Books my father read

July 24 was the fourth anniversary of the death of my father, William Nette.

He died peacefully in hospital on the Queensland Gold Coast, where he had retired with my mother many years earlier. He was 86.

William Nette, Papua New Guinea, 1942

Like many father-son relationships, we didn’t always get on. That’s putting it mildly. But he brought a lot of positive influences to my life.

He turned me onto the joy of jazz, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Art Blakey and Dave Brubeck. He had a large collection of 78s wrapped in brown paper that he’d secreted out of Papua New Guinea, where he was an armed forces disc jockey during the war, along with cartons of cigarettes he later sold in Australia.

Only recently have I realised he’s also responsible for much of the delight I find in reading and my particular fondness of crime fiction.

I remember the pivotal moment quite clearly. I was thirteen. He came home from work one day and, to my complete horror, announced he was withholding my allowance until I started reading books (comics, which I loved, didn’t count).

He set the first two books, Robinson Crusoe, followed by Treasure Island. They were heavy looking volumes with no pictures that had belonged to my father when he was a boy. I can recall thinking I would never work my way through them.

I did, of course, and have been a voracious reader ever since.

Along with a lot of men in the fifties and sixties, Dad loved Carter Brown and Larry Kent. He also had a thing for Mickey Spillane, John MacDonald and Ian Fleming. I still have his collection of early James Bond paperbacks, saved from what would no doubt have been one of Mum’s frequent op shop culls. I’ve read them all several times.

I used to have a great black and white photograph of my father on vacation at Surfers Paradise. It must have been sometime the late sixties. He was sitting on a beach chair in his dark sunglasses, reading a Carter Brown paperback.

That picture, along with a lot of other possessions was lost when the friend’s backyard shed in which I was storing them in burnt down. I can’t even remember now what got destroyed except for that picture.

Even as a child, Dad’s collection of crime paperbacks fascinated me. Their lurid cover art, the seamy cadence of titles like Nobody Loves a Loser and Bid the Babe Bye-Bye.

The swinging seventies, Elsternwick, Melbourne

As the seventies progressed, Dad got into popular thrillers by Alistair Maclean and Wilbur Smith. Mum and Dad were also huge fans of Harold Robbins and Aurhur Hailey, writers whose own work was influenced by the ‘executives behaving badly’ genre of pulp fiction popular in the sixties. In my teens I spent many an hour the den of our family home thumbing through books by both these authors on the hunt for risqué scenes.

As a small tribute to the memory of my father and his influence on my reading tastes, the following are a selection of his surviving pulp paperbacks.

Thanks Dad.



16 Responses

  1. Beautiful post, Roo, and a fitting tribute to your old man. Bill would’ve loved it.

  2. Micaela Cronin

    Really lovely Andrew – any Dad should be so lucky, not always easy relationships with parents, children. Thanx, nice to read.

  3. Micaela Cronin

    thanks Andrew, lovely to read. Any Dad should be so lucky, not always easy, relationships with parents, children.

  4. Your dad had pretty damn good taste. It’s fortunate to have a parent who instills a love of reading in you, isn’t it? For me, it was my mom and her lurid collection of Alfred Hitchcock Presents paperbacks…
    Those Pan editions of MacDonald and Fleming are very cool– we don’t see Pan too often here in the States, so I always find them kind of exciting.
    Great post, Andrew, and a stirring tribute to your father.

  5. Thanks to you all for your nice comments about my post. I’m glad you liked it. Heath, agree totally with you about those old Pan books. Dad had the entire set of Bond paperbacks in Pan and the cover art on this is just great.

  6. Who could resist reading that Carter Brown title?

    Awesome post, thanks for sharing. When I was a kid, we found a friend’s Dad’s copy of “Lolita” and spent many a lurid hour under the house, thumbing through for the rude bits… just as you describe with Robbin’s doorstoppers.

    Come to think of it, “Lolita” had an awesome cover – a slinky strip of green apple peel, unwinding to reveal a pert set of nubile buttocks.

  7. Fortunate. I grew up in a non reading fam. Both parents had left school at 13 and were bemused by literature — any literature. So radio then TV became the cultural Mecca. Consequently, when I embraced the book biziness I started with the classics….and it took me almost thirty years to get into crime fiction, initially through my wife’s reading. Its’ like I’ve found a theme that suits me to a T but which has a depth of meanings for those who seek to feel their way through its innards. It’s almost customized, personally plastic. And you learn to respect melodrama for what it is: the engine house as much for Shakespeare as Micky Spillane. As American lit writer John Irving once reminded us, “all plots are artificial.” (He was defending his favorite at the time, Great Expectations.) And crime fiction rules artificiality and coincidence like a fiefdom.Nonetheless, and maybe I’m moving out of the pulp area, folk like Jo Nesbo, Megan Abbott and James Lee Burkes are among the best contemporary writer’s writers I’ve come upon. But it’s through film noir that I have been drawn to respect the seeming bottom feeders — the fifties pulp guys who deploy a different prose.

  8. Well now, any insights afforded about Bill are never lost at this end of town. It is a lovely legacy from Bill that you have identified. It is no doubt coloured by your own character – curious, obscure and thorough. All of which is of course a complement to your character. A delightful tribute indeed. I’ll be sure to read it too Bill’s grandchildren; Leon and Annabelle. I wonder what our kids will write in their blog four years after our death! Thank-you so much Roo.

  9. Such a warm rememberance Andrew.Now you pass on to Natasha the love of reading.My first adult books were Robinson Crusoe,Tom Sawyer,Treasure Island.And my dad bought me Arthur Mees Childrens Encyclopedia.I had to travel to Europe to see what were previously black and white photos!

  10. Sorry to hear about your Dad, Andrew.

  11. I am 9 years old. Bill was my pop. My favorite crime book is Zac Power, Shock Wave.

  12. I am 6 years old. I am Poppy’s grand daughter. My favorite book is Pearlie and the Christmas Angel by Wendy Harmer. I have read 12 of her books about Pearlie.

  13. Annabelle and Leon,
    Hi guys. I think Zac Power sounds pretty cool. My daughter Natasha loves Pearlie. Thanks for stopping by but you should probably head off now, there’s adult content on this site.
    See you at Christmas.

  14. Hello,
    who is the artist who made “A twist of Fate” cover ?

    • Li An,
      The short answer is, I don’t know. The later Larry Kent covers, like this, were actually done by Italian pulp artists – which is why they are so good – and bought by the local publisher to use on their covers.

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