THE DARK SIDE - Roger Rogerson

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

As Roger Rogerson puts it on the blurb to the book 'All that people know about me is that I'm a corrupt cop, shot three men, and was a mate of Neddy Smith...'.  He's probably right, but he's also probably acutely aware that his is a very Sydney story.  In the other states, particularly if you're not old enough to remember the events of Roger's colourful police career as they occurred, he could also be somebody whose name seems to vaguely ring a bell.  Didn't Richard Roxburgh play him in a movie on TV once (and wasn't that the first of the banned in the state it was made about sort of TV movies)?  Isn't he somebody who did a bit of commentary on Underbelly 2 recently?

THE DARK SIDE isn't so much biography as it is memoir, some yarn telling of the good old days.  Readers who come to this book expecting a detailed expose of the events that made Rogerson so notorious are destined to be disappointed.  Whilst there are some brief mentions of issues from Roger's point of view towards the end, the focus of THE DARK SIDE has much more a story-telling / outline of cases about it.  (Mind you, it could very well be that some of these cases are part of the build up of notoriety but you'd be hard pressed to pick the details / understand the context if you came to this recounting without prior notice as I did).  

On face value, what Rogerson has done is use the book to describe a series of selected cases from his policing days, from the days when investigating murders and robberies was a lot more hands on and pounding the streets, without the aid of computers, mobile telephones, email and elaborate surveillance techniques.  I particularly liked an investigative method employed frequently - called something along the lines of "annoying the players" - which I "think" is probably a euphemism for being up close and personal in a lot of faces until somebody finally...   Even if it isn't - it's still an entertaining idea - just annoying known associates and likely prospects until something happens.

THE DARK SIDE does tell a good old-fashioned yarn well.  There's also a sneaking sense that there is some honesty in the recounting.  An unapologetic retelling of events from a different time - without gloss or overt reputation massaging going on.  Perhaps that's one of the messages being sent with the book - methods change / standards alter / policing has changed / perspectives can shift / events blur.   It seems that the move from a "force" to a "service" particularly sticks in the craw of more than just the author - an interesting perspective shift I'd not necessarily noted before.

But on the question of whether or not Roger Rogerson is a corrupt cop / the cop who was a mate of notorious known criminals - the book didn't seem to be overtly telling this reader what to think one way or the other.  THE DARK SIDE did leave me with a vague yearning to be leaning against a bar somewhere listening to a few tall tales and true.  

More on the book (and online orders) at:

Year of Publication

Roger Rogerson hasn't been a police officer for more than 20 years.  Yet his name makes him the most well-known 'detective-sergeant' in Australia.

He has been the subject of articles, appearances, profiles and books; portrayed in TV dramas; and recorded by covert listening devices at home for months.

Rogerson took up his own pen in prison.  Out, he walked the club and pub speaking circuit, where he found a ready audience for his tales of law and mayhem.  He now writes for newspapers.

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