Below are excerpts from letters Bob's received over the
last eight years.
I just received a very excited email from my wife. She was over the moon that you actually responded to her letter which she scribed to you. She was even more excited with the special gifts that you had included in the pack for us. It is very much appreciated.
I can still remember reading my first Les Norton, many years ago and subsequently becoming hooked on your novels. I then became a pusher and got my wife hooked on them also. My god I feel so cheap to know that I have been used in such a way!...
..Thanks for replyin’ to my letter with a Mystery Bay Blues postcard. Geez, that made my day when I got that! It was really grouse! And just like you said, “Stay right where you are, don’t go anywhere”. I’m doing just that!! The only problem I’ve got now is, I’ve read all ya bloody books and I’m now givin’ ‘em the SP for the second time around! Can’t wait to get hold of and read ya next piece of ‘Australian contemporary literature’.
AT (inmate), TAS
Gidday mate. I also reckon that that Southern Accent is totally awesome. Just love that Crystal Linx and I certainly wouldn’t kick DD out if she s--- the bed.
Anyway. I’m currently 6 weeks short of graduating from the Bridge Program. A program with the Salvos in Sydney, terrific mob.
The program is for 10 months, for men with addictive behaviours. So basically I live with 50-70 drunks, junkies and gamblers and we’re all clean and sober,
After the Salvos take out 85% of our allowance (government) I’m left with $30 a fortnight. Don’t get me wrong, full respect and gratitude towards the Salvos for what they are doing for me.
I’ve got every Les Norton except The Boys From Binjiwunyawunya and Mud Crab Boogie. Now I’ve tried every second hand book shop in Surry Hills because I cannot afford a new one, with no luck. So if you have any oldies floating around, any ripped Norton shirts (XL), even a flat cap, I would absolutely luv ‘em and so would the boys.
Thanks mate and take care, luv ya books,
To Robert G. Barrett,
I am writing to you to say thanks for helping me rediscover my sense of humour.
.. When I first came to prison I was depressed and not doing too well then I discovered reading to escape but the pommy and seppo writers are bloody hopeless but just when I was about to give into my miserable existence, a mate I went to school with sent me a letter and a couple of books. The letter said that this writer made it bearable to live in such a place. I thought ‘here we go again’, but I was pleasantly surprised and by the third page of You Wouldn’t Be Dead for Quids, I was addicted and being in a place where people get stood over all the time I loved how he gives the bullies some of their own back.
DL (inmate), TAS
..To tell you the truth, I’ve never really been a book person – more a movie person. My reading interests are very limited as I can’t stand fiction so when my mate gave me your first book to read and said it was fiction I was very reluctant to read it, but after the fist 5-6 pages I couldn’t put it down!!!! And haven’t put a Barrett book down since.
..And as for the pub fight in White Shoes, White Lines and Blackie when Grungle show up, well I’m speechless. I was sitting on the edge of my bed with my fist in the air, it was the greatest thing I’ve ever read and definitely my most favourite part of all your books so far.
DD (inmate), TAS
..I’ve just finished reading Trifecta and as always laughed till my sides ached. I particularly enjoyed The Wind and the Monkey. I think the Aussie flag in Mud Crab Boogie is just fabulous. What a shame that is not our national flag. I love the way your books and stories have some hidden moral, even if it’s simply good triumphing over evil, as well as being a rollicking good read, sprinkled with your unique sense of humour and a fantastic turn of a phrase.
I enjoyed So What Do You Reckon? And agree with your sentiments. The stories tell a few good home truths but none of them are offensive because they are well written with a big dose of humour. (I particularly like the Letter to the Bank Manager).
Thank you for keeping us entertained for years. I hope you will keep on writing your most enjoyable books.
To whom it may concern (Robert G Barrett)
.. At present I am 2 months into my sentence, to try and break the boredom I have started to read books. In 37 years of my life I can’t remember ever finishing a book – not even when I was at school, until recently when I read one of your books (Guns ‘N’ Rosé) which I truly enjoyed.
JK (inmate), NSW
..I do realise you meet so many of your fans, but was curious to know if you remember meeting ‘the possum lady’ in Lismore Square about 3 years ago.
I was curious because ‘the possum lady’ is my little sister Cindy Kilmurray who sadly passed away last year with cancer; she was only 39.
For some reason I needed to write and tell you what a buzz it was for Cindy to meet you. She was stoked as she was a huge fan.
Hello Mr Barrett,
..I find it really hard to get into most books and usually lose interest after a couple of chapters but when I first read your books I was hooked, I remember I was down the DU (Detention Unit) bored s-------. Anyway a mate speared me a couple of your books. I started reading Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea and could not put it down. 6 days after I had smashed that and f--- I can’t think of the book’s name right now but it’s the one with that American sheila on the front with the big fake tits and dice in her hand [White Shoes, White Lines and Blackie], anyway 2 books in 5 days really is a massive effort for me, well not an effort because I just really enjoyed reading about Les. I could relate to the big fella – he’s a stand up man and I really respect how he operates but more seriously I respect you the author for writing such brilliant work. You are a rarity my friend and writing this letter of appreciation is a pleasure and I’m hoping you’ve still got a few more stories to tell.
S (inmate), QLD
Hello Mr Barrett,
..With my experience here in the prison library, is where I am asked daily, at least most days two or three times per day, “Do you have any Les Norton or Robert G Barrett books?” they ask. “Yes” I reply. “Yes, we have 2 or 3, although they are extremely popular and rare to get hold of”.
These books you have written are very popular with the inmates and constantly on demand. Therefore I am asking would you please be kind enough to donate a set of your books to our prison library, for all the inmates to experience the pleasurable readings of Mr RG Barrett, AKA Les Norton.
SA (inmate), NSW
..It would please you know that most first time readers of your books all try to acquire them forever, so the need for tight control. You are the most stolen author in -------- and I must add the only one that every effort is made to be recovered.
DC (inmate), QLD
..Now this photo of me that you’ve requested (more than once I may add) hmmm, I wonder if your reply would’ve been as prompt if I hadda told you I was a short-arsed, wrinkly ol, granny with a flat chest, instead of the stunning leggy blonde that I am??????
So now I’m forced to fess up, I may have handled the truth a little carelessly (writer’s privilege, you know that) although I am a blonde of sorts – a bitumen blonde if you like – well more ya brunette really, kinda bordering on black you could say, that is with a monthly touch-up of Gretian Two Grand. As for the legs, well I have two as with the tits, so ya see I wasn’t far from the truth, anyway it’s all in the eyes of the beholder and I’m guessin’ your probably be-holdin it right now.
I could still pull it off though, as I said in my letter “WITH THE HELP OF A GOOD MAKE-UP ARTIST” – you must’ve skimmed over that bit when your glasses fogged over.
..My brother was 13 or 14 and just would not read. The school was worried, mum was worried, dad was worried – it seemed to become a drama. Mum bought the books the teachers said were sure things – nothing, she bought the book the counselor suggested – nothing, she even bought the books the ‘experts’ suggested – nothing. Unknown to mum I gave my brother You Wouldn’t Be Dead for Quids and bingo! One book read two, maybe three days. My brother actually asked for more of your books. I kept up the illicit supplies of Les Norton books and then mum found out. She was absolutely amazed and grateful – then she read the book. Nervous glances were exchanged between my brother and I especially at mum’s furrowed brow.
“Well, I would prefer less sex and violence, but at least he is reading.”
“Ten finally got it right, she gave me the latest Les Norton bok!” exclaimed Darryn, 28. This statement amazed me for three reasons.
1. His younger sister Terriann managed to get ‘Mr Fussy’ a gift he appreciated
2. They were close enough for her to know what he liked
3. He actually read books – not magazines but real books without pictures.
I had to learn more about this remarkable phenomenon, Darryn reading books. At age 17 Darryn had read 2 novels, Puberty Blues and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾. His reading consisted of Wheels, 2 Wheels and Reader’s Digest – magazines that contained short articles with lots of pictures. He was 13 before I discovered he could actually read – getting Darryn to vacuum his room was easier than getting him to read to me. I discovered his reading ability when watching a movie with subtitles. He started reading them out to me – I was stunned! I started to lose my sight when my children were 10 and 9 so needing things read to me was a regular event but Darryn usually let his sister do the reading.
I asked Darryn about this Les Norton and what he wrote only to be told that Les is a character in your books – he chatted away about the books he had read and I decided that if you could write books that would encourage my physically active son to read I wanted ‘some of that’. I contacted the Talking Book Library and ordered anything you had written – that was at least 5 years ago!
Last week I enjoyed my first Robert G Barrett book – The Monkey and the Wind. Thank you for having your books reproduced in audio format. I want to introduce my husband to your work – he is not a reader of novels, like Darryn prefers magazines, anything to do with gardening or woodwork. Listening to audio books while traveling has whetted his appetite so I’m placing an order with ‘the Possum Lady’ for a couple of audio books for him to enjoy as we take the 20 hour tilt train trip to Cairns next month.
..I’m a 31 year old Major in the Australian Army, currently serving in the Middle East as a United Nations Military Observer (UNMO).
..Having watched the other Australian UNMO living in Syria reach into the mail bag and collect his 16 parcels from his loving wife at home, containing more Tim Tams than a beach party at Byron Bay, I was surprised to discovered there was anything left at all. And wouldn’t you know it – three Robert G. Barrett books in the mail bag, or in Army terms, ‘3 x Books Barrett Individual’. Being a big Les Norton fan and having read about six of your earlier books already, I couldn’t believe my luck!
Bob, this may not seem like too big a deal to you, but I’ve been on this mission for 16 months, having already served five months in Israel, seven months in Lebanon and four months in Syria. As a single bloke, if I want to take leave to Australia then I need to pay for it, so by the time I return home at the end of December this year, I’ll have been away for over 19 moths. As I said, the work is not hard, but it is simply fantastic to get something from Australia, particularly from someone taking an interest in the Australian Defence Force. So the two things that have arrived in the Aussie mail bag during my tour that have made a big impact for me – the two care parcels I’ve received from the RSL containing a letter, some ANZAC biscuits and Nobby’s Nuts and the three books donated by you.
..I’ll forward the books on to the other Aussie UNMOs working in Israel and Lebanon, and they will no doubt take them out on the Observation Posts to read and leave them there once they have finished. So the reality is, mate, in two years’ time there will probably be an UNMO from Nepal, Argentina, Finland or somewhere else, sitting on an OP on the Golan Heights, right next to the Area of Separation between Israel and Syria, reading The Wind and the Monkey, So What Do You Reckon?, or The Ultimate Aphrodisiac. Anyway, I thought this might give you a bit of a buzz, as it is probably something you could never have imagined when you wrote You Wouldn’t Be Dead for Quids, eh?
Scott, (Australian Army) Operation Paladin, Camp Faouar, Syria
Dear Mr Barrett,
Hello, my name is Nicole and I am a medic in the Australian Army. I have never in my life written a fan letter and have never considered myself the type to do so. Yet I feel this great need to write to you and tell you how much of a fan I am.
Well it all started at the beginning of this year when my husband (an infantry soldier) and I were posted to Canberra. While waiting for a house we were put in temporary accommodation, after a month of this we were pretty bored. To relieve this boredom we both went to the bookstore and picked out a book. At night we would both settle down and read our own books. My husband was reading a book called Mystery Bay Blues and always seemed to be giggling to himself while reading it.
Anyway six months passed and I was running around the house just before a long field exercise looking for a book to take when my husband handed me this book and said, “Go on, try it”. I must admit I was skeptical of it, considering it had a teddy bear on the front.
I took it and read it and can tell you it was the most fun I have had reading a book ever. I love Les! He is a dead set hero. He seems so familiar to me because his personality and spirit is so much like that of a soldier’s.
..Well I better stop chewing your ear off, I don’t even think I have ever written my mother a letter this long before. Just wanted to say that from a new fan I love your books and look forward to reading more about Les and his adventures.
Nicole (Australian Army), ACT
Dear Mr Barrett,
On behalf of the soldiers serving in the Solomon Islands, I would like to thank you very much for your kind donation.
I left my job working in a bookstore on the Gold Coast to join the Army as a truckie hoping to be able to make a difference. So far our efforts in the Solomon Islands have been positive and rewarding.
Currently I am on the midnight to midday shift. During the day it is too hot to sleep and I have enjoyed being engrossed in the world of Les Norton. How wonderful is it to read Australian literature while deployed.
Kara (Australian Army), Solomon Islands
..Mate I’m just dropping a quick line to let you know the many soldiers that I know personally that have served overseas and have been able to get hold of the books that you have sent over really appreciate what you have done and it means a lot. You are a true OZ.
Mate if at any time you get over to Perth there is a stool in the Sergeants’ Mess with your name on it and a bloke who would like to buy you a beer.
Quentin (Australian Army – 10th Light Horse Regiment), WA
..I have read about 15 of your books; in fact you were my sanity point when my husband left me 5 years ago!
I found one of your books in a store one day and thought I’d give it a go. I loved it so much that I went out and bought everything I could find that you’d written and tried to keep up with the new stuff as it came along.
Dear Mr Barrett
..I’m writing to let you know that in my opinion, you are the superstar author.
Five years ago I could not read. I was sent to ------ Jail for 14 months after having been convicted of drunk-driving and that’s where I first came across your book You Wouldn’t Be Dead for Quids. I was 21 years old and I was hooked. Day of the Gecko was mad as well.
..Anyway, I’m writing this letter simply to thank you for giving me the gift of reading. I have tried to read books written by other people but they don’t seem to do it for me. Yours are the only ones I get into.
RP (inmate), NSW
Dear Mr Barrett
..I lived in Bondi from 1936 to 1978 and I know the area very well. Even the lottery winners’ mile you mentioned, Beach Road, was once called Matlida Street. Hall Street and Dooley’s fruit barrow was well known long before the Hakoah Club was built. The old six way and Kings Picture Theatre and the Olympic in Bondi Road.
Bates Milk Bar has now gone. The hometown is not like it was but I still have my memories of all the good and sad times down there. Thank God the school is still there. I and my three children all went there and in one hall. There is a section of well known photos of people, like Don Burrows, Simon Townsend, Judi Farr and Ken Arthurson.
Well Les, or I should say Robert, thank you for Les Norton once again. I don’t have a computer so that’s why this letter. Sorry about the writing but am 75 and the hand is not as steady.
..My name is Matt and I’m in the Navy… I used to live at Endeavour House near Coogee Beach in Sydney and loved going to all the paces you described in your book to see for myself and get a better feel of the books.
Matt (Australian Navy), WA
I received a great Christmas present from a good mate of mine the other day.
Do you remember when you were doing a book signing in Manly recently and a good looking sort, tall, leggy, tanned, shortish dark hair, looks about 30 but she’s older, bought you an old copy of wrote You Wouldn’t Be Dead for Quids to sign. The book had been inscribed ‘This book – totally without literary merit, vulgar, violent, crass, and a barrel of laughs – belongs to Rob’. You wrote another inscription – ‘To Rob. So I didn’t win the Booker Prize. Who cares?’
Well, Cath gave me my original copy back, which I’d loaned her about 13 years ago when we became mates, along with a similarly signed copy of MBB [Mystery Bay Blues], and a Leaving Bondi T-shirt. I was stoked – not just to get a copy of your latest, and the T, but to get my now signed copy of You Wouldn’t Be Dead for Quids back.
PS. Teaching women how to exercise on the ball will never be quite the same after reading MBB!
To the Barrett family,
I sent you one of these upside down, back to front, poor man’s wedding invitation type cards about three weeks ago, to ask you to sign a T-shirt of a mate (Rick) who is fighting cancer. You sent a huge amount of T-shirts, a hat and a poster. I was extremely kind of you and generous.
Rick is now in the Cancer Institute being ‘barbequed’ ever day, proudly wearing his You Wouldn’t Be Dead for Quids T-shirt and stirring up the nurses. Perfect shift for his humour… He reckons his poster is going in his shed when he gets home.
Dear Mr Barrett,
An avid fan of Les Norton and the novels you write in general, I would like to congratulate you on your success in making it from an everyday hardworking Aussie into somewhat of an Aussie icon through your writing and your character. I’m writing as I just received my Christmas present in the mail over here in Balibo East Timor on the border region from my wife and to my pleasure it was a copy of Goodoo Goodoo.
Shane (Australian Army), East Timor
Dear Mr Barrett,
..I’m currently doin’ a bit of time in one of Her Majesty’s finest, over here in the UK. Like you I’m a Central Coast lad.
..I’ve been reading your books for years, many of them several times. And they’re quite a hit ‘round here too! Tho I do have to translate for a few of these Poms…
..I’ve been in the UK prison system for nearly four years now and miss home terribly. It’s a drab, miserable place. Like here it is May and we’re only now gettin’ into double figures, temperature wise. But every time I read one of your books they take me back to the country I love and miss. Whilst I read your books you allow me to leave this place, if only for a brief moment. Not to mention the people too!
..Never stop writing, ya books are the ‘duck’s guts’. I can’t wait for your next one.
GA (inmate), UK
..Leaving Bondi by the way, nearly finished me off – I (stupidly) bought it to read in hospital and I caused a fair amount of ruckus laughing at it – then howling because it hurt to laugh and consequently wrecked a few stitches, then in the end, the nurses confiscated the book. The day I left, I just about had to fight them to get it back!!!!!
..I have read a couple of your books and found them as one of the best reading I’ve done whilst serving a hefty sentence and it made this s------ existence bearable while reading your books.
PB (inmate), VIC
..I have seven and a half years to go… I just roll with the punches, try to think positive, and think of the better times ahead when I get out and start my new life. That’s what I love about Les Norton and his adventures – it gives me hope and inspiration to train every day and look on the bright side of life.
JS (inmate), WA
Just a quick note to you and your family wishing you a merry Christmas and a great new year!! I’m a Sgt over here in East Timor and my ‘Mrs’ just sent me The Wind and the Monkey… Morale has just skyrocketed to a new height!! I’m not a big reader, in fact I’ve probably only read about 30 books in my whole life. That’s including the ones Miss Burford made me read at school. But I’ve read all on me mate ‘Les’.
My ‘Mrs’, Nikki, didn’t know who Les was and once questioned the ‘Team Norton’ T-shirt I often wear. Her ignorance is unacceptable!! Needless to say, she is now a fan. I think?! All she said was, after I MADE her read Wouldn’t be Dead… was, “That explains a few things!”
I’ve only got half way through this book to date but page 52-56 are easily the funniest pages you’ve written. Dead set.
..PPS. Almost forgot – I also read your books that you sent over to us while we were in Somalia (93). Thanks!!!!
Matt (Australian Army), East Timor
Dear Mr Barrett,
Enclosed two photos, sorry as few people with so few books but all your books went out on the day they arrived and the rotten bastards won’t give them back!
There were several offers of reciprocal gifts to send to you, I declined on your behalf as the receipt of any of the things offered would have a good chance of seeing you in court for the possession or receiving. There were other offers - they include, help with marital problems or awkward business associates, help with over-insured and under utilised properties, there was one rather intriguing, very vulgar, and I thought physically impossible suggestion from Natasha our yard transgender person.
Your poster hangs in pride of place in the library and I’m changing my name by deed poll to match the dedication you put on it. Your comment about giving as many books away you were having to think about the metalworks, brought forth several comments, such as the only thoughts you would have about the metal works would be after a hard day on the piss and the Mrs was feeling horny!
Thank you once again Mr Barrett – your books do help keep boredom at bay.
RM (inmate), QLD
Mele Kalikimaka Mr Barrett,
I’ve just got back from a tour with the Australian Bobsleigh team and whilst away I decided I’d write you a letter and let you know how much we THRIVE on your Les Norton novels. Between the few of us we had eight novels and they did the rounds within the first four weeks on tour. Our only complaint is that the books were so good we couldn’t put them down, so they were all finished with two weeks to go and the rest of the time was spent twiddling our thumbs.
Ted (Australian Bobsleigh Team), WA
Good day to you Mr R Barrett,
..I’m in jail at the moment and I can say that your books have been a form of remission to us, as while you’re reading a Les Norton tale you are or at least our heads are not in jail. This is such a benefit, even the boys who are not into reading have been lining up for the chance to breeze over some pages, only because the reading is so f------ good.
DB (inmate), NSW