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From the Sunday Australian, July 6, 1971:

Braddon's latest is an Irish farce
By Ian Richardson in London

AUSTRALIAN author Russell Braddon will return to Sydney this month on his first visit in four years, and while it is essentially a private visit, he will have some probing questions for those Australian politicians who were involved in the Suez crisis in 1956.

"I've been commissioned to do a book dealing with the impact the fiasco had on the psyche of the British people," he said. "Part of my research will be on the Australian attitudes at that time - particularly the attitudes in government circles.

"I plan to spend some time in Canberra attempting to see the people who could help me." But he added pessimistically: "I'll probably be given the brush-off right, left and centre."

Braddon lives in London because of his work and has a spacious flat, once occupied by Joan Sutherland, on the northern fringe of Earl's Court. These days he is as well known for his lectures and broadcasts as for his many biographies and novels.

Russell Braddon, author Russell Braddon, author

His sprightly step wiry frame and youthful face belie his age - he is 50 -and his genuinely warm and open personality tends to disguise his hard-line right-wing views, even though they get a regular and wide airing on such BBC radio shows as Any Questions. And recently - some say as a sop to those who vociferously accuse BBC television of left-wing bias - he was given a half-hour slot to take a personal look at the week's events. This became a vehicle for Braddon's distaste for liberalism - particularly on the question of race - and for a somewhat intemperate defence of Australia's immigration policy. He concluded the programme by telling those who found fault with Australia's racial attitudes to "belt up."

But there are times when Braddon feels ridicule is a better weapon. Such is the case with his 18th book, The Progress of Private Lilyworth, which takes a hilariously funny look at the Northern Ireland crisis. The book is pure farce.

Braddon wrote it in a month, limiting his research to what he read in the newspapers and to memories of a visit to Northern Ireland four years ago. He accepts that many people don't think Northern Ireland is a subject to joke about, but is unrepentant.

"I really think the matter is so tragic the only thing to do is laugh at it," he said. "Everything serious that might conceivably work has been tried over there - from law reforms to social reforms to army occupation - and none of it has achieved anything. So I decided to make a joke of it. Because it was farce, I wasn't the least bit concerned with facts.

"I took the most outrageous liberties, and in a moment of self-indulgence, even wrote myself and my agent into the story. The characters are more incompetent, more corrupt and more everything than they could possibly be," he laughed.

The central character in the book, Private Lilyworth, talks his commanding officer into allowing him to dress as a nun, who then steps between the army and the rioting Roman Catholic mobs each time there is trouble. It is a proposition put forward by Braddon only as a half-joke.

"As is often the case when you are indulging in farce, all you are doing is projecting almost to the point of insanity what you really think," he said. "And what I think is that if a line of nuns and priests stepped in front of a Catholic mob, or Paisley and his colleagues stepped in front of a Protestant mob, there would be no bombs or stones thrown or any shots fired.

"I consider it calamitous and un-Christian that never once has the ordained members of the two faiths in Northern Ireland ever physically intervened to stop the fighting.

"I think it may be high time we had not military martyrs but Christian ones in Northern Ireland. The clergy are supposed to be soldiers of the church - and they should go out and get themselves hurt on occasions."

[Russell Braddon died in March 1995]

Relevant links:

National Library of Australia guide
Australian National Library audio recordings
Australian National Library Braddon papers
Amazon books
Wikipedia biography