He Died with a Felafel in His Hand
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|Genre||Comedy, auto-Biographical novel|
|Publisher||The Yellow Press|
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback)|
|Followed by||The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco|
He Died with a Felafel in His Hand is a purportedly non-fiction autobiographical novel by Australian author John Birmingham about his experiences as a share housing tenant , first published in 1994 by The Yellow Press (ISBN 1-875989-21-8). The story consists of a collection of colourful anecdotes about living in share houses in Brisbane and other cities in Australia with variously dubious housemates. The title refers to a deceased heroin addict found in one such house. The book was subsequently adapted into the longest running stage play in Australian history and, in 2001, was made into a film by Richard Lowenstein, starring Noah Taylor, Emily Hamilton and Sophie Lee. A sequel, The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco, was published in 1998.
In 2004, to celebrate the book's ten-year anniversary, Birmingham approached comic artist Ryan Vella to produce a graphic novel of the book. The pair met in April of that year at Artspace Mackay, for the opening of the Headspace exhibition. The comic was published in September 2004 by Duffy & Snellgrove (ISBN 1-876631-95-3). Paul Dawson calls this a grunge lit book.
While the book is not written in a linear fashion the order of houses (and housemates) John lives in is as follows:
1st Place - The Boulevade
- Tom lives in the garage
- Mel lives upstairs. Her boyfriend Warren moved in some time later. When they moved out, replaced by
- Andy the med student (nicknamed "Dr Death") moves in
Tom moves out and is replaced by:
- Derek the bank clerk
- Tom and John got a new place
- Derek the bank clerk (lived in a tent). Replaced by
- Martin the paranoid wargames enthusians. Lasted three weeks and was replaced by
- Taylor the taxi driver
3rd Place - King Street
- PJ moved out, replaced by
- The 7 ft nurse, replaced by
- Ray, replaced by
- Malcolm and his Charlie Brown-themed bowls, replaced by
- Victor the Rastafarian, replaced by
- McGann the American in his mid 40’s with a fondness for prostitutes, replaced by
- Taylor the taxi driver.
Taylor at the time was having personal issues. He ambushed his fellow housemates with a toy gun after hiding for an hour. He told them if it was a real gun they would all be dead. John saw this as good reason to move out.
4th Place - Duke Street (Brisbane)
- "Thunderbird Ron"
- Macgyver the mushroom farmer
- Neal the albino moontanner
- Howie (Neal’s friend)
- Satomi Tiger (via Tim the invisible flatmate)
- "Brainthrust" Leonard
- Jabba the Hutt
- Mick the English backpacker
- Colin and Stepan
John moves out for reasons not made clear.
5th Place - Melbourne
- Stacey the Who weekly fan
John moves out when her loud sex sessions became too much to bear.
6th Place - Fitzroy
- Brain the electrician
- Greg the gay school teacher
- Satvia who starts going out with John
- Nigel moves into the house and moves in with Satvia
As a result of the fallout from this new relationship Greg moves out and John follows suit.
7th Place - Carlton
- Martin the Canadian PhD student
- Dave the smoker moves in with his washerwoman girlfriend
- Four other Daves move in
After trying to freeze out the Daves from the house by cutting off the gas and electricity John gives in and moves to a loft in Fitzroy.
8th Place - Fitzroy
- Wendell the Londoner
After Wendell’s threats to kill him, John moves out and sleeps around at friends' places.
9th Place - Auchenflower in Brisbane
- Wayne the Satanic war veteran
- Danny (the decoy)
10th Place – Brisbane goth house (not clear how this move came about)
- Kevin the carpenter
- Slovenian art printer
- Bald goth who lived in the back
- Luke the musician
All the goths run away after the bailiff came round to collect unpaid rent. John keeps the house on and in moves:
- Em the banker (however at the start of the book it is stated that Emma moves in when Nina moves out)
- "Crazy Nina"
Nina move out to live with her friend Tanya
- Tanya then moves in after Nina sleeps with her boyfriend. The whole house moves:
- Em the banker
- Tanya (possibly)
- New woman moves in to replace Nina but leaves because she is "diagnosed as schizo"
- Taylor the taxi driver moves in
The book then segues to
12th Place - band house in Darlinghurst, Sydney
- Jeremy moves in to escape his former psychotic housemate
- Keith the drummer moves in downstairs
13th Place - Kippax street
- Harry the doctor, replaced by
- Kim the vet, replaced by
- "Melissa the junkie" (aka Rowan Corcoran), replaced by
- Duffy the computer programmer, replaced by
- The Dutch guy who lasted 2 weeks, replaced by
- Giovanna who lasted less than a week, replaced by
- Mosman who no one ever saw, replaced by
- Jimbo who moved in with one of the girls leaving his room free for
- Veronica the proto hippy who was replaced by
- Jonathan, replaced by
- "Downstairs Ivan"
- "Uptight Martin" moved in at the same time
Downstairs Ivan and Uptight Martin move out within 3 days of each other and are replaced by
- Paul the quiet journalist and
- Homer the air traffic controller
- Yoko San moved in and last three weeks, replaced by
- Jeffrey the "junkie" (drug addict)
Birmingham's narrative is interspersed with humourous testimonials from other veterans of the Australian share house lifestyle, and descriptions of common share house paraphernalia, such as the bucket bong, the ubiquitous "brown couch", and milk crates serving as makeshift furniture.