Ep 132 Should you review other authors’ books? And meet Duncan McNab, author of the true crime story of Roger Rogerson.

podcast-artworkIn Episode 132 of So you want to be a writer: Amazon has changed its review policy and what you need to know. Should you review other authors’ books? Grammar mistakes to avoid, and how to be creative every day. Discover how you could win a Surface Pro 4! Plus, meet Duncan McNab, author of the true crime story of Roger Rogerson. Find out what lessons Natasha Lester has learned this year as a writer, and much more!

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Review of the Week
From MedwayKate:

When I listen to Val and Al I feel like we are sitting around the kitchen table having a cup of tea and talking about the wonderful world of writing. Except they are doing all the talking and I am just listening, nodding, smiling and thinking, ‘How soon can I get back to writing my book?’ I enjoy the author discussions and value the insightful up to date information that this pod cast provides. Thank you for providing an entertaining and informative podcast.

Thanks MedwayKate!

Show Notes

Amazon’s New Review Rules: Should Authors Be Worried?

8 common grammar mistakes and how to avoid them

How to be creative when daily life is making you feel like an old boot

Writer in Residence

Duncan McNab
duncanmcnab

Duncan McNab is a former policeman and private investigator. He’s worked as a journalist covering current affairs for both the ABC and the Nine Network. He is the author of The Usual Suspect – The Life of Abe Saffron and The Dodger.

He is the author of several books including The Usual Suspect – The Life of Abe Saffron and The Dodger, Outlaw Bikers in Australia, and Waterfront.

His latest book is Roger Rogerson, published by Hachette.

Follow Duncan McNab on Twitter.

Platform Building Tip

4 Lessons I’ve Learned This Year As a Writer

Competition

WIN a Surface Pro 4!

Your hosts

Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

Connect with us on twitter

@altait

@valeriekhoo

Email us

podcast at writerscentre.com.au

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Interview Transcript

 

Valerie

Thanks so much for joining us today, Duncan.

Duncan

Valerie, it’s a pleasure to be here.

Valerie

I devoured your book. I couldn’t put it down. I thought it was brilliant. And it’s just such an amazing story, and even though I knew elements of the story because, of course, Roger Rogerson has been in the headlines over the years. There was just so much about it that I found still amazingly surprising and new.

In case there are some listeners who are a bit young and may not have grown up with all of the headlines with Roger Rogerson, or who have been living on another planet in the last couple of years, can you just tell them what’s this book about?

Duncan
It’s about a man who reveled at one stage with the nickname Australia’s Most Notorious Police Officer, well, it was a title by the way. Roger Rogerson started out as a copper in New South Wales back in the late ’50s/early ’60s. It started out well, was doing quite fine in the police force, but was mentored by some of the most corrupt detectives of that period. And Roger relished also his mentoring. And by the late ’70s was gloriously corrupt, a man who could manipulate cold cases, locked people up using unsigned records of interview, or what they used to call in those days police verbals.

And he was a very brave man, a very capable detective and thought to be potentially a commissioner of police. His career was going fabulously until June 1981, when he shot dead a gentleman called Warren Lanfranchi, who was a drug dealer. And Roger committed the cardinal sin of policing, as that he drew attention to what the police force was doing and to what he was doing in particular. And that turned his career around slightly.

By 1986, after being complicit in trying to murder a fellow copper, Roger was out of the police force and starting a brand-spanking new career as a consultant to Australia’s crime. For the best part of about 30 years he got away with that as well. Two stints in jail for lying, or being caught on CCTV and/or tape lying.

On the 20th of May, 2014 he and his cohort, Glen McNamara, another detective who had also written a couple of books, I might say, murdered in cold blood a young chap called Jamie Gao just a few months shy of his 21st birthday. Jamie was involved in a drug deal with them. Jamie brought almost three kilos of ice to the table, well, actually to a store with him, Padstow. And rather than bringing the money to pay for it, the two former detectives brought a gun and that ended Jamie’s life.

Valerie

Truth is stranger than fiction, isn’t it?

Now the thing is this is not the first time you’ve written about Roger. You wrote another book, previously, and that had many highlights of Roger’s career. At what point did you think, “It’s time for another one.”?

Duncan

The first of it, apart from my phone going bananas after this had happened, because in my first book on Roger I had retired him, happily, to play with his grandkids and do a bit of fishing. That was a mistake, that was a big mistake. That was a good starting point for a new book.

Within about a month, I suppose, of his arrest I was looking at freshening up my old book, and then I looked at it really seriously and I thought, “There is so much more information. There are three people involved in this now.” Jamie Gao the 20-year-old boy who getting himself deeply involved in drug trafficking came from a very good family, great education, a student at UTS — unusual for crooks. Glen McNamara, his detective, apparently a white-knighter, anti-corruption fighter, hated drugs, wrote a couple of books about his exploits, and turns out to be as complicit in drug dealing and the murder as Roger.

So, I thought, “There’s plenty of stuff here for a new book. And so many people who were a bit shy about talking to me ten years ago have become very talkative since.”

Valerie

Why do you think they have become more talkative? Because Roger is still alive.

Duncan
Yeah, the cold hand of Roger Rogerson, unfortunately for Roger, doesn’t carry any weight. Up until about two years ago Roger still had a lot of clout. The name was enough to make people apprehensive and those that knew him knew he was still capable of perhaps persuading people to act on his behalf to do you grief.

After the murder of Jamie Gao even long-term associates, shall we say, walked away from him. They just thought, “This guy is just too bloody mad and dangerous.”

Valerie

A month after the arrest you started thinking about writing an updated — well, a new book, with all of the new stories.

Duncan

Yes.

Valerie

I mean an amazing story in itself, just the Jamie Gao tragedy or incident or murder, rather. And what did you think you needed to do? Like, did you approach it in a, “OK, I’m going to wait for the court case and see what happens.”? “Oh, I’m going to interview all of their associates in the meantime.”? How did you approach it?

Duncan

All of the above. One trick, and I’ve sort of been around the law for rather a long time, is you never rely on the law to give you a timetable that will ever work for you. Things happen. And in the Rogerson case is a perfect example.

So, I started putting together all of my research and what I thought the structure of the book would be, that we start with bringing the three characters in so people don’t get confused. God knows a three main character story can be a little interesting to balance. And then sort of tell their backstories, bring them together, introduce them, talk about their various exploits up until the point that Jamie dies, and that’s when everything comes together. And then the remainder of the story is about what happened to Jamie.

And then I thought, “Well, this will be quite easy, a couple of thousand words and I’ll be able to write the court case up quite nicely.” Little realising that there would be one failed start, one almost start, and then a trial predicted to be eight to ten weeks, went out to twelve weeks and ended up at sixteen and a half weeks.

The backend of the book got slightly larger because the tribulations of getting the matter to court became quite exciting. I suppose it was an opportunity to also tell a bit of a story about being inside a major criminal trial. We look at them on TV and it’s all clean and ssanitisedand quite nice. Court cases are utterly different to what we see on television. So, it’s an opportunity to tell that, to look at these three players in the court situation. Jamie, of course, was just there in spirit, but the other two were very much physically there.

So, you could look at, I suppose, how they react to things, to stories that they tell — neither man told the truth.

Valerie

No.

Duncan

Both of them just happily blamed each other.

Some extraordinary yarns come out in court cases that at some point they can be recorded, but court cases are very careful, so a lot of it can’t be heard by the jury ever. In due course, after the trial they bring the verdict, so being able to listen to the things the jury couldn’t hear is always utterly fascinating. And you’ve got to keep your lips zipped when you leave.

Valerie

And so were you there every day?

Duncan

Almost every day. I’d certainly go down. Court cases, particularly in the old King Street Court in Sydney will do your back in before they do your head in.

Valerie
Yeah, right.

Duncan
The wooden seats designed back in the 1840s aren’t exactly the best place to spend eight hours.

Valerie

No.

Duncan

You’d get a feel for what was happening that day and then come back at critical moments.

Valerie
Yeah.

Duncan

If there was a witness you really wanted to hear the full detail of, because in court cases there’s a lot of really mundane stuff that goes on.

Valerie
Right.

Duncan

So once you’ve been around it you start to cherry-pick the best times, and you’ve also got people that you know down there.

Valerie

Yep.

Duncan

I left Sydney just after the closing addresses, thinking… because I had to go overseas, I was thinking, “Oh, it will all be over and someone will let me know how it pans out.” Well, that didn’t work. And I got back in Sydney on the 15th of June, I landed around about 8:30. I was heading home for a shower and I thought, “I will just mosey down, the jury is still out. We’ll see what happens.”

And I got a phone call from one of those wonderful people who love court-watching. You get to know them after a while. They thoroughly enjoy themselves, they know everybody, they’re great sources of information. And one of them rang me and she said, “Darling, if you’re back in Australia, hurry.”

Valerie

Wow.

Duncan
And I got back to the courtroom literally as the foreman was standing up to deliver the verdict. So, it’s intriguing. But, I lasted about 3 and half out the 4 and a half months.

Valerie

Yeah, right.

So you were there for quite a lot of it. In terms of getting the material you wanted, apart from your own interests, you obviously were getting material for the book, what sort of things were you wanting to observe? What, in particular, did you want to get out of the court case?

Duncan

In the court case itself it’s good to see who’s turning up and who’s sitting in the public gallery that morning.

Valerie

Yeah.

Duncan

That’s always fascinating to see. Just who’s in the media seat is a bit intriguing as well because Roger had a lot of media mates, most of whom weren’t spotted. It’s intriguing, if nothing else.

But, also what I find really important if you’re covering a court case is to get there for some of the mundane, like housekeeping, because you get the absolute best bits of information. They’ll read through detailed documents, which are wonderful interlinking pieces that will never see the light of day in front of jury. So, you get all of that great stuff.

Then you get mornings like the first trial in July of 2015, it was… All the drama of how that one came into play.

And then, I suppose, there was one fascinating day in the trial, there are two fascinating points, one of the witnesses dropped Glen McNamara as straight into, saying he was a drug dealer. And that, of course, is enough to send most lawyers into conniption, thinking, “Oh god, the trial is about to fall over.” It didn’t.

The other fascinating day was when McNamara round about three minutes into the trial, McNamara was just poised to commence his defense case when his barrister stood up in court on the Monday morning and looked at the judge and said, “I’m terribly sorry, sir, but my instructions have been withdrawn. I no longer act for Mr. McNamara.” And about three hours later a solicitor popped up and said precisely the same thing. So, that was an absolute roller coaster.

Valerie

Amazing.

What’s an example of some of the mundane things that you find fascinating that would be tabled in court?

Duncan

Statements from witnesses who won’t be called, for example, always interesting. The coming of various other parties to the case, coming down to argue that their client should be excluded and giving reasons why.

They look like procedural things, but if you’re really on top of the case and the background of the case they actually help you lock in details. You’ve been wondering about why something happened when they’ll give you an innocuous remark in the housekeeping in the morning and all of a sudden you think, “Oh, that’s why.”

Valerie
Right.

Duncan

So, they provide the links. So, it’s more foundation stuff.

Cross-examination gives you the exciting turbulence, the witness box. But, these little bits and pieces set it all up, particularly … TV, not much in print, but if you’re looking at a large book then these sorts of things can underpin a lot of your thinking.

Valerie

Yeah, sure.

You said that until about two years ago the cold hand of Roger was, you know, people reacted differently and presumably prior to that feared him a little bit more. So your first book was — what? Ten years ago?

Duncan

Yeah. About ten years ago, yes. 

Valerie

Yeah. So, at that time presumably he was still a daunting character. At any point did you fear for your own safety?

Duncan
Not really. I’ve sort of been around for a while and it makes it a little bit easier, I suppose.

I suppose the only time that I was apprehensive about Roger was after I had published. I wrote to Roger while he was inside, saying, “Let’s have a chat when you get out. I’m writing a book about you, so let’s have an interview.” And he very politely wrote back to me and said that he didn’t think he’d have time, blah, blah, blah. And that was nice, fair enough, whatever.

And shortly after I had published the book he did get into contact with me, and sort of delivered about a half-hour worth of reasonably sizable threats and few other unpleasant bits of pieces welded on top.

And the art of the threat is actually making your apprehensive rather than following through. So, a couple of days after that we do keep a quiet glance over your shoulder when you’re wandering around. You think, “Oh, he wouldn’t do it.” Or, “I wouldn’t do it.” “But, then again, just in case…” That shows the mastery of Rogerson’s ability to threaten people. It’s his reputation that just kicks you off to one side.

Valerie

Yeah, OK.  

Just take us back, now you’ve written a number of books, not only about Roger, but also about the bikies and some fantastic stories. But, you started off with a career in the police.

Duncan

A long, long time ago. Yes.

Valerie
Right. When did the interest in writing occur?

Duncan

I actually started writing shortly after I left the coppers. I wrote columns and op-ed pieces and all of that sort of jazz, for anyone who’d take them for years. And, I worked for TV —

Valerie

But, why? Why did you want to do that?

Duncan

I had been writing since I could open my eyes and work out what a word looked like. So, I suppose for me it was natural progression.

Valerie

Right.

Duncan
I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed writing. I was always quite good at it, I thought, at school. So, it was quite pleasant to think, “Oh, I wouldn’t mind writing a book.” And then a journalist mate of mine from The Australian actually rang and said, “Mate, you should write a book.” I said, “What would I write it on?” So he gave me a couple of hints and then hooked me up with my agent. And we’ve been together scribbling away happily ever since.

Valerie

Have you mainly written about crime?

Duncan

Crime and history more than anything else. Most of the books have been crime-focused because that’s what I know backwards. And I have written an Australian history with a crime focus for Waterfront that came out last year.

And I wrote a book on World War II, which is just a sort of — a good story about a couple of Australian fellows who did something remarkable. It sold OK, but it was an absolute delight to write about them.

Valerie
Right. What do you enjoy about writing?

Duncan
I suppose what I enjoy about it is not missing it when I’m not writing, because you get very antsy after a while. I like sitting down and working through a story. I mean in the course of a day you can go to all sorts of wonderful places without leaving your chair.

Valerie

Yeah.

Duncan

Particularly when you’re researching books that have got a bit of… to them.

Valerie

Yes.

Duncan

You spend half your day with your head in the computer or in a library researching the places, all of that context stuff that I think is incredibly important when you’re writing. Then you sit there in the afternoon and you’ll go down and muck out 2,000 to 2,500 words each day.

But, you’ve been traveling to all of those great places. And you’ll get to part in the paragraph, for example, and you think, “I don’t have enough research,” so then you go on another trip somewhere else, fabulous.

Valerie

Obviously a lot of research is involved in your books, a lot of research and certainly a lot of recording of information was vital for this book. And some of obviously you had done in your previous book.

Duncan

Yep.

Valerie

How do you approach that research process on a practical level? Like, do you have little buckets of different files on different people? Or do you do it by incident? Or do you do it by time period? How do you actually do it in a structured way so it’s not all over?

Duncan

I’m a huge fan of chronology.

Valerie

Chronology. OK.

Duncan
Yeah. The research process itself, is you just go out and cast the biggest net that you can possibly find. I mean when I wrote the book on the Australians I realized shortly after the publisher had said, “What a cool idea that is…” that I had to go to Ethiopia. I had to go to London to do some research here.

So, you take the biggest possible — it’s like when you work in television, which is where I sort of did a lot of media for years. When you’re out filming something you film everything you need and a hell of a lot more, just to make sure you’ve got the gaps covered. Researching a book is the same. You go out, you cast this gigantic net, you pull in as much as possible, because you’ve got a rough idea of where the story is going as you do the research the storyline evolves very quickly. Then I tend to put all of my research into a rough chronology and that will then form the spine of the book.

I’m not a huge fan of books that jump all over the place. I find them quite frustrating. So, when I write something it largely just follows a nice, straight chronology, I suppose. I suppose it’s all of those years of detective training. I suppose you start out at the beginning and finish at the end.

Valerie

Yes, yes.

Duncan

I notice that the end tends to write itself much better if you take a chronology. It makes it fast, simple and far more punchy.

Valerie

Yes. Well, certainly in a story like this a chronological account makes the most sense for sure.

When you were writing this book, in the depths of it, I’m assuming a lot of it was written before the trial because it came out very quickly after the trial.

 

Duncan

The book itself was three-quarters written before the trial began, and I kept adding to it as the trial progressed, picking up things that I thought would be useful. Chapter and verse on a trial would bore people to death. You’ve only got to sit through the first day to realize the excitement can be elusive.

So by the time — the book was pretty much ripe to go by the time the verdict came in. So, when the verdict came in on the 15th of June. I thought I had a bit more time, but my dear publisher rang me and said, “We’d like it in ten days.” I thought, “Thanks very much.”

Look, working with a great publisher like I’ve got makes life so much easier, because it’s a team effort, everyone gets involved. And it literally went into edit about ten days later.

Copy edit was done, which was the first major edit in the book. It’s where you sort of come back with all manner of question, which is great, challenges and big bits taken out, which was great. My grammar corrected, which is always important. This is the part of the bookmaking process authors have to learn that your bit is done and you hand it over to professionals who then turn what you’ve scribbled on into something useful, and that’s the joys of having great copy editors. They really just — they knock the book into shape.

So the book was in shape by late or mid-August. And then all we were then doing was just waiting impatiently, probably, for Roger’s sentencing at the beginning of September. And then that came along. It was a quick weekend typing to put in the closer and we were done.

Valerie

Wow.

Duncan

Which is why this one came out infinitely faster than usual.

Valerie

Yeah, definitely.

Now when you are in the throes of writing it, so before the trial, I suppose, for the bulk of it, did you have a particular approach in that do you have a word count target? Or did you think, “I’m going to cover this era of his life in this week.”? Or how did you actually just get it out? Like, would you have a routine?

Duncan

A bit of both. When you’re sort of on song to write the book and you know what the deadline is and all of that sort of stuff, I like to write 10,000 words a week.

Valerie

Wow!

Duncan

Anything less than that and you’re lazy. Sorry about that to anybody else.

I had a mate of mine who bumped into me a couple of years ago, he’s a sort of well-known writer and journalist and he said, “I’ve been working on this book for years, years and years. God, it’s hard.” And I said, “I turn around in three or four months. Get over yourself.”

If you have the time to do it, you’ve just got to sit. I find the easiest way to write a book is not to sit down and torture yourself over every word or sit back at night and reread everything painstakingly. Sit down and write the bloody thing.

So, 10K words a week isn’t that hard. You do your research, you’ve got that lined up. If time permits I’ll run through my research for the next day the night before and then a bit of… in the morning I think most writers do the same thing, they’ll probably wander around polish the teacups, make sure the banister is shining, anything but writing. And then you sit down and knock out a couple thousand words. That gets you through that day and then you repeat six or seven days a week.

So, if I can do 10K a week I’m happy.

When the pace was cracked on for this one I think one day I put down 5,000 words.

Valerie

Wow.

Duncan

But, you’ve got to have a rough idea of where you’re going. You’ve got to have that clarity, not only in the arc of the book, but also in the next step.

Valerie

Yes.

Duncan

What I find about writing fast is that clarity is easier to come by.

Valerie

Yeah.

Duncan

You know where you’re heading pretty much. For example, every chapter will be closed cliff-hanger-ish, perhaps, with a little bit of enticement to move on. So, you’ve got to plan that into your book as well. There’s nothing worse than a chapter ending flat. You’ve got a little bit of incentive to the reader to turn the next page.

Valerie

One of the key characters, apart from Roger Rogerson in this book, as you mentioned, is Glen McNamara, who is also in the police force and has, as you’ve mentioned, written a couple of books and was at one point quite a crusader against drugs.

Duncan

Yeah.

Valerie

But, then he has now been convicted, along with Roger, for the murder of Jamie Gao. Why do you think he turned?

Duncan

I think he turned a long time ago. It’s just he spun a very good story that persuaded all of us. This is the magic of even people like Roger who really rehabilitated their reputation.

Glen McNamara is, I suppose, to your point is that Glen McNamara painted himself as a whistleblower who exposed a drug ring of corrupt coppers, traffickers and a couple of pedophiles in Kings Cross and then wrote about it in his book. Lots of media about it. And we think, “Oh yeah, he’s a pretty good bloke,” by the look of it. And we accepted it, because he sold his story. We thought, “Oh, that’s all fair enough.” I didn’t question it.

That all changed after he was arrested because I thought to myself, “Here is the most bent copper in our history and a guy who everyone, as far as I could see, thinks is utterly honest. What are these two doing together?”

Then I had a look at Glen, and it looked as though Glen had a bit of a bromance with Roger for many, many years.

But, in interviewing the people back who were involved in 1989, when Glen’s story first became public knowledge, they all told me a very different yarn to the one that Glen painted. Glen had actually been actively involved in corruption, not with the pedophiles. I think he was genuinely horrified about that. But, the drug ring that they were apart of he was certainly involved in. And a couple of people who had actually gone to jail for the drug ring came and said to me, “Glen wasn’t what he purported to be.”

So the more you dig the more you realize that Glen was a bit of a Walter Mitty character. He was besotted by Roger, I think, like a lot of the people were. So, Glen’s underpinnings weren’t what he sold us on. And then he falls into bed with Roger, metaphorically.

So, whilst I was still surprised, the story we learnt about Glen was a very, very different one to the public one he plastered.

Valerie

There are people in the book, and I’m sure you’ve met many people through the course of all of your research in so many crime-related things, who like Glen, seduced or were besought by Roger or not, is seduced by the dark side. Obviously Jamie Gao was, this supposedly well-brought up uni student who got into drugs, have you ever felt that pull to understand what that pull is?

Duncan

I’ve personally never felt it. It’s sort of one of those things that you either are or you aren’t, or you’re just on the fence about it.

One of the great seducers I saw in the New South Wales police — people who earn an average amount of money, they work bloody hard, they’ve got families to support and all of that sort of stuff, and these very, very large amounts of money is put on the table and said, “This could be yours,” and it doesn’t need much — and that’s the dark seduction, the money — can push even fairly honest people across the line. And once they’ve got you, you’re gone.

But, a lot of people I worked with back in those days and still, just look at it and say, “No, I’m not going down that path. I’m sorry. I know what’s going to happen.”

Jamie was a lot like a lot of young kids that are gangs these days. He was seduced by the lifestyle the money bought. He had a lot of swagger about him. He came from a very good, loving family. He had good relationships with friends. But, Jamie thought he wanted — Jamie said to one of his mates, “I want to be a gangster.” And he and his mates were all absolutely enthused by Hong Kong action flicks.

And so when he falls into a bad crowd, as we used to say, Jamie thinks, “Well, I’m smarter than these people. I can do this a bit better.” Unfortunately Jamie was a terrible researcher. So, when he thought he could do it better he really should have researched who he was going to go and play with.

Valerie

Yes. Like, even Google.

Duncan

Yeah, Jamie and Google are just not good. So, you know…

You feel sorry for the poor kid, because he really didn’t know what he was getting himself into. Or, I guess he was a drug dealer, but, God, he was only 20 years old as well.

Valerie

Now the actual murder of Jamie Gao, which you describe, I mean you describe the events that led up to the murder and the subsequent events of what happened with the body. I won’t go into that now.

Duncan

Yeah, too grisly.

Valerie

It’s fascinating reading, because I’m just reading it in disbelief, in just complete disbelief that Roger and Glen thought that they would not get caught.

Duncan

It’s the common thread actually in all of this. But, I reckon they planned this to the nth degree, just that they just made a couple of big mistakes. One of the odd adages, the best planning in military operation disappears at the time the first shots are fired. These guys had actually meticulously planned this. They had all of the bits, the paraphernalia they’d need to carry out the crime, the guns, the ropes, tarpaulins and so on. And they knew that when they went to collect a bag of ice from Jamie Gao that they were obliged to give him some money.

Valerie

Yes.

Duncan

But, they didn’t bother to take the money, they just took a gun.

So, it was planned and I think they knew about the CC TV at the storage site, which is where it all unfolded. But, what they missed was a camera at the rendezvous site where Glen McNamara picked Jamie up and it had clear vision of Jamie, of Glen, of Roger and their three cars. So, when someone stumbled on that and the boys hadn’t, they thought, “Oh, this interesting.” They saw that vision and then they pulled further vision from along this little quiet street. And then it was just like watching Dominos collapse, because that one camera twigged a reaction throughout other cameras and then out into the main street, which had them recorded all the way up to the storage unit and into the storage unit.

Without wishing to sort of go down grisly tasks they had anticipated that Jamie’s body would never be found. So, they thought they had the complete cut off, and they didn’t.

Valerie

Astounding. And it is astounding, isn’t it? I think you mentioned that somebody who is older and obviously who has lived through the Roger Rogerson years happened to be walking past when the younger police men were viewing the footage. He happened to recognize him, because the younger kids wouldn’t have.

Duncan

Yes. I suppose the pivotal part of the afternoon the coppers worked out who they were dealing with was McNamara was already a suspect by that stage. The police were looking at the surveillance tapes they had pulled earlier that day from the storage unit where the murder took place. Looking at them and thinking, “Well, this is fascinating stuff.” And then an older policeman apparently walked past and coppers being inquisitive looked down at what the young fellows were looking at, and saw that and said, of the cleaned up version, “Oh my goodness, that’s Roger.”

And then it becomes a very straightforward matter, thinking they’ve got two suspects. They do all of their electronic work and pull up phone calls, text messages, emails and so on and so forth, and link the two men inextricably together.

Roger and Glen, of course, were completely ignorant of all of this.

Valerie

Unbelievable. So, do you know whether either Roger or Glen have read your book?

Duncan

I’d say not, no.

Valerie

Do you expect them to? And do you expect a response from anything?

Duncan
I don’t think they will, to be honest. But, you know, I’ve had one response on a book from prison. A guy from one of the biker books I wrote, it was Ross Coulthart. The man wrote to us in a state of high dudgeon saying, “I’ve never heard of this man who is making these allegations against me,” blah, blah, blah. I said, “Fair enough.” So I then sent him back a polite note saying, “If you read the book thoroughly you’d see his name is changed. His real name is ‘so and so,’ which is on page ‘so and so’… and by the way he was best man at your wedding.

He didn’t pen back.

Valerie

No.

Duncan

I might get a stroppy letter from them, you know?

Valerie

Yes.

For people who are writing true crime, really, like this and who are writing some stuff that is based in fact and therefore needs to be presented accurately, what is the biggest challenge for you and what is your advice to people when they’re approaching this kind of writing?

Duncan
In my case sources are three-fold, things I know, which I suppose I’m a little bit unusual in this regard.

But, for someone coming to it possibly with a sort of different background, your sources will be people you talk to. When they talk to you and tell you something you’ve got to make sure that they’re telling you the truth or that you can verify what they’re saying. Or you make sure you couch it in terms and say, “OK, I’ve been told this… I can’t verify it, but here you go…”

Valerie

Yep.

Duncan

The most important thing I find in writing books like this is to get lots and lots of old-fashioned paper. I’m a bit sort of a Luddite in that regard. So, I have piles of paper, Post-It notes and highlighters.

And you’ll find that if you’re dealing in something particularly in the legal world everything is still non-digital. It might arrive via email, but you’ve got to print the damn thing off and read it.

Just get as much information as you can. Cast, again, a broad net.

If you’re writing a crime that’s been before the courts, the courts are broadly excellent resources. You’ll get copies of transcript interviews and all of that sort of thing. Get them. Court judgements are wonderful. When the judges sum up in a major case they go through the correct evidence in magnificent detail and you read this and think, “Oh, I didn’t know any of that.”

And you approach, perhaps, the formal sources and get the right information as a starting point, and that will give you a good spine for your research.

Valerie

What was the most rewarding thing about writing this book?

Duncan

Being in court on the 15th of June and standing there, finding Roger had been convicted by a jury of his peers was absolutely wonderful.

And I think, as always with any book, when it goes out the door. You’re relieved it’s finished, you’re also dreading what the publishers and/or editors are going to say, but there’s a sense of relief that it’s gone.

And also a sense of loss, because you keep thinking… something first time authors, particularly, I chat to have this issue. They go, “OK, let’s do a little bit more.” “Let’s do a little bit more.” No, once it’s finished it’s finished, hand it over to the professionals, they’ll do the rest.

You see them try and torture themselves and the book loses a lot of its spirit when they do it.

Valerie

Yeah. And what are you working on next?

Duncan

In print? Nothing.

Valerie
Are you a bit tired?

Duncan

Well, I’ve got another book due out in February on the Sydney’s gay-hate murders. So, that was a bit time-consuming.

So, I’m going to take a break for a month or two. I’m doing some work in television dickering with scripts and that sort of stuff.

So, it’s a nice break to actually have to deal with pictures rather than vast amounts of words.

Valerie

Yeah, wonderful.

Duncan

You never know what predator is coming along next.

Valerie

You never know, Roger may have a third wind.

Duncan

Oh, I hope not. Hopefully he’s happily sitting back having an afternoon tea, perhaps a little Scotch finger or an iced Vo-Vo and reading this morning’s telegraph and doing a crossword, I hope.

Valerie

Well, regardless of whether you’ve lived through the Roger Rogerson years in the ’70s and ’80s, this is an absolutely fascinating read. And I highly recommend it to everyone.

Congratulations on the book. And thank you so much for chatting to us today, Duncan.

Duncan

Thanks very much, Valerie.


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