Saturday, 28 December 2019

Book review: The Secret Army and the Premier, Andrew Moore (1989)

Published by the University of New South Wales Press, this monograph is based on a PhD dissertation. It desperately needs editing work done to clean it up. You don’t get the whole story because, while the author understands everything clearly and is clearly in command of his material, the reader just cannot keep up. The book could be half again as long and be eminently readable. As it is, it’s half-finished. Which is a pity, as the subject warrants examination. I wish someone else would take this work, expand it, rewrite it, and publish a new work on the same subject.

I’ve had this book in my collection for a long time and picked it off the shelf the other day. I really did give this book a solid go, but in the end my patience wore thin and I gave up reading having completed less than 60 pages.

Apart from the lack of adequate development of the story – you are given names, often, without any context provided, on the basis that the same person had been mentioned briefly ten pages earlier – I was not entirely happy with the author’s declaration at the front that all that we label history is about class struggle. This is obviously untrue and, while it might have had some currency back in the day, it is a view that, now, sits so far from the consensus that I had to read the sentence in which it was expressed several times to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. The obsession of certain parts of the left with money is so disappointing but, thankfully, this obsession is now rarer than it once was.

The book represents a missed opportunity. It is about right-wing paramilitary organisations that, in order to counter Communism, were set up in the 1920s and -30s by reactionary elements in the communities that made up Australia. Plenty of scope here for a gripping yarn, but the author’s style militates against the cause.

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