Power Without Glory
"In the history of Australian literature, few books have been as controversial as Frank Hardy's Power Without Glory.
"This is the tale of John West, who rose from a Melbourne slum to dominate Australian politics, using bribery, brutality and fear. His family turned away from him in horror. Friends dropped away. At the peak of his power, surrounded by bootlickers, West faced a hate-filled nation -- and the terrible loneliness of his life.
"Was John West a real figure? In the early 1950s an Australian court heard evidence in a sensational libel action against Frank Hardy. After an uproar that rocked the foundations of the contry, Frank Hardy was acquited.
"This is a novel which provoked such intense debate across the nation. Fifty years on, the questions it poses remain unanswered...
"Any novel which more than a handful of people remember as much as a year or so after its publication is a rarity. Yet after ten years hundreds of thousands of Australians still remember Power Without Glory" - The Age, 1960
"The best political novel in Australia...The passage of time should not diminish our admiration for the brave, rare way in which Hardy chose to expose John Wren's netwrok of corruption in Melbourne...If anything [it is] now more topical" - Canberra Times, 1992
"Hardy was the literary chronicler and champion of the battler, of the common man...Power Without Glory remains one of the great Australian novels...It has sold nearly 1 million copies worldwide..." - The Australian, 1994
"Hardy did create a genuine populist vision of what was then recent history and that is the hardest thing on earth to do in Australia." - Peter Craven, 1994
One bleak afternoon in the winter of 1893 a young man stood in the doorway of a shop in Jackson Street, Carringbush, a suburb of the city of Melbourne, in the Colony of Victoria. The shop was single-fronted and above its narrow door was the sign CUMMIN'S TEA SHOP. In its small window stood a tea-chest with a price ticket leaning against it.
The man was of short, solid build and was neatly dressed in a dark-grey suit. His face was clean-shaven. He wore a celluloid collar and a dark tie. With his left hand he was spinning a coin. It was a shiny golden coin, a sovereign. Standing on the footpath facing him from a few feet away was a tall policeman in uniform, whose small, unintelligent eyes followed the flight of the coin as it spun up a few feet and fell into the palm of the young man's hand, only to spin rhythmically upwards again and again.
The policeman said: "This shop is on my beat. I have had complaints that you are conducting an illegal totalisator here."
A cold wind blew through the door fanning against the young man's trouser legs, revealing that he was extremely bow-legged. From a distance, the first noticeable characteristic was his bandiness, but, at close range, his eyes were the striking feature. They were unfathomable, as if cast in metal; steely grey and rather too close together; deepset yet sharp and penetrating. The pear-shaped head and the large-lobbed ears, set too low and too far back, gave him an aggressive look, which was heightened by a round chin and a lick of hair combed back from his high sloping forehead like the crest of a bird. His nose was sharp and straight; under it a thin, hard line was etched for a mouth.
He was twenty-four years of age, and his name was John West.
From the Vintage paperback edition, 2000.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2006 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Frank Hardy page.
Last modified: May 2, 2006.