He left Melbourne in 1936 to become a famous writer, and he did. Not just a famous writer but a good one. Alan Moorehead had really made it when he was felled by a stroke; one of the great communicators of his age, at only 56, he was cruelly rendered incapable of communicating. Thornton McCamish last year published an award-winning book called Our Man Elsewhere: In Search of Alan Moorehead. The sub-title says it all; this is about the writing of a biography and the search to find out why this once famous Australian writer was largely forgotten.
Moorehead became a war correspondent in Spain and World War II, especially in North Africa; then an immensely successful author of history and travel books aimed at the general reader. He was an inspiration to Robert Hughes and Clive James; he and his glamorous English wife moved easily in international celebrity circles. He was a regular contributor to the New Yorker and in 1956 wrote the first significant book about Gallipoli which Germaine Greer describes as ‘still the best written … masterful’.
None of this success endeared Moorehead to the press in Australia but he now has a champion in Thornton McCamish whose book does him full justice. No less a writer than Les Carlyon has said of McCamish’s book that it ‘is a delight, about as polished and readable as Australian non-fiction ever manages to be’. We should hear more of McCamish, and of his hero Moorehead.
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