Three People

I mentioned the other day on this blog that I’d received an autographed copy of the new Edmund White biography. When I got around to putting this in my bookcase, I just sat down for a while and had a look through some of the other autographed books I’ve been lucky enough to obtain.

As each of these books has an interesting story associated with them, I thought I’d choose three at random for your reading pleasure…

At the time of interviewing Peter Ryan, he’d recently been relieved of his duties as Commissioner of NSW Police. There had been rumblings from the grass roots of NSW police about his so-called autocratic style (and the amount of money he was paid), but until fairly recently he had been sill very much in favour with the NSW Government. But clearly something had changed, and it was time for him to leave. This book was seen, at the time, as either payback or his opportunity to present his side of the story. As a biography, it was interesting at the time, though I’m not sure it still has the currency it once had. However, in hindsight, with a potential political career of her own a possibility, it was interesting that his wife Adrienne Ryan (now separated) was also offered up as “interview talent”. Given the controversy surrounding Ryan at the time, of course I had to ask for an autograph.

The interview with Major-General Sitiveni Rabuka was also an unexpected one, as I thought I’d organised to interview the biography’s author, John Sharpham from the University of New England. As such, I’d prepared a series of interview questions which sought to define Sharpham’s understanding of the man who’d led a military coup in Fiji a couple of years earlier. “What did you really think of him?”. Imagine my surprise then, after being told by phone, “Your guest is at reception”, I discovered it was the man himself. A quick re-think and the questions were still useful and still made reasonable sense, though they needed a slight re-wording. Of course, I had to ask for an autograph. After all, how often do you get to meet the leader of a coup?

Asking for an autograph from Caroline Jones, however, was for completely different reasons. I’d admired Caroline Jones for many many years. I remember her, primarily, as the host of “Four Corners”, and though I’d grown up in the country and hadn’t been all that aware of the finer details of her early radio career, I’d heard some of that work too. I was, however, aware of her terrific program, “The Search For Meaning”, broadcast on Radio National, in which she’d interview people about issues of faith and belief. I ‘d always thought of her as a broadcaster of integrity. I’ll happily admit to being a little daunted to meet her, but I found her natural warmth quickly allowed me to relax. It meant a lot for her to thank me for a “fine interview”. There’s also a great line in this book, “An Authentic Life” which I often quote in which she declares, and I’m paraphrasing, that for many years people have thought that “seeing is believing”, however now an increasing number of people also recognise that “believing is seeing”.