BIG SHOTS - Adam Shand
There's something - possibly it's car crash fascination - but ultimately there's something nigglingly alluring about True Crime books about the recent ructions in Melbourne's Underworld. Maybe it's the proximity of the goings on, maybe it's the sheer unbelievability of the world that people - who don't live a million miles away from me - live. It's a lifestyle that doesn't have any similarity with my own, yet it goes on in the same city that I live in. And Melbourne's not a humongous metropolis... it's Melbourne.
Adam Shand's Big Shots is, I guess, in that style that they call narrative non-fiction. It rolls out the story of the underworld war that led to a massive amount of publicity in the media, concern in the police, and frankly probably a lot of curiosity in other denizens of this city. As the bodies piled up and the ructions between the various camps increased Adam Shand, a finance journalist who seems to be openly admitting in this book was massively out of his depth, found himself with unexpected access to a number of central characters from both sides of the argument. Although the Carlton Crew were adamant that this was not a war of their making, and a considerable number of their members died, the war was more complicated and considerably more multi-faceated than just a war for territory. It seems to have been partially about territory, partially about long-held grudges, partially a lot of willy-waving and ultimately an exercise in power and what sort of mayhem bucket loads of money can buy you.
If you're even vaguely interested in the story behind the gangland wars - then this book is worth reading. It's certainly not glamorising either the events or the people involved, and it doesn't do a lot for talking up the life of a local gangster.
In 2003 Adam Shand, until then a finance journalist, naively set out to unravel Melbourne's bloody gangland wars. A few months' research, a guaranteed cover story. But his foray into the underworld took him deeper than that. He became embroiled in a complex world where feuds raged between rival families, and where a new generation was clashing with the criminal Establishment. Before long, he found himself counted as a friend by those who sometimes ended friendships with a hail of bullets.
Big Shots takes the reader into the heart of the city's multi-billion dollar 'disorganised crime' scene, as Shand meets the key figures and suspects, including Carl and Roberta Williams, Mick Gatto, and many others. He discovers the human drama behind the brutal slayings that were splashed across the front pages, and in the process comes to question his objectivity. And even whether he is being used to further the players' murderous ends.