Gideon Haigh

On Wednesday night I went out in the threatening rain (the more the merrier in this drought) to hear Gideon Haigh give a talk at the Hawthorn Library. I thought the room might have been sparsely populated but I was delighted to see that something close to 50 people turned up to hear him talk and answer questions. (The photo included on this website doesn't do
Haigh justice as it shows him with a vague sneer. Surely they had a better photo
than that to use.)

Anyway, Haigh is a writer and freelance journalist who is best known for this cricket books Big Ship: Warwick Armstrong and the Making of Modern Cricket, Mystery Spinner: The Story of Jack Iverson, and his recent collection Game for Anything. What is not usually known by his readers is that he started out as a business journalist working on "The Age" and "The Australian", before deciding in the mid-1990s that he just didn't like going to work any more and chucked in the life of an employed journalist for that of a freelance writer. He didn't forget his business roots however, and later produced Fat Cats: The Cult of the CEO, and Quarterly Essay 10: Bad Company.

Writing non-fiction about two topics might seem a little limited but, as Haigh puts it: "I don't have many ideas I've just written books about all of them. Which struck me as a pretty good description of any dedicated writer's work -- finding the topics that interest them and writing what they know. There are rich veins to be mined in each of the topics Haigh has chosen.

But it was cricket that people came to hear him talk about: the strange encounters with Jack Iverson's daughter, and with the man who argued with Iverson on the morning of the day he committed suicide. For such a dry subject as research he was able to see the light side of it -- the characters you meet and the places you visit -- amongst the long hours stuck in front of a micro-film projector. He spoke engagingly about this and I detected even in him a sense that he was amazed at how interesting it could actually be.

Haigh has lately been appearing as a guest on one of John Faine's programs on ABC Radio here in Melbourne and told of his first appearance there. Faine introduced him
as a writer and ex-journalist to which, after the program, Haigh took exception. He didn't see the distinction between being a journalist and a writer, he was both. Faine countered with: "but journalists don't write books." Well, Faine might not but this journalist certainly does.

Gideon Haigh came across as an interesting, informed, and amusing speaker. He engaged the audience well and they responded to him during the 30 minute question time. One referred to herself as a "cricket tragic", to which he replied that there was nothing tragic about cricket. With just that one line he had his audience won over. I only have Haigh's biography of Warwick Armstrong and the Quarterly Essay on my shelves at present. I aim to recify that very soon.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 27, 2005 3:47 PM.

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