Thursday, 21 February 2013

Russell Braddon

Dr. Nigel Starck, Biographer of Russell Braddon visits Singapore
By Andrew Glynn
In January I had the chance to meet with Nigel Starck and talk about his excellent biography on Australian author Russell Braddon.

Surviving the horrors of the Thai-Burma railway, Russell Braddon aged 21 weighed just 32.7kg.

Drawing on his experience as a Gunner in the 2/15th Field Artillery and the horrid conditions as a Japanese prisoner slave, Braddon wrote a gripping yet critical narrative. The “The Naked Island”, condemned by Australian officers, has sold over 2 million copies and remains in print.

Struggling to re-adjust in post war Australia, Braddon suffered a mental breakdown, attempted suicide and spent five months in a mental institution.  Booking a passage to England with the last of his army pay, what followed was a prolific writing career of 15 fiction and 15 non-fiction books and a distinguished BBC career.

Finally, the fascinating life of Russell Braddon has been immortalized in “Proud Australian Boy”, by Dr. Nigel Starck, of the University of South Australia.

Braddon hoped a biography would never be written. Indeed after a long career in London, he destroyed his personal papers before returning to Australia. Beneath the fa├žade of Russell Braddon, lay a largely concealed personal life at odds with values of that time.

Which makes this biography all the more extraordinary. Building from Braddon’s surviving papers, Nigel Starck embarked on a remarkable journey of discovery that brought him in contact with his former Managers, Accountants, friends and partners. Including Dame Joan Sutherland (who writes the forward), the artist Ronald Searle (creator of St. Trinians and Thai Burma railway veteran) and actress Lesley Hazlitt (formerly Piddington).

This is a remarkably detailed and captivating biography (now an entrant for Australian Biography of the Year), and I thank Dr. Starck for sharing details of his journey of discovery with us.  It’s a little hard to buy, and the best way to get a copy is direct from Australian Scholarly Publishing