BOOK REVIEW: Deco Radio by Peter Sheridan (Review by Caroline Baum)

Peter Sheridan

Peter Sheridan

Peter Sheridan is a man possessed by a peculiar but persistent affection for bakelite – the world’s first synthetic plastic. To some, this material may appear unlovely and charmless, but to Sheridan it is the stuff of poetry. As a result, he has become one of the world’s foremost collectors of objects made from this versatile and resilient man-made resin.

A genial enthusiast, the curator of his own private museum, Sheridan is equally happy to share his passion with complete amateurs and connoisseurs alike. Ask casually about any of the three hundred radios displayed in his Sydney home and you will get their history, provenance, and a surprising anecdote that explains their shape, colour or origin. He is a competitive bidder, an astute buyer, always on the trail of a new acquisition and has some sound advice for aspiring collectors which he shares in the text that punctuates this sleek but hefty coffee table book.

Showcasing what he calls the most beautiful radios ever made, Sheridan has photographed them with loving care in close up, so that every feature is shown to best advantage. They have sexy curves, voluptuous bodies, and come in a wide range of colours – forget about bakelite brown, the greens and reds really pop. Shot against deep dramatic black they gleam on the page like jewels.

Their shapes reflect what was happening in industrial design, fashion and popular culture with style and humour. My favourite has a mantel (casing) that features the mesh silhouette of a woman’s head.

Sheridan’s lively text is a timely reminder of how central radio was to the lives of people around the world back in the early twentieth century ; how they were the source of pleasure , broadcasting live entertainment and music that people listened and danced to in their homes as well as including declarations of war that shaped the century and changed lives forever. The radio was the vehicle of coded messages and signals to allied troops and resistance fighters. Under the Nazi regime, being caught listening to the enemy was punishable by death.

Anyone with a nostalgic interest or enthusiasm for the glorious heyday of art deco and its sleek modernity will find this irresistible.

deco-radioDeco Radio

by Peter Sheridan

With 380 brilliant photos and engaging text, this book presents some 300 of the rarest and most beautiful radios ever made for home or workplace. The advent of the small, mantle or tabletop radio in 1930 gave a huge impetus to the spread of radio, not only allowing multiple sets in the home, but changing the listener from the family to the individual. This book highlights a small subset of tube (valve) radios that incorporated new styling, materials, and approaches to consumer marketing in the 1930s and 1940s. Until now they have been underrated by many radio enthusiasts, and largely unrecognized in the world of Art Deco and Industrial Design. The radios of 35 industrial designers, including the luminaries of streamlining in the USA and UK (Loewy, Bel Geddes, Teague, Van Doren, Vassos, Coates, and Chermayeff) are identified and examples from 15 countries are stunningly displayed.

About the Author

Peter Sheridan is a respected historian, lecturer, and author, with a collection of radios considered one of the world’s finest. His highly acclaimed book Radio Days–Australian Bakelite Radios (2008) is the standard reference for Australian radio collectors. A member of the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers, Peter’s photos are used by media, museums, and specialist publications.

 Click here to grab a copy of Deco Radio 

7PM INTERVIEW: Caroline Overington on her incredible new book, Last Woman Hanged

When Caroline Overington heard about the plight of Louisa Collins she was desperate to discover whether a great injustice had been committed. Using all of her skills as an investigative journalist Caroline dug deep into the archives. What she discovered was far more complex and murky than she had imagined. She talks to John Purcell about her final verdict. Did Louisa murder her husband?

last-woman-hanged-order-your-signed-copy-Last Woman Hanged

by Caroline Overington


In January 1889, Louisa Collins, a 41-year-old mother of ten children, became the first woman hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol and the last woman hanged in New South Wales. Both of Louisa’s husbands died suddenly. The Crown was convinced that Louisa poisoned them with arsenic and, to the horror of many in the legal community, put her on trial an extraordinary FOUR TIMES in order to get a conviction. Louisa protested her innocence until the end. Now, in Last Woman Hanged, writer and journalist Caroline Overington delves into the archives to re-examine the original, forensic reports, court documents, judges notebooks, witness statements and police and gaol records, in an effort to discover the truth.

Much of the evidence against Louisa was circumstantial. Some of the most important testimony was given by her only daughter, May, who was just 10-years-old when asked to take the stand.

The historical context is also important: Louisa Collins was hanged at a time when women were in no sense equal under the law – except when it came to the gallows.

Women could not vote or stand for parliament – or sit on juries. There were no female politicians and no women judges.

Against this background, a small group of women rose up to try to save Louisa’s life, arguing that a legal system comprised only of men – male judges, all-male jury, male prosecutor, governor and Premier – could not with any integrity hang a woman.

The tenacity of these women would not save Louisa but it would ultimately carry women from their homes all the way to Parliament House.

Less than 15 years after Louisa was hanged, Australian women would become some of the first in the world to get the vote. They would take seats in State parliament, and in Canberra. They would become doctors, lawyers, judges, premiers – even the Prime Minister.

Caroline says: ‘My hope is that Last Woman Hanged will be read not only as a true crime story but as a letter of profound thanks to that generation of women who fought so hard for the rights we still enjoy today.’

Click here to grab a copy of Last Woman Hanged

Trish Morey, author of Stone Castles, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Trish Morey

author of Stone Castles, Fiancee for One Night, The Heir from Nowhere and many more…

Ten Terrifying Questions

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Adelaide, South Australia, and grew up in Elizabeth, a so-called satellite city about 20 miles north before we moved and I finished my secondary education at Unley High School. Adelaide Uni and an Economics degree followed.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was 12? A writer. Mostly because of reading the boxes of romances that came from my Gran’s nursing home and thinking “anyone could write this stuff”. (I was so wrong!)

When I was 18? Someone with a real job. Because writing wasn’t a real job apparently. So I became a Chartered Accountant instead.

When I was 30? Maternity leave time with my first bub, and I had the chance to step back from my career and was starting to question what I really wanted to do. It took my second bub to decide that I’d been right all along. Not that I regret for a moment the experiences I’ve had along the way, which have all fed my writerly soul (not to mention given me heaps of material – nothing is wasted, ever.)

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Author: Trish Morey

At 18 I figured the world in black and white. I figured any intelligent person would agree with me. Now I know it’s shades of grey. (More than fifty of them.) Now I know there are more intelligent points of view than you can poke a stick at. So I try to avoid poking sticks at other intelligent people’s views (and really wish they’d keep theirs to themselves too.)

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Little Women – I loved that opening because as a small child, the thought of Christmas without presents was appalling. I wonder if my love of great openings came from reading that book?

John Donne – Holy Sonnet X – Death, be not proud. That sonnet resonated with me as a student. It turned the power of death on its ear, as not something to be feared. That last line – Death, thou shalt die. – talk about powerful! No wonder I love strong endings too.

Homer and the Odyssey – If not for these writings and my classical studies education, I would never have developed my love of Crete and all things Mycenaean. I’ve set books in Crete and Santorini- some published, some yet to be published.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

I can’t paint, I can’t draw. I’m rubbish at singing and making music. Apart from creative accounting, telling stories was about all that was left.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Stone Castles is a reunion story, that puts paid to all those preconceptions that you can’t go back. Because you can always go back  – but nobody says it’s not going to hurt.

Grab a copy of Trish’s new novel Stone Castles here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

That’s it never too late. That the mistakes we make for whatever good reason don’t necessarily mean we can’t be happy.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Every writer I know. Writing a book is hard work. Sticking at writing books and making a career out of it in these tumultuous, ever-changing publishing industry times – that takes guts.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I guess mine are to connect with my audience, and as wide an audience as possible. But in doing so, to touch their hearts. I don’t know if that’s an ambitious goal, but it’s mine.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write, write and write, and make sure you believe in what you write, and if you write romance fiction, or even if you don’t, join Romance Writers of Australia, because you will learn so much.

Trish, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Stone Castles

Stone Castles

by Trish Morey

She turned her back on the girl she was. He’ll show her the woman she was meant to be.

After ten years pursuing a prestigious career in New York, Pip Martin has returned to the Yorke Peninsula to farewell her dying grandmother. She doesn’t intend to linger – there are too many memories in the small country town and not all of them will stay in the past.

Like Luke Trenorden, her childhood sweetheart. A man Pip had promised her heart to, until tragedy stole Pip’s family away, and a terrible lie tore both their lives apart.

Pip cannot deny there is still a spark between them, even amidst the heartache of losing her Gran and the demands of her new life. But it may not be enough to rekindle a love that has been neglected for so long.

When a long-kept secret is revealed, Pip is free to go back to the life she thought she wanted… unless Luke can break down the stone castle Pip has built around her heart.

About the Author

USA Today Bestselling Author, Trish Morey’s 30 titles for Mills & Boon have sold more than five million copies in more than 25 languages in 40 countries worldwide. Trish is a two-times winner of the Romance Writers of Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year Award and a 2012 Romance Writers of America RITA nominee. Trish lives in the Adelaide Hills with her husband and four teenage daughters.

 Grab a copy of Stone Castles

7PM INTERVIEW: Kerry Stokes and Andrew Rule on Kerry Stokes: The Boy from Nowhere

It’s not every day you’re asked to interview a billionaire, especially one who has built a fortune from nothing, and who is feared and admired in equal measure. When Booktopia’s John Purcell sat across from Kerry Stokes and his biographer, Andrew Rule, there was a good chance John would faint. He was so nervous. But Kerry Stokes is not your typical billionaire. What happened next surprised John…


Kerry Stokes: The Boy from Nowhere

by Andrew Rule

The compelling and inspirational story of the rags to riches life of Kerry Stokes, a remarkable Australian.

Kerry Stokes is a remarkable Australian. Not because he is one of Australia’s wealthiest and most powerful people, but because of what he overcame to get there and because he has endured when others didn’t. His success and his rise have intrigued the business world for decades but there is so much more to him than multi-million dollar deals or mergers.

Behind the laconic front is a human story as tough and touching as a Dickens tale: Oliver Twist with great self-expectations. It is the story of a poor boy who stared down poverty, ignorance and the stigma of his illegitimate birth to achieve great wealth and fulfilment. He’s a backstreets battler who has become a power player. It’s a compelling and inspiring story that, until now, he has not told.

Now he oversees a multi-billion dollar media, machinery and property empire. He is renowned for his art collection and for philanthropy, spending millions of dollars to buy – among other things – Victoria Crosses from soldiers’ families to donate to the Australian War Memorial.

But he’s a private man. A man apart. He made his name in the West but kept his distance from the buccaneering band of entrepreneurs who forged fabulous fortunes in Perth from the 1960s until the 1987 crash. Bond went to jail, Holmes a Court died; Connell did both. Lesser lights flickered and faded but Stokes grew stronger, becoming a player alongside Murdoch, Packer and Lowy. His story fascinates all the more because he has spent most of his life guarding it. But now he’s telling it, to one of Australia’s great storytellers.

He is the boy who came from nothing, who had nothing to lose. And now he has everything. It’s a great Australian journey.

Click here to grab a copy or Kerry Stokes: The Boy from Nowhere

7PM INTERVIEW: Adam Spencer on postal cats, shoe phones and his love of numbers

When Adam Spencer said, do you mind if I ask you a few maths questions in the interview? John Purcell went white. What followed is nothing short of miraculous…

adam-spencer-s-big-book-of-numbersAdam Spencer’s Big Book of Numbers

An hilarious, enlightening romp through the world of numbers with one of Australia’s best-loved broadcasters.

Why do people get freaked out by Friday the 13th? Where does a ‘dozen’ come from? Who was Erno Rubik? And how do you become a master at Sudoku?

In 100 bite-sized chapters, mathematician, broadcaster and comedian Adam Spencer unlocks more of the secrets of the world of numbers.

If you’ve ever wondered about the ‘fourth dimension’, why spider monkeys have so many bones in their hands, which numbers are truly narcissistic, or how on earth you play ‘Buckyball’, Adam Spencer’s Big Book of Numbers will set you straight.

Click here to grab a copy of Adam Spencer’s Big Book of Numbers

2014 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards winners announced – Flanagan and Carroll take out Fiction Award

FlanoRichard Flanagan continued his award winning efforts as he was announced co-winner of the Fiction Award ay the 2014 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards last night.

Flanagan promptly announced he would would donating his $40,000 winning to the Indigenous Literacy Fund, while winner of the Children’s Fiction Award Bob Graham said he would be giving $10,000 to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

Read our review of Richard Flanagan’s Man Booker Prize, and now Prime Minister’s Literary Award, winning novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North here.

Fiction—joint winners

A World of Other People, Steven Carroll
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan


Drag Down to Unlock or Place an Emergency Call, Melinda Smith

Non-fiction—joint winners

Moving Among Strangers, Gabrielle Carey
Madeleine: A Life of Madeleine St John, Helen Trinca

Prize for Australian history—joint winners

Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War, Joan Beaumont
Australia’s Secret War: How unionists sabotaged our troops in World War II, Hal G.P. Colebatch

Young adult fiction

The Incredible Here and Now, Felicity Castagna

Children’s fiction

Silver Buttons, Bob Graham

The 2014 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards shortlists:

A World of Other People by Steven Carroll
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane
Coal Creek by Alex Miller
Belomor by Nicolas Rothwell

Moving Among StrangersNon-fiction 
Moving Among Strangers by Gabrielle Carey
The Lucky Culture by Nick Cater
Citizen Emperor by Philip Dwyer
Rendezvous with Destiny by Michael Fullilove
Madeleine: A Life of Madeleine St John by Helen Trinca

broken-nationPrize for Australian History 
Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War by Joan Beaumont
First Victory 1914  by Mike Carlton
Australia’s Secret War: How unionists sabotaged our troops in World War II by Hal G.P. Colebatch
Arthur Phillip: Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy by Michael Pembroke
The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright

Young adult fiction 
The Incredible Here and Now by Felicity Castagna
Pureheart by Cassandra Golds
Girl Detective by Simmone Howell
Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil
The First Third by Will Kostakis

Children’s fiction 
Silver Buttons by Bob Graham
Song for a Scarlet Runner by Julie Hunt
My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg
Kissed by the Moon by Alison Lester
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan

7PM INTERVIEW: Dr Xanthé Mallett, author of Mothers Who Murder, chats to John Purcell

Xanthé Mallett is a lecturer in Forensic Anthropology, specialising in human identification. She has also taken part in several interviews for BBC News using her forensic identification skills, and has appeared on breakfast shows in the UK.

Mothers Who Murder

by Xanthe Mallett

Child murder: A social taboo and one of the most abhorrent acts most of us can imagine. Meet the women found guilty of murdering their own children. They represent some of the most hated women in Australia. The infamous list includes psychologically damaged, sometimes deranged, women on the edge. But, as we will see, accused doesn’t always mean guilty.

Among the cases covered is that of Kathleen Folbigg, accused and found guilty of killing four of her children, even with a lack of any forensic evidence proving her guilt; Rachel Pfitzner, who strangled her 2-year-old son and dumped his body in a duck pond; as well as Keli Lane, found guilty of child murder though no body has ever been found.

Dr Mallett goes back to the beginning of each case; death’s ground zero. That might be the accused’s childhood, were they abused? Or was their motivation greed, or fear of losing a partner? Were they just simply evil? Or did the media paint them as such, against the evidence and leading to a travesty of justice.

Each case will be re-opened, the alternative suspects assessed, the possible motives reviewed. Informed by her background as a forensic scientist, Xanthe will offer insight into aspects of the cases that may not have been explored previously. Taking you on her journey through the facts, and reaching her own conclusion as to whether she believes the evidence points to the women’s guilt.

Click here to grab a copy of Mothers Who Murder 


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