Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

Having read an earlier book by this author on Carl Williams, I did wonder what extra insights might be offered in this latest offering, entitled simply CARL WILLIAMS. But, for this reader, there was something very interesting about the premise of this book. I've never been able to work out how or why Williams came to such a position of prominence and influence in Melbourne criminal circles. There's something that sort of makes sense about the Morans and other members of long-term criminal families or gangs, continuing, so to speak, the family trade. Williams, on the other hand, seemed to come from nowhere and I was hoping that this book could cast some light on how it is that a person like him can go from obscurity to such money, such influence in such a short time. And then disappear in a blaze of notoriety not long after.

I do agree with the position of Justice King and others who have been involved in the pursuit, charging, trial and sentencing of many of the members of the recent Melbourne gang-wars (known colloquially as the Underbelly wars). There's nothing glamorous about any of these people, or the lives they lead, and there's certainly nothing in their behaviour that suggests anything more than a modicum of rat cunning, and a profound sense of self-interest. But, in the main, we're not talking rocket-scientists here. Maybe some of the people that Williams and his ilk surrounded themselves with weren't completely stupid, but these people are not the brightest bulbs in the box. Mostly it seemed they got lucky or were completely and utterly ruthlessly self-interested. Which is what begs the question, how on earth did a lazy sort of a kid from a slightly deprived and petty criminal background, come to be a major player in the gang-wars and the mythology of Melbourne criminals?

CARL WILLIAMS, the book, will give the readers some insights into the life of Carl and his family. Interestingly, it gives some clues as to the background of both Carl and his father George, but it doesn't really give them any excuses. George's childhood, and that of his wife Barbara, were difficult, no doubt about that. As were the lives of a hell of a lot of people who grew up in the same time and the same place. Not everyone of them went onto be petty criminals, not everyone casually opted for the easy way to garner a bit of cash, nor do they all automatically turn a blind-eye to their own son's dodgy behaviour. Of course, it's easy to look to the parents for reasons, but you do have to wonder if, with a little less doting, and a little more direction, somebody with Carl's personality wouldn't have headed in a different direction. It was particularly interesting to see the glimpses of Carl under the influence of his mother, and Carl under the influence of his wife Roberta.

The observations throughout the book are really very informative, and despite some previous contact between the author, and the main subject, the book appears to be reasoned and very fair. There are also no particular conclusions drawn, that's very much left up to the reader. And at the end of the book, it seemed to this reader that there's a rather sobering outcome. Whilst there can be no doubt that the stopping of the ongoing Underbelly war was a good thing, nature does abhor a vacuum. Without the Morans, with a substantially lessened Carlton Crew, and without Williams and his cronies, all of whom were, after all, relatively high profile even before the Underbelly circus hit town, who is running the underworld now? At least with the previous lot, even allowing for many inappropriate relationships between the Police and the criminals, it seems that the Underworld wasn't so undercover. Nowadays, you have to wonder who is wielding the money and the power, who is controlling the drug markets and how far under the radar are they operating?

Year of Publication

Barwon Prison's maximum security unit, 19 April 2010: Carl Williams is beaten to death with the stem of an exercise bike by a fellow inmate. And so, the last moments of this convicted contract killer and key figure in the Melbourne underworld echoed the rest of his life: violent, chilling, brutal.

Bestselling author Adam Shand takes us into the world of Carl Williams, dealing with the family background that created Carl and his brother Shane. This book recreates the earlier generation when the path of the Williams family was set. It deals with the class system that operated in the underworld which regarded Carl, George and Shane as nobodies. It delves into how the big money in drugs destroyed the hierarchy and 'democratised' the criminal underworld, allowing the rise and rise of Carl Williams.

From Williams' early forays into the drug trade, the gunshot wound to the stomach that sparked a bloody gangland war, through to the car-crash fascination of his relationship with Roberta, Shand shows us the man behind the sly grin, and examines how and why he met his grisly end. 

Review CARL WILLIAMS - Adam Shand
Karen Chisholm
Friday, November 2, 2012
Blog Currently Reading - Carl Williams, Adam Shand
Karen Chisholm
Tuesday, October 9, 2012

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