Beloved Literary Legend dies

One of Australia’s top-selling novelists, Colleen McCullough, who wrote that salacious best-seller, The Thorn Birds, has died on Norfolk Island, aged 77.

It was the story of a celibate priest trapped between his vows of the Catholic church and his passionate love of a woman. The American paperback rights worth $1.9 million alone allowed her to become a full-time author and live her life on Norfolk Island.

The Thorn Birds, written in 1977 when she was 39 years old and was made into a sexy miniseries with the dashing Richard Chamberlain, and Australian actors Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward in 1983, although the typical Hollywood ending was dramatically changed.

McCullough had many strings to her career bow before abandoning it all to become an author.  She had been a librarian, journalist, research associate and a neuroscientist, before teaching in the Department of Neurology at the Yale Medical School in the United States.

Her first novel,  Tim, about a middle-aged woman’s unlikely romance with a good-looking, intellectually disabled handyman, changed the direction of her life.  It sold well and was also made into a film starring Mel Gibson in 1979.

Other notable books were An Indecent Obsession (1981) and the Masters of Rome series, which she wrote over a 17 year period from 1990-2007.

McCullough was born on June 1, 1937 in Wellington in Central NSW and died on January 29, 2015 on Norfolk Island.  She suffered health problems for much of her life including weight gain and depression. In her later life, she became vision-impaired. She is survived by her husband of 30 years, Ric Robinson, who lived with her on Norfolk Island.



French Alize’s ace words – “Stay really close”

Alize-Cornet, whose unexpected win expressed her "Je Suis Charlie'' dedication.

Alize-Cornet, whose unexpected win expressed her “Je Suis Charlie” dedication.

The shocking slaughter of 12 cartoonists and editors in the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, followed by another four hostage deaths  in a Jewish supermarket by home-grown Islamist terrorists, shocked the world out of our New Year euphoria.

The French people instantly realised the immensity of these evil acts and took to the streets to show that “liberte” and freedom of expression through the press was at stake.  Millions of words have been written in the media across the world to match the millions of French people who marched right around France in support of what they hold dear – freedom of public expression and fearlessness in the face of extremist Islamic aggressors.

That eccentric, but gifted early 20th century French novelist, Marcel Proust captured why the French nation responded so wholeheartedly when he penned “du moment que les gens sont libres” – “As long as people are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost”.  His message is imbued in the hearts of citizens of the Fifth Republic, whose street action over the past few centuries has forged a strong Western democracy.

Before Proust, Voltaire wrote these profound words – “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Freedom of the French press was granted on October 6, 1789, at the pivotal time of the Revolution, a day after the frenzied mob had stormed Versailles, bringing King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, back to Paris, virtually prisoners in the Tuileries.   It is intrinsically wound into the French ethos of “liberte”.

At this sad time, it is also worth repeating gritty French star Alize Cornet’s emotional personal tribute to her fellow grieving Parisians.

Her head in her hands, sobbing alongside her racket bag strapped with the words “Je suis Charlie”, she said.

“I can’t talk about it, otherwise I’m going to cry but it means so much (to me to win)… It’s horrible what happened in France. I have no words to describe how I feel.  It’s terrible for the whole world, not only for Paris and France. We should all be touched by that.

“It’s the freedom of public expression and just the humanity that is touched..and we have to stay really close, all together, and just stand up….and (show) we’re not afraid. We’re going to stand up and show who we are.”

It was a heart-felt cry of emotional pain after the 24-year-old had delivered a memorable win on court at the Hopman Cup.  Amazingly, the World No. 19 produced one of her best wins against the World No. 6 Agnieska Radwanska, as she carried a burning rage and powerlessness at the shocking event back home onto the court.