Australian Tragic - Jack Marx

Jack Marx, an Australian journalist felt that the official version of Australian history that we are taught in schools and that which is talked about in the media was boring, so he decided to write a book focusing on the darker, more tragic side of our history. From this he created Australian Tragic, a collection of weird, disturbing and sad short stories that deal with aspects of Australian history that we don’t normally hear about.
Here are stories from Australia’s dark heart: of catastrophe and misfortune, intrigue and passion, betrayal and tragedy. Some you may think you know – others, you have never heard of – but all will capture your imagination.
They range across our past and present: the heartbreaking story of the fire at Luna Park; the unstoppable opportunist who snatched innocent men and women from Palm Island to be part of P.T. Barnum’s ‘Greatest Show on Earth’; a world-class boxer who lost his battle with alcohol and ended up in an unmarked American grave; Steve Irwin, who was written off as a joke by the media, only to be hailed as a hero on his sudden death; and a man who heroically survived a war to find himself crushed and defeated by events much closer to home.
Heartbreaking and shocking, gothic and weird, these fascinating stories are all true, and told to remind us of the Australia we don’t know, the one that simmers with love and hate, of hopes raised and futures dashed, unheralded and unnoticed… until now.
This book contains 30 short true stories. Some are from the past, back when this country began, other are recent. Some are about celebrities or well known Australians, others about ordinary people. I learnt a lot reading this book…. About a man who basically kidnapped Aborigines from Palm Island to put then in a freak show in an American circus where they were hailed as savages. The story of a woman who lost her whole family in the ghost train fire at Luna Park. A story about the childhood of a boy who was picked on for being intellectually slow and how he lost all the people he loved,only to grow into a young man who committed one of the worst crimes in Australian history. The story of an old man who is still searching for his daughter’s rapist and murderer after 20 years… the group of people in a Victorian country town who murdered a woman while trying to rid her of demons.. who still walk among us today, and the doctor from Dora Creek who transplanted money testicles into old men, giving them a new lease on life, whose findings were lost upon his sudden death.

There are so many more interesting stories in this book that I could talk about all of them for hours… some of these stories I did know of, others I had never heard of and I found these ones the most shocking of all. In most of the stories the person who Marx is talking about is identified, sometimes even interviewed for the story if they are still alive, but in some cases Marx does not reveal who the person in question is, leaving the reader to wonder and speculate which public figure was part of this particular tragedy or bizarre event.

This was a really interesting read, a bit depressing at times, knowing that these horrible things really happened to real people, but it really did show a side of Australian history that no one talks about. A must read for any Australian interested in our past and a different take on our national history.

Rating 4/5


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