We are happy to announce that Australia’s pre-eminent organised crime expert of the past fifty years, Bob Bottom, has agreed to donate some of his work to the museum collection. His book Connections 1 is now on display in our section devoted to organised crime.
Most of what we know about organised crime in Sydney in the 1960s and 1970s comes from a small number of books published from 1979 into the 1980s: The Godfather in Australia by Bob Bottom; Drug Traffic by Alfred McCoy; The Prince and the Premier by David Hickie; Can of Worms II by Evan Whitton; and Connections 1 and Connections 2 also by Bob Bottom. These books form what might be called the “canon”, and took the general public from a position of ignorance about the existence of organised crime in this city to one where no politician or police chief could ever again deny its existence.
Bob Bottom gained the trust of some honest police and published an extraordinary amount of confidential information, in newspapers, magazines and books. He also – unusually – provided a lot of information to other journalists. His work is regarded as contributing importantly to the setting up of over a dozen royal commissions and major public inquiries. We are proud to be able to publish some of it here at the museum.
The Connections books contained many revelations important at the time, and are still fascinating today for the detail and colour they provide about many of the major criminals of the period.
Part of our display is illustrated with pictures by Michael Fitzjames, one of the most insightful of Sydney artists. Michael is now a successful painter, but for many years his work accompanied stories about the inner workings of the city published in the National Times and the Sydney Morning Herald. In many cases his pictures were at least as interesting as the articles, and they remain of enduring interest as commentary on the city. We are fortunate that Michael has allowed us to republish some of them here at the museum.