile, there is another crime novel in the pipeline although whether it does any better than “Own Goals” remains to be seen.

BOOKS: A long and winding road

I was 14 years old when I read my first work of grown-up fiction (Leslie Thomas’ The Virgin Soldiers) and decided that was what I wanted to do with my life. It only took 50 years to achieve that ambition of writing (hopefully) entertaining novels, although I’ve written a stack of other books in between. […]

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Vietnam Romance and Intrigue

Ever since I led my first tour to Vietnam I have had this sneaking sense of unease.  I don’t at all understand why the Australian government so willingly joined America’s war in Vietnam but I do get why Australian troops went there, especially the ‘Nashos” (National Servicemen). Britain decided not to get involved (we had […]

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Wendell Sailor: Crossing The Line

Late last year (2012) I was just getting to grips with my latest project, a first person biography of sports star Wendell Sailor.  I was chatting about our work with my partner, Sue Williams.  She was working on her biography of father Bob Maguire and we joked about how you haven’t really got through to […]

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Tunnel Rats

Allen & Unwin published  Tunnel Rats at the beginning of July 2011.  It’s a major rewrite of ‘No Need For Heroes’ the first-person memoir I wrote for Sandy MacGregor about 15 years before, but updated and re-tooled as a full-blown military history rather than a personal memoir. It’s a real “Boys’ Own” adventure – only […]

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Apartment Living

Apartment Living was written by my partner Sue Williams and me in response to the fairly troubled times we faced when we first moved into a new apartment block in Sydney. We ran the whole gauntlet of issues, from a dodgy Executive Committee the chair of which was a little too autocratic and close to […]

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No Need For Heroes

After the Koala Who Bounced was finished, my agent Selwa Anthony put me with a former Australian army major called Sandy MacGregor who won the Military Cross for his exploits in the Vietnam War. His men in 3 Field Troop were the first to go down the and explore the incredibly complex Viet Cong tunnel […]

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The Ultimate Guide …

 Our first book about living in apartments , ingeniously called Apartment Living, led to my weekly Flat Chat column in the Sydney Morning Herald. Ironically, based on the column, Fairfax Publications invited me to write The Ultimate Guide to Buying and Renting Houses and Apartments which is a much more practical and down-to-earth “how-to” book about buying, selling and renting – […]

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The first Tunnel Rats tour

In February 2012, Sandy MacGregor and I, as co-authors of the best-selling military adventure Tunnel Rats, led  a select group of travellers to where Aussie troops were based in Vietnam, working hard, playing harder, and creating the legend of the Tunnel Rats. That tour, which had guests ranging from young blokes in their 20s to one […]

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The Koala Who Bounced … and kept bouncing

Karri the Koala came to life when the artist/cartoonist Eric Lobbecke asked my wife Sue if he she would write a kids book for him to illustrate. For some reason she suggested that he and I collaborate and meantime she introduced us to Selwa Anthony whose writer management agency was just getting going. With Selwa’s […]

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I often joke that the reason I came to live in Australia was so I could support an international Test team that wasn’t England. That’s a bit of an exaggeration but there would be an element of truth in that for any cricket-loving Scot. Now, to be fair, Shane would be the  first to admit […]

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