||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (July 2011)|
17 November 1954 |
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Occupation||Criminal, rapper, author|
|Spouse||Mary-Ann Hodge (1995–2001, divorced)
Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read (born 17 November 1954) is an Australian former criminal who wrote a series of semi-autobiographical and fictional crime novels. The 2000 film Chopper was based on his life.
Early life 
Read was born to a former army father and a mother who was a devout Seventh-day Adventist. He was placed in a children's home for the first five years of his life. He grew up in the Melbourne suburbs of Collingwood, Thomastown, Fitzroy and Preston. He was bullied at school, claiming that by the age of 15, he had been on the "losing end of several hundred fights" and that his father, usually on his mother's recommendation, beat him often as a child. Read was made a ward of the state by the age of 14 and was placed in several mental institutions as a teenager, where, he later claimed, he was subjected to electroshock therapy.
Criminal activity 
When he was still young, Read was already an accomplished street fighter and the leader of the Surrey Road gang. He began his criminal career by robbing drug dealers, based in massage parlours in the Prahran area. He later graduated to kidnapping and torturing members of the criminal underworld, often using a blowtorch or bolt cutters to remove the toes of his victims as an incentive for them to produce enough money so that Read would leave them alive.
Read spent only 13 months outside prison between the ages of 20 and 38, having been convicted of crimes including armed robbery, firearm offences, assault, arson, impersonating a police officer and kidnapping. While in Pentridge Prison's H division in the late 1970s, Read launched a prison war. His gang, dubbed "The Overcoat Gang" because they wore long coats all year round to conceal their weapons, were involved in several hundred acts of violence against a larger opposing gang during this period. Around this time, Read had a fellow inmate cut both of his (Read's) ears off in order to be able to leave H division temporarily. While in his early biographies Read claimed this was to avoid an ambush by other inmates, by being transferred to the mental health wing, his later works state that he did so to "win a bet". The nickname "Chopper" was given to him long before this, from a childhood cartoon character.
Read was ambushed and stabbed by members of his own gang in a sneak attack, when they felt his plan to cripple every other inmate in the entire division and win the gang war in one fell swoop was going too far. Another theory is that James "Jimmy" Loughnan and Patrick "Blue" Barnes wished to benefit from a contract put on Read's head by the Painters' and Dockers' Union. Read lost several feet of intestine in the attack. Ironically, Jimmy Loughnan and Ned Clonan were longtime friends of Read's. Read was, at the time, serving a 16 and a half-year sentence after attacking a judge in an effort to get Loughnan released from prison.
In 1992, Read was convicted of shooting Sydney Michael Edward Collins in the chest. The incident took place in Read's car, which was in the driveway of Collins' residence at Evandale, Tasmania. The bullet was recovered from the backseat of the vehicle, and Collins named Read as the shooter. Pleading not guilty, Read was found guilty of grievous bodily harm, a downgraded charge from attempted murder, and sentenced as a "dangerous criminal" to indefinite detention. He walked free early in 1998. In 2002, Read was again questioned over the disappearance of Sydney Collins, who is still on the Australian Missing Person list after going missing under suspicious circumstances.
Described variously as witty, charismatic, sadistic and frightening,[by whom?] Read has claimed to be involved in the killing of 19 people and the attempted murder of 11 others. However, many of his associates in the underworld[who?] say he is prone to making up numbers to increase his own notoriety and the sales of his books, and Read himself has stated several times he would "never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn". In an April 2013 interview with the New York Times, Read claimed “Look, honestly, I haven’t killed that many people, probably about four or seven, depending on how you look at it.”
Read has also spoken of his old mid 1980s to early 1990s rivalry with Alphonse Gangitano in the TV series Tough Nuts. Read explained that he had a disagreement with Gangitano regarding an elderly neighbourhood hero who Gangitano admired. It is alleged[by whom?] that Gangitano burst open the toilet cubicle door[where?] with a number of associates and began a serious assault on Read who made his escape but not before spreading his faeces into Gangitano's face.
Other activities 
In 2001, Read was featured in an advertisement on behalf of the Pedestrian Council of Australia warning of the dangers of drunk driving. Read is seated at a kitchen table undoing his shirt and, while pointing to the numerous scars and injuries on his body, says:
|“||When I was in prison… I got slashed in the face … my ears cut off … my eyebrows trimmed and a butcher's knife here, an icepick here - not fun at all, etc … If you drink and drive and you're unfortunate enough to hit somebody, you ought to pray to God that you don't go to prison.||”|
In 2005, Read embarked on a tour of Australia performing a series of shows titled I'm Innocent with Mark "Jacko" Jackson and later toured Sydney in a stage show with a new co-star, former detective Roger "The Dodger" Rogerson.
In 2006, Read appeared in another commercial speaking out against domestic violence. On 13 March 2006, he released a rap album titled Interview with a Madman. He also appeared in the 2002 Australian comedy Trojan Warrior.
He made the headlines again, on 15 December 2008, after being questioned by police about an alleged incident in Johnson Street, Collingwood. Read was attacked by a tomahawk-wielding man he said he had never met before. He said: "I ran to the panelbeaters and grabbed a pipe. I said, 'Come here now' and he jumped into a car and pissed off." Read suffered a minor injury to his arm after being hit with the blunt end of the tomahawk. Read was questioned by detectives at Richmond police station before being released without charge. His alleged attacker has not been found.
Read's first book, Chopper: From the Inside, was collected from letters he sent while incarcerated in Melbourne's Pentridge Prison and published in 1991. It contains tales and anecdotes of his criminal and prison exploits. Further biographical releases followed in a similar vein. With the advent of Chopper 5: Pulp Faction, Read began writing fictional tales based on his experiences of criminal life. Attempts were made to ban a children's book written by Read titled Hooky the Cripple.
Public commentary and political views 
Read has frequently appeared on radio and television talk shows to promote his books. He had a column in Ralph magazine, was regular columnist for the British magazine FHM, and Zoo Weekly.
Read's success in selling tales of his criminal past has prompted widespread calls to amend the Federal Proceeds of Crime Bill (2001)—which confiscates the proceeds of drug deals and robberies—to also apply to indirect proceeds of crime, including book sales, TV appearances, and the like.
Read has described his political beliefs as "to the right of Genghis Khan". In his book Chopper 2, he lists Bruce Ruxton and American conservative G. Gordon Liddy as his political heroes.
Cultural references 
A fictionalised version of Read was featured in several sketches on The Ronnie Johns Half Hour. Some of these sketches, such as "Harden The Fuck Up!". Read was portrayed by Heath Franklin. Read has said although the parody isn't totally accurate, he finds it funny.
Science fiction author William Gibson based a character (Keith Blackwell) in the final two books of his Bridge trilogy on Read. In the second book of the trilogy, Idoru, Gibson wrote in his acknowledgments:
"Anything I know about the toecutting business, I owe to the criminal memoirs of Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read (Chopper from the inside, Sly Ink, Australia, 1991). Mr. Read is a great deal scarier than Blackwell, and has even fewer ears."
Jim G. Thirlwell, in his 1995 Foetus release, Gash, wrote and performed a song titled "Steal Your Life Away" which included a somewhat Read-like persona, and included several quotes from Read's first book, including "I'm a garbage disposal expert", "You've got to stand at the edge of the grave for the rest of your life", "Me and my mental health don't agree most times", and "Why ask why?".
The 2000 film Chopper, starring Eric Bana as Read, was based on stories from Read's books and independent research, leading to events portrayed on screen that somewhat contradicted Read's version. For instance, Read claimed in early books to be vehemently against drugs, but the film portrays him as a casual drug user. In response, Read stated, "You have to have tried something to be able to say you hate it."
Personal life 
Read married Australian Taxation Office employee Mary-Ann Hodge in 1995 while imprisoned in Risdon Prison in Tasmania for the shooting of Sidney Collins. The couple had one child, Charlie, and divorced in 2001. On 19 January 2003, he married long-time friend Margaret Cassar. They have one son, Roy Brandon.
Read contracted Hepatitis C during his time in prison through allegedly using a blood-stained shaver. In March 2008 he revealed he only has two to five years to live and requires a liver transplant. However, he has refused to countenance this, stating, "A transplant would save me, but why would anybody give 53-year-old Chopper Read a liver over and above an 11-year-old girl with liver cancer? They wouldn't – and I wouldn't ask. I need a transplant, but I don't want a transplant." He discussed this again in August 2009, when he was interviewed on ABC Local Radio and was quoted as saying "I haven't had a drop of alcohol for 18 months, I have cirrhosis of the liver... there's no cure for that".
In April 2012, Read announced that he had been diagnosed with liver cancer, and doctors gave him from six weeks to six months to live. During the same month he said that he is taking dexamphetamine, which is prescribed to him for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Read underwent surgery in July 2012 to remove tumours from his liver and claims he is now "as good as gold" but concedes he hasn't asked his doctor for an updated prognosis.
- Chopper: From the Inside (1991), ISBN 0-646-06543-2
- Chopper 2: Hits and Memories (1992), ISBN 0-646-10987-1
- Chopper 3: How to Shoot Friends & Influence People (1993), ISBN 0-646-15444-3
- Chopper 4: For the Term of His Unnatural Life (1994), ISBN 0-646-21014-9
- Chopper 5: Pulp Faction: Revenge of the Rabbit Kisser and Other Jailhouse Stories (1995), ISBN 0-646-25065-5
- Chopper 6: No Tears for a Tough Guy (1996), ISBN 0-646-29637-X
- Chopper 7: The Singing Defective (1997), ISBN 0-646-33923-0
- Chopper 8: The Sicilian Defence (1998), ISBN 0-9586071-0-9
- Chopper 9: The Final Cut (1999), ISBN 0-9586071-4-1
- Chopper 101⁄2: The Popcorn Gangster (2001), ISBN 0-9579121-0-2
- Hooky the Cripple: The Grim Tale of a Hunchback Who Triumphs (2002), ISBN 1-86403-165-4
- The Adventures of Rumsley Rumsfelt (2003), ISBN 0-9579121-7-X
- Chopper 11: Last Man Standing: From Ex-Con to Icon (2007)
- Mark 'Chopper' Read: One Thing Led To Another (2010), ISBN 978-1-4050-4046-4
- Mark 'Chopper' Read: Road to Nowhere (2011), ISBN 9781742611457
- Interview with a Madman (2006)
- The Smell of Love E.P. – Chopper Read and The Blue Flames (1997) Newmarket Records (Catalog New 3003.2)
See also 
- Chopper[dead link]
- Mark 'Chopper' Read not sorry - or afraid to die of cancer
- Siegel, Matt (12 April 2013). "Australia’s Brand Name for Ferocity, Softened by Time". The New York Times.
- News and Gossip
- Chopper Read in 'tomahawk' street fight attack
- Gibson, W. (1997). Idoru. United Kingdom: Viking Press. ISBN 978-0-14-024107-5.
- "Chopper Read reveals he has cancer". The Sydney Morning Herald. 26 April 2012.
- "Dying 'Chopper' refuses transplant". Sunday Mail (SA). 14 June 2008.
- Chopper Read 'may die soon' - ninemsn.com.au, 14 August 2009
- 'No cure' for dying Chopper Read - ABC News, 14 August 2009
- Lowe, Adrian (27 April 2012). "Cancer-stricken Chopper 'has weeks to live'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
- Mark Brandon Read at the Internet Movie Database
- Mark Brandon Read's self-portrait at the State Library of Victoria
- Andrew Denton, Enough Rope interview 2007
- Chopper's page on Momentum Books http://momentumbooks.com.au/authors/mark-brandon-chopper-read/