Sydney Noir: the golden years

Announcing the publication of the first ever true crime book devoted to the era of Lennie McPherson, Abe Saffron and George Freeman. It was the Wild West period of the Sydney underworld, turbo-charged by the prohibition of off-course gambling that meant most of the population was either breaking the law or turning a blind eye. The amounts of money in the black economy were enormous and fuelled by a boom in general prosperity and a rush of US troops on R&R from Vietnam, who turned Kings Cross into one long party. The climate for corruption this created was enormous and reached into most parts of society.

Much has been written about the period, not all of it true. Duffy and Hordern debunk some myths. They argue Premier Robert Askin was not the combination of The Godfather and Richard Nixon of popular memory, and that the GIs were not responsible for the start of the heroin plague. But even after a cool eye has been run over the years from 1966 to 1972, it remains Australia’s own Prohibition, a time when much pleasure was illegal, gangsters ran the city streets, and – for many – there were thrills and even freedoms to be found that have since been lost.


Sydney Noir: the golden years, by Michael Duffy & Nick Hordern, is published by NewSouth Publishing . Michael Duffy is an organiser of the Sydney Crime Museum.