David Marr

Brief Biography

David Marr was born in Sydney in 1947. He was educated at the Sydney Church of England Grammar School and the University of Sydney, where he graduated in Arts and Law. He had been an articled clerk with the legal firm Allen, Allen and Hemsley, but he soon turned to journalism and wrote for the Bulletin and the National Times. He was editor of the National Times in 1981-82. He was later editor of the ABC program 'Four Corners' (1985, 1990-91) and the presenter of Radio National's 'Arts today' program (1994-96). He is currently a feature writer for the Sydney Morning Herald.


Barwick 1980
The Ivanov Trail 1984
Patrick White: A Life 1991
Patrick White: Letters 1994
The High Price of Heaven 2000

Web References
"Bastardry and High Principle" - a review of The Justice Game by Geoffrey Robertson, June 1998

The Ivanov Trail 1984
Cover photograph: News Limited.

Dustjacket synopsis:
"The Ivanov Trail - a bizarre and compelling account of espionage, ambition and power-play.

"David Marr is the author of the bestselling biography, Barwick, and one-time editor of the National Times. As a journalist and lawyer, he covered 'the Coombe affair" and the ensuing Hope Royal Commission from beginning to end. He has extracted a gripping narrative from the criss-cross of events, the mountain of transcripts and his own research.

"Here at last is the real story of how David Coombe, reaching for the big time, came up against a determined prime minister and the government's national security committee. Marr shows exactly what Coombe did to attract the attention of ASIO; why Ivanov was expelled; how ASIO thinks and works - and involves itself in the personal lives of Austrlian citizens.

"Marr's book will create its own controversy. It is both a brilliant exposé of security bungling and a fascinating insight into the way the Hawke government operates."

First Paragraph

A fat man with a mat of curly hair came in shaking hands and smiling. David Coombe was always smiling. Optimism had been his stock in trade through all the lost elections after the 1975 débâcle, looking to find what bright side there was to the Australian Labor Party. He was national secretary then, but that was another career ago. His face was large yet its features curiously pinched, and smiling. Professional cheerfulness marked him with many as a fool. They were wrong 'G'day mate, g'day comrade,' he greeted friends, a couple of politicians and the press as he made his way through the crush towards his lawyers.

Coombe had no dock to stand in, for royal commissions operate on the fiction that they are not trials, that this was not the case of Crown v. Coombe but only a search for the facts conducted by the royal commissioner Mr Justice Robert Marsden Hope. There was no dock, no jury and no charge to answer. Coombe waited among the swivel chairs with his lawyers: Ian Barker QC, Rod Madgwick and the solicitor Terry Higgins. Stuck on Higgins's briefcase was a blue and white Eureka flag, another, in enamel, was in his button hole. Around them stood half a dozen barristers, half-naked without their wigs. Some were familiar adversaries. 'What are you doing here?' Barker asked Michael McHugh QC with a theatrical snarl. The two men had only recently finished a long and bizarre murder trial. Barker's triumph in the case made him one of the few Australian advocates whose names are much known beyond the law. For months the public had followed the tale of the Christian mother who claimed that a dingo scavenging at the foot of Ayres Rock had taken her child. Dingos were slaughtered, heart-wrenching stories filled the women's magazines, but Barker insisted on the small detail of blood in the zip of the camera bag. The woman was convicted of murder. Now Barker was defending and McHugh prosecuting. He returned Barker's taunt coolly. 'I'm appearing for someone who claims to have an interest in these proceedings, namely the Commonwealth government.'

From the Nelson paperback edition, 1984.

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Last modified: May 2, 2001.