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Old 10-04-2012, 09:47 AM   #1
IrnBruMan
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Default R.I.P Robert G. Barrett

Rest In Peace Les Norton


Author Robert G. Barrett was perhaps an anti-literary hero. According to Linda Funnell, his editor at HarperCollins for 10 years, he connected to ''people who didn't necessarily consider themselves book readers''. Even within the ever-popular world of Australian crime fiction, his books were remarkably light and unpretentious, focused on entertainment over profundity.

Over 27 years, he sold more than 1 million books - an impressive number, as practically all of his sales were domestic - and The Australian dubbed him ''the king of popular fiction''. He nicknamed himself ''Barbara'', saying that he was an Australian version of another unashamedly successful writer, British romance novelist Barbara Cartland.

''Bob didn't have much time for the literary establishment and the feeling was mutual,'' wrote Funnell in a recent tribute. Well-known as a stirrer, he would appear at writers' festivals (reluctantly) with a stripper under each arm, or wearing a Helen Demidenko T-shirt soon after the young author and poseur had left the literati red-faced.

Barrett, who was born on November 14, 1942, had a difficult relationship with his parents. He attended Bondi Beach Public School and Randwick Boys High but left school at 14. For the next few years, he worked as a bouncer, a janitor and a butcher.

In 1980, he was injured at a meatworks by a falling carcass of meat, placing him on workers' compensation. As part of his rehabilitation, he enrolled in creative writing courses at the Workers' Education Association. Before long, he was publishing short stories for Australian Penthouse magazine.

One of them, A Hard Man, introduced Les Norton, a meatworker who flees the Queensland town of Dirranbandi after killing a man and moves to Sydney - complete with his ute, RM Williams and moleskin trousers - to become a bouncer at the Kelly Club in Kings Cross, fighting criminals in his spare time.

Norton became the hero of more than 20 books, beginning with You Wouldn't Be Dead for Quids in 1984. They were violent, seedy but undeniably humorous books, mostly set in Sydney. In some cases, such as High Noon in Nimbin and the Surfers Paradise-set White Shoes, White Lines and Blackie, he took the hero further afield.

Author and hero were not the same but had a few things in common - their previous jobs, their opinions and their reputations as larrikin, no-nonsense Aussies. Barrett would promote each book with very unorthodox tours, driving through country towns. ''It was like a road trip,'' said Shona Martyn, publishing director at HarperCollins. ''He'd be doing research all the way.''

It certainly seemed to work. Barrett eventually had a devoted cult following. In each town, a group of his fans, dubbed the ''Norton army'', greeted him with official T-shirts. He would sign books and T-shirts and, in one case, a possum (housed in a woman's shirt in Lismore).

His books also won a large following within the Defence Force and - his greatest pride - he was the most borrowed author in NSW prison libraries.

It was not exactly instant fame. In 1987, with three books published, he was working as a kitchen hand and was kept afloat by writing a weekly column for People magazine.

''He talked from the heart and wasn't a fake,'' Martyn said. His willingness to speak his mind won him many admirers but also resulted in him being labelled as ***ist, racist and homophobic. He described Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras as an ''asinine assemblage of arseholes'' and said that ''if you're a white Australian male, you've got to flagellate yourself with the worry beads for the Aborigines, for the Muslims, for the whatever''.

He was equally candid when diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2008, updating readers about his health in the introductions to his subsequent books.

Barrett was unmarried and has no immediate surviving family. However, the reaction to his illness and health proved that he had no shortage of friends.

''Barbara was one of the kindest and most considerate people I know,'' his long-time publicist, Mel Cain, said. ''Also one of the most entertaining, funny and dedicated. He loved a cause, hated being politically correct but took very seriously being a gentleman.''


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Old 10-04-2012, 12:42 PM   #2
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Default Re: R.I.P Robert G. Barrett

Rip. Read a good few of his books. Gotta admire a butcher that became the biggest selling author in Oz after taking up writing in his forties.
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Old 10-04-2012, 04:07 PM   #3
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Default Re: R.I.P Robert G. Barrett

Ahh his first books were fkn hilarious do yourself a favour and read "you wldnt be dead for quids" and " the real thing" short stories easy read
Rip big man
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Old 10-04-2012, 04:37 PM   #4
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Default Re: R.I.P Robert G. Barrett

i liked the way he pissed on the litterary set from a great height.

when they dared dish it out to him he'd reply "im selling books.."
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Old 10-04-2012, 06:24 PM   #5
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Default Re: R.I.P Robert G. Barrett

Great books good old les norton. Anyone read Davo's little something?
Rip. Old school bondi boy.
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Old 10-04-2012, 06:28 PM   #6
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Default Re: R.I.P Robert G. Barrett

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Originally Posted by TheDuke View Post
Rip. Read a good few of his books. Gotta admire a butcher that became the biggest selling author in Oz after taking up writing in his forties.
Ever met a butcher that didn't have as many good stories as you cared to listen to?
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Old 10-04-2012, 06:31 PM   #7
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Default Re: R.I.P Robert G. Barrett

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Ever met a butcher that didn't have as many good stories as you cared to listen to?
He worked at the butchers my nan use to shop at. She spoke highly of him.
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Old 10-04-2012, 09:11 PM   #8
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Default Re: R.I.P Robert G. Barrett

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Ever met a butcher that didn't have as many good stories as you cared to listen to?
True but they ain't dominating the best seller list!
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Old 10-04-2012, 09:35 PM   #9
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Default Re: R.I.P Robert G. Barrett

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Originally Posted by swilson120 View Post
Ahh his first books were fkn hilarious do yourself a favour and read "you wldnt be dead for quids" and " the real thing" short stories easy read
Rip big man
Yeah, his first few books were his best but I still enjoyed reading his later ones. I always pictured Greg Florimo as Les Norton, not because Florimo was a beast but just in looks and build from the description of Les in the books, and I guess the rugby league connection too. A lot of the characters in his earlier books were based on real Kings Cross identities.

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Originally Posted by Crusher View Post
Great books good old les norton. Anyone read Davo's little something?
Rip. Old school bondi boy.
Yep, that was a strange one eh? Pretty depressing read to be honest, very brutal.
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Old 10-04-2012, 09:43 PM   #10
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Default Re: R.I.P Robert G. Barrett

**** read a few of his books when I was young good Aussie yarns. Pulled all the hot sheilas,won all his fights and always made money. R.I.P Robert G. Barrett.
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Old 10-05-2012, 12:57 AM   #11
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Default Re: R.I.P Robert G. Barrett

I can't believe they never got around to doing a Les Norton movie, heard plenty of rumours over the years but. . . . .
Great books, might have to dig up a few of my old ones and reread them.
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Old 10-05-2012, 01:28 AM   #12
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Default Re: R.I.P Robert G. Barrett

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Originally Posted by Bognashavin View Post
I can't believe they never got around to doing a Les Norton movie, heard plenty of rumours over the years but. . . . .
Great books, might have to dig up a few of my old ones and reread them.
the aussie film industry is so gay and politically correct, they would never film one of his stories.
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Old 10-05-2012, 06:49 PM   #13
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Default Re: R.I.P Robert G. Barrett

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Originally Posted by Crusher View Post
Great books good old les norton. Anyone read Davo's little something?
Rip. Old school bondi boy.
Yes davos little something !!! The ultimate fkn revenge book ha ha
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Old 10-05-2012, 07:30 PM   #14
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Default Re: R.I.P Robert G. Barrett

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Yes davos little something !!! The ultimate fkn revenge book ha ha
Pretty dark compared to his other books.
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Old 10-05-2012, 09:19 PM   #15
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Default Re: R.I.P Robert G. Barrett

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Originally Posted by IrnBruMan View Post
Yeah, his first few books were his best but I still enjoyed reading his later ones. I always pictured Greg Florimo as Les Norton, not because Florimo was a beast but just in looks and build from the description of Les in the books, and I guess the rugby league connection too. A lot of the characters in his earlier books were based on real Kings Cross identities.



Yep, that was a strange one eh? Pretty depressing read to be honest, very brutal.

Mate I had Les pegged as Noel Cleal & I don't think it's any accident that Norton has the same name as Crushers brother, (Les) A few other things as well.

As a writer he had a bit of Harold Robbins style (Sans the success ) His thinly veiled characters like Perce Galea was fun.
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