Power Without Glory

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Power Without Glory
Power without glory.jpg
First edition
AuthorFrank J. Hardy
GenreThriller, novel
PublisherRealist Printing & Publishing Co
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages669 pp

Power Without Glory is an important 1950 historical novel written by Communist Australian writer Frank Hardy. At time of publication, court orders to suppress publication while Hardy was tried for criminal libel mirrored much larger scale McCarthyist censorship and anti-communist trials in USA. Ultimately Hardy was cleared and publication allowed.

The book was later adapted into a mini-series by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1976), which at the time, obtained great success.[1] Hardy wrote several books examining his experiences arising from writing Power Without Glory, including The Hard Way, Who Shot George Kirkland?, and But the Dead are Many. In these a central theme is the ambiguity between truth and fiction.


The work was originally self-published, with illustrations by Hardy's friend and fellow Communist "Amb" Dyson, with the rubric "a novel in three parts by Frank J. Hardy, Ross Franklyn". "Ross Franklyn" was the pseudonym Hardy had always used prior to Power Without Glory. This combination of real name and pen name was also used in Hardy's 1961 book The Hard Way which describes the difficulties "Ross Franklyn" had in having the book published, and the problems Frank Hardy faced in answering the criminal libel charge against him arising from the publication.[2]


The novel is a fictional tale about the compromises of a life of power and corruption, through exploration of motivations behind the powergrab of a character largely inspired by the life of Melbourne businessman and Australian Labor Party power-broker, John Wren. Highly revealing about the systems and stratagems in place in Australian politics in the era 1880-1950, it is largely set in the fictitious Melbourne suburb of Carringbush, which is based on the actual suburbs of Abbotsford and Collingwood. In the novel, "John West" is involved in criminal activities and political machinations, particularly related to gambling.

The book includes many characters based on other important social and political figures in Victoria and Australia, including the following recognisable correlates:

A fuller list of characters and locations is provided in the following section Characters and real-life correlates.

The barely-disguised inspiration for the "West" character is made clear by the fact that West, like Wren, has a brother called "Arthur" who spent time in jail for aiding and abetting a crime of rape. (Wren's other brother, Joseph, also appears in the novel.) Wren's wife Ellen (née Mahon) appears as "Nellie", and there is mention in the novel of his children: his violinist daughter Margaret, his son John Jr., and another daughter, who becomes a Communist, resembles Wren's radical daughter Mary, who was an active member of the communist front organisation the Movement Against War and Fascism.

The novel is partly set during World War I, and the debate about conscription is a major issue in the novel. John West is a fierce patriot who supports conscription, and his sometimes fiery arguments with the Irish-Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, who opposes conscription on the grounds that to send men to aid England was contrary to his, and Ireland's, historical enmity with that country.

In the final chapters the book timeline approaches the real-world at time of publication, with threats against publication and simply feeling a need to get the thing finished, as well as keeping the work to a manageable length, Hardy writes in The Hard Way that he felt somewhat dissatisfied at the hurried result of this section.

Wrapping up is John West on his deathbed (the real John Wren was still very much alive at time of publishing!) having allowed his growing hatred of Communism and fear of adverse judgement in The Afterlife of the Catholic Church finally overcome his material self-interest at least to the degree that he allows Malone to dig deeper and ever deeper into the West fortune in support of B.A. Santamaria's anti-communist catholic church-based Movement and related political maneuvering, even allowing Malone's candidate precedence in the electoral gaming. Ultimately in real life, the Movement's Industrial Groups were to subsequently gain sufficient dominance within Labour, to defeat and virtually completely suppress Australian communism, including by alliance with the Liberal party Menzies government to attempt criminalisation of the Communist Party of Australia.

Characters and real-life correlates[edit]

The following list attempts to align Power Without Glory characters with real historical persons who may have been inspirational to the author. Recognisable features do not necessarily imply any attempt at an exact correlation. Hardy himself conceded or even affirmed some such correlations, but says in The Hard Way that many such lists were being created and passed around by parties without his involvement, perhaps even without his knowledge.

  • ASHTON, Frank — Frank Anstey, Labor politician and social propagandist
  • BACON, Snowy — Reginald Leslie (Snowy) Baker, fight promoter, sportsman, actor, soldier, and journalist ('versatile')
  • BENNETT (The Gentleman Thief) — Hon. W.J. Beckett, M.L.C. for Melbourne North, Melbourne East & Melbourne[1]
  • BLACKWELL, Maurice — Maurice Blackburn, State Labor MP for Essendon, Fitzroy & Clifton Hill. Federal Labor M.P. for Bourke
  • BLAIRE — (Sir) Thomas Blamey, army general and Victorian Police Commissioner 1925–1936
  • BOND, Thomas — (Sir) Thomas Bent, 32nd Premier of Victoria 1904-1909
  • BRADLEY, Richard — Richard Buckley, notorious criminal
  • BRADY, William — Bill Barry, Victorian Labor M.P. for Carlton, minister in various Cain Governments
  • CALLINAN, Police Commissioner — Thomas O'Callaghan, Police Commissioner 1902–1913
  • CAMERON — Campbell, Cycling Promoter Exhibition
  • CARR, John — John Cain, leader of Victorian Labor Party, Premier on three occasions
  • CONN (Archbishop) — Thomas Carr, Catholic archbishop of Melbourne preceding Daniel Mannix
  • CORY, Pat — Pat Cody of Australian Distilleries
  • CREGAN, J. — Jack Cremean, Federal M.P. for Hoddle
  • CUTTING, Slasher — John "Snowy" Cutmore, gunman and thief
  • DARBY, Lou — Les Darcy
  • DAVISON, Alfie — (Sir) Albert Dunstan, conservative Victorian Premier 1935 -1943
  • DEVLIN, Dr. — Sir Hugh Devine, surgeon
  • DWYER, Godfrey — (Sir) Gilbert Dyett, long-time President of the R.S.L.
  • EVANS, Bill — Bill Egan, bricklayer
  • GARSIDE, David — David Gaunson, prominent criminal solicitor
  • GIBBON, Sir S. — (Sir) Samuel Gillott, Chief Secretary in the Bent Cabinet
  • HORAN, Ned — Ned Hogan, twice Labor Premier of Victoria
  • JOGGINS, Rev. — Rev. William Judkins, prominent anti-vice crusader and preacher
  • JOLLY, Bob — Bob Solly, Labor M.P. for Carlton in Victorian Parliament for many years
  • KELLEHER, Paddy — Pat Kennelly, M.L.C. for Melbourne West; Federal Secretary, A.L.P.
  • KIELY, Michael — Stan Keon, Victorian Member for Richmond, later Federal M.P. for Yarra
  • LAMB, Richard — Dick Lean, manager of Melbourne Stadium
  • LAMBERT, Percy — Percy Laidler, bookshop owner & theatrical supplier, socialist organiser and orator
  • LAMMENCE, Frank — Frank Laurence, former secretary of John Wren
  • LASSITER family — Loughnan family
  • LEVY, Ben — Ben Nathan, co-founder of Maples furniture and music store chain
  • LEWIS, Piggy — Piggy Ryan, alias Williamson, gunman and stand-over man
  • LANE — Jack Lang, NSW Labor leader and Premier
  • McCORKELL — William McCormack, Labor Premier of Queensland
  • MALONE, Daniel — (Dr.) Daniel Mannix, Catholic archbishop of Melbourne
  • MANSON, "Plugger" Pete — "Plugger" Bill Martin, cyclist
  • MORAN family — Mahon family
  • MORTON, Jim — Jim Morley, communist organiser; journalist with the 'Morning Post'
  • MURKETT, Kenneth — (Sir) Keith Murdoch, journalist & newspaper proprietor
  • O'FLAHERTY, Dave — Detective O'Donnell, Chief of the Gaming Squad
  • PARELLI — Pellegrini
  • PARKER, Oliver — Clyde Palmer, journalist on The Truth newspaper
  • REAL, T.J. — T. J. Ryan, Premier of Queensland
  • REDMON, Ron — Ron Richards, Aboriginal boxer
  • RENFREY, Sugar — Robert "Sugar" Roberts, Mayor of Collingwood
  • ROBINSON, Barney — Barney Reynolds, a member of John Wren's staff
  • SANDOW — Ad Santel, champion wrestler
  • SCOTT, Bob — possibly another name for Bob Solly (see JOLLY, Bob)
  • SOLOMON, Sol — Sol Green, noted bookmaker
  • SQUEERS, Bill — Bill Squires, boxer
  • SUMMER, James — James Scullin, Labor M.P., Prime Minister 1929-32
  • SWINTON — (Sir) George Swinburne, engineer, politician and philanthropist
  • TANNER, Snoopy — Squizzy Taylor, gunman and thief
  • THE GENERAL - "Major" Taylor, cyclist
  • THURGOOD — "Red Ted" Theodore, Labor Premier of Queensland 1919-1925, federal Treasurer, mining and business magnate
  • TINN, Ted — Ted Thye, wrestler
  • TRUMBLEWOOD, Thomas — Tom Tunnecliffe, Labor M.P. for Collingwood, Speaker 1937-40
  • WATTY, Jim — Jack Welsh, Secretary, Milk Distributors Association
  • WEST family — Wren family
  • WOODMAN, Paddy — Paddy Boardman, associate of Squizzy Taylor

Judges not mentioned by name[edit]

  • Judge Neighbour — First Criminal Case
  • Judge Gavan Duffy — Milk Board Royal Commission


  • APSOM — Epsom Racecourse, Mordialloc
  • BAGVILLE STREET — Sackville Street, Collingwood
  • CARRINGBUSHCollingwood
  • CHIRRABOO - Chillagoe, Queensland.
  • JACKSON STREET — Johnston Street, Fitzroy & Collingwood
  • RALSTONE — Richmond (though note there has been a Ralston St in South Yarra – across the river from Richmond – since 1857 [2])
  • RICHTON – Richmond Racecourse
  • ROYAL OAK HOTEL - Royal Mail Hotel
  • SILVER STREET — Gold Street, Collingwood

Court case[edit]

Hardy was tried for criminal libel in 1951 on the basis of the depiction in the novel of West's wife having an affair but he was acquitted by jury, after putting a number of arguments and cross-examining witnesses. It was the last prosecution for criminal (as opposed to civil) libel in Victoria.

The case attracted enormous publicity, coinciding as it did with the anti-Communist referendum and served mainly to give the novel and any negative portrayal of Wren greater prominence. Hardy later detailed his experiences during the case in his book The Hard Way where he denies ever having spoken to any member of the Wren family during his extensive research for the book, and claims the relevant portions were entirely fictional.

According to Hardy's recollections in The Hard Way, the case differed from a civil law defamation case in that the defence of truth and public interest was not available at all, while a separate defence of lack of likelihood of public unrest resulting from the publication, which he thought should be available, was disallowed by the Judge.

Hardy readily conceded that he had published the work, and so the defence was built on the remaining two points, of whether the informant Ellen Wren was in fact identical with the character Nellie West, and if so, whether in fact the publication was defamatory.

Witnesses had testified that they recognised Ellen, and that she had been defamed. Hardy's defence, as described in The Hard Way, successfully cross-examined many witnesses such that it was shown that Ellen was only recognisable as Nellie by the latter's connection to John West, and that John West, though easily recognised as John Wren, was at the same time, a synthesised character, based on traits of John Wren but with many story events that were not attributable to the real John Wren.

This also attempted to use the fundamental contradiction in the prosecutions case, that if the characters were not true-to-life in every way, than were they not by necessity ficional? However this may have been insufficient to convince the jury, and certainly did not lead to any dismissal on technical grounds.

Hardy would have like to have used another argument, that if John West was truly John Wren, and the many dreadful things attributed to him in the novel were therefore true, then there was a public interest defence in exposing him. However this was disallowed as a technicality of the defence because of the criminal libel law being used, and was apparently somewhat ineffective as an implicit line put to the jury, since testimony was given by witnesses such that Wren could be identical with West without every feature being identical, i.e. that false defamatory attributes might be attached to a character whose identity is obvious due to known true attributes.

Hardy's defence also put that the character Ellen was portrayed sympathetically, that it was due to hardships suffered by her in her marriage to the dreadful John West that she resorted to the acts claimed as defamatory by the prosecution. While some witnesses had testified that her act of disloyalty stood as the most egregious act in the book, hence the attempt to prosecute Hardy over this section, rather than any of the acts such as murder, terrorism, bribery, ballot-rigging, race-fixing etc. committed by John West and his cohorts. Yet on cross-examination it was discovered that the witnesses could see Ellen's plight sympathetically.

Post hominim conjecture[edit]

According to a 2005 article in Melbourne newspaper The Age[3] , Monash University academic (and undeclared fellow-The Age contributor [3]) Jenny Hocking claims to have special insight after reading notes and letters from material held at the national archive or perhaps by the defence force, backing a belief that Angela became Annette, then Xavier, and therefore the affair may really have happened in actuallity and Hardy perhaps had somehow known of this, and written about it in the novel, then later after some revisions and release of the work, said that he had not really meant to say that anything literal had happened, and anyway, he wouldn't have known because he never spoke to anyone who could know that anyhow.

As described by Hardy in The Hard Way, even were it provably true, this could not have helped him defend a case of criminal libel. (but cf Wikipedia, citing [4]) And it remains untested as to whether truth would be relevant to a public-interest defence in a civil case, however this may have required that it be in the public interest that facts become public concerning the legitimacy or illegitimacy of a private citizen who held no public office and had no public profile whatsoever, or of the moral rectitude of that person's private citizen parent who only happened to have married a young John Wren.

Cultural influence[edit]

In 1976, the novel was made into a 26-episode ABC-TV series starring Martin Vaughan as West. While Nellie's affair with the brickie is depicted, the affair does not produce a child. The series won numerous Logie, Penguin and Sammy Awards.[5][6]

The football commentator Rex Hunt habitually refers to Collingwood as "the Carringbush".


  1. ^ Frank Hardy (1961). The Hard Way, Fontana edition 1976. Fontana.
  2. ^ "The living are few, Frank tells us, But The Dead Are Many" (PDF). Trojan Press. Retrieved 2015-01-18.
  3. ^ Steger, Jason (2005-11-12). "Mrs Wren and the brickie: the veil lifted". The Age. Retrieved 2015-01-18.
  4. ^ Folkard, Henry Coleman (1908). The Law of Slander and Libel. London: Butterworth & Co. p. 480.
  5. ^ "Power Without Glory". Memorable TV. Archived from the original on 18 January 2015. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  6. ^ "Logie Awards 1974 -177". australiantelevision.net. Retrieved 2015-01-18.

External links[edit]