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Our Man Elsewhere: In Search of Alan Moorehead by Thornton McCamish (Black Inc.)
Our Man Elsewhere is a riveting story of the enormous life, tumultuous times and prolific output of expatriate Australian writer Alan Moorehead. It is also a story about Thornton McCamish’s quest to retrieve Moorehead from virtual oblivion and understand his own obsession with this unfashionable literary hero, as well as a searching meditation on the writing life.
In 1936, Moorehead left Melbourne for Europe as a young reporter longing for fame and adventure, and found both almost immediately. He soon became known as the finest war correspondent in Britain, met Montgomery, Churchill and Gandhi, and befriended the great writers of his age, including Hemingway. With remarkable sensitivity and insight, McCamish portrays Moorehead’s rapid rise to brilliant journalist, his seamless transition to successful war historian, his agonised foray into fiction, and his spectacular late resurgence as a bestselling popular historian.
Spurned by Australian contemporaries such as Xavier Herbert, Moorehead became the model of expatriate life for the next generation, including Robert Hughes. His life story touches on the larger themes of war and peace, restlessness and rootlessness, love and marriage, conservation, the place of Australia in the world and of its artists at home and abroad, and the ethical role of the writer.
Thornton McCamish’s Our Man Elsewhere is an ambitious, accomplished, extensively researched and energetic portrait of a forgotten literary giant. The life has dimensions of Greek tragedy, and McCamish writes it with great intelligence, depth, complexity and pace. To dare to write in the mode of one’s literary hero is an exercise fraught with danger, and McCamish pulls it off with aplomb. This is not only a virtuosic piece of writing, but also a moving testament to McCamish’s painstaking labour of love. Our Man Elsewhere is an exceptional work of biography, resuscitation and homage.