George Johnston (novelist)

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George Johnston
BornGeorge Henry Johnston
(1912-07-20)20 July 1912
Melbourne, Victoria
Died22 July 1970(1970-07-22) (aged 58)
Sydney, New South Wales
Years active1941–1970
Notable worksMy Brother Jack, Clean Straw for Nothing
Notable awardsMiles Franklin Award

George Henry Johnston OBE (20 July 1912 – 22 July 1970) was an Australian journalist, war correspondent and novelist, best known for My Brother Jack. He was the husband and literary collaborator of Charmian Clift.


George Henry Johnston was born in Melbourne and spent his childhood in the family home in Elsternwick[1] and was educated in local secondary schools before taking up an apprenticeship as a lithographer.

He was subsequently taken on as a journalist for the Melbourne Argus newspaper. He achieved a certain fame due to his dispatches as a correspondent during World War II. With his second wife, Charmian Clift he was posted to London as a European correspondent.

In 1951, Albert Arlen tried to engage Johnston's services as writer of his musical The Sentimental Bloke, but he was not interested.[2] Johnston abandoned his journalism career in 1954 and moved with Clift to the Greek island of Hydra, where he began writing full-time and took part in the island's circle of international artists, including Canadian poet Leonard Cohen and Scandinavian novelists Axel Jensen and Göran Tunström. While there he contracted tuberculosis. He returned to live in Sydney in 1964.

Johnston is best known for his trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels: My Brother Jack, Clean Straw for Nothing and A Cartload of Clay.

He was the father of four children, daughters Gae (with his first wife Elsie Esme Taylor), and Shane, and two sons: Jason and the poet Martin Johnston. From the names of his children, he created the pseudonym Shane Martin, under which name he published a total of five detective novels.

George Johnston was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1970 for services to literature.[3] He died later that year from pulmonary tuberculosis, aged 58.

He is depicted in the upcoming drama television series So Long, Marianne, in which he will be portrayed by Noah Taylor.[4]




As Shane Martin

  • The Saracen Shadow (1957)
  • Twelve Girls in the Garden (1957)
  • The Man Made of Tin (1958)
  • The Myth is Murder (1959)
  • A Wake for Mourning (1962)


  • Battle of the Seaways: From the Athenia to the Bismarck (1941)
  • Grey Gladiator: H.M.A.S. Sydney with the British Mediterranean Fleet (1941)
  • Australia at War (1942)
  • New Guinea Diary (1942)
  • Pacific Partner (1944)
  • Skyscrapers in the Mist (1946)
  • Journey Through Tomorrow (1947)
  • The Australians (1966)


  • Images in Aspic (1965)


  • Kinnane, Garry, George Johnston: A Biography, Thomas Nelson 1986, and reprinted by Melbourne University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-522-84714-5.


Further reading[edit]

  • Genoni, Paul; Tanya Dalziell (Autumn 2014). "Charmian Clift and George Johnston, Hydra 1960 : the 'lost' photographs of James Burke". Meanjin. 73 (1): 18–37.