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Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The Chopper Is Gone

Chopper Read is dead. The professional criminal is gone. Why mention this on a book blog?

A few years ago, I wrote Crime Time: Australians behaving badly, a children's book about crime in this wide brown land. And Mark Brandon Read, the Chopper, was in it. He had recently been diagnosed with cancer and he was being overwhelmed with offers of organ donations.  He said that  no, he wouldn't accept; sick children deserved it more.

The man was a criminal, no doubt about it. Of course, he only picked on fellow crooks, not out of any nobility, but because, after all, as he said himself, they weren't going to call the cops, were they?

But there has to be something about a criminal who could become such a celebrity that people were offering him organs! Something charming? Charismatic? I don't know. I just researched and wrote about him, along with the serial killers and the stupid thieves and the gangsters.

I wrote that book on commission and as usual, I learned a lot about the subject I was researching, but unlike other times I couldn't write about people my young readers could admire. At best, I was playing with them in a whimsical way, showing them as the idiots they were. At worst, they were scary, as one student said recently when another student was borrowing my book from the library. And then there was Chopper, who wasn't an idiot as such, but wasn't a serial killer either. It was hard to know what to make of him. In the end, I just showed him as another crook who, somehow, became a celebrity.

I will be grabbing a few quiet moments to read my chapter about him on to a video for YouTube. I'll add the link here when it's done.

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons

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