Power Without Glory

Power Without Glory

infobox Book
name = Power Without Glory
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption =
author = Frank Hardy
cover_artist =
country = Australia
language = English
series =
genre = Thriller, Novel
publisher = Random House
release_date = 1950
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 660 pp
isbn = ISBN 0-09-184206-9
preceded_by =
followed_by =

Power Without Glory is a 1950 novel written by Australian writer and Communist Frank Hardy. The work was originally self-published, and later adapted into a mini-series by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (1976).

The Novel

The novel is a fictionalised version of the life of Melbourne businessman and Australian Labor Party power-broker, John Wren. It is set in the fictitious Melbourne suburb of Carringbush, which is based on the actual suburbs of Abbotsford and Collingwood (Abbotsford was known as Carringbush in the 19th century). In the novel, West is involved in criminal activities related to gambling and political machinations.

The book also included characters based on other important Victorian and Australian political figures, including:
* Victorian Premier Sir Thomas Bent;
* Prime Minister James Scullin;
* Roman Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Daniel Mannix (the character "Archbishop Malone");
* Police commissioner Thomas O'Callaghan;
* Detective David O'Donnell;
* Socialist ALP politician and one-time deputy leader Frank Anstey (the character "Frank Ashton");
* Ex-politician and notorious lawyer David Gaunson (the character "Davey Garside");
* Boxer Les Darcy;
* Gangster Squizzy Taylor (the character "Snoopy Tanner"); and
* Queensland Premier and then federal Treasurer Ted Theodore.

The barely-disguised motivation for the "West" character is made clear by the fact that West, like Wren, also has a brother called "Arthur" who spent time in jail for aiding and abetting a crime of rape. (Wren's other brother, Joseph, also appears in the novel.) Wren's wife Ellen Mahon appears as "Nellie", and there is space in the novel given to three of his children - his violinist daughter Margaret, his son John Jr., and another daughter who became a Communist bore similarities with Wren's radical daughter Mary who was an active member of the communist front organisation the Movement Against War and Fascism.

The novel is set during World War I, and the debate about conscription is a major issue in the novel. John West is a fierce patriot who supports conscription, and his sometimes fiery debates with the Irish-Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, who opposes conscription on the grounds that to send men to aid England was against his, and Ireland's, historical enmity with that country.

The Court Case

Hardy was tried for criminal libel in 1951 because of the depiction in the novel of "West's" wife having an affair, but he was acquitted on the grounds that the work was, as he said, a mixture of fact and fiction. It was the last prosecution for criminal (as opposed to civil) libel in Victoria.

The case attracted enormous publicity, coinciding as it did with the anti-Communist referendum and served mainly to give the novel and the negative portrayal of Wren greater prominence. Hardy later detailed his experiences during the case in his book "The Hard Way".

Hardy's inclusion of Ellen's ("Nellie's") affair with bricklayer Bill Egan, who worked on the Wren mansion, was based on Wren's own belief that his daughter Angela was the illegitimate product of that affair. Just prior to the book's first (underground) publication, Hardy was wracked with uncertainty as to whether it was ethical to include the episode: he was worried about the book's impact on the "living innocents". He was eventually convinced to include it by the former Communist Party leader JB Miles and, it seems, Angela herself - who is portrayed in the book as "Xavier". (Hardy was originally going to call the character "Annette" but changed the baby's sex so as to provide another layer of protection for Angela.) The real-life Angela committed suicide in 1956, and although Hardy's latest biographer Jenny Hocking was unable to find concrete evidence for Angela's assistance, she does believe it was provided.

Cultural Influence

In 1976, the novel was made into an Australian Broadcasting Corporation television series starring Martin Vaughan as West. While "Nellie's" affair with the brickie is depicted, the affair does not produce a child.

The local library of Collingwood was named the "Carringbush Library" for several years as a tribute to the novel.


James Griffin, 'Wren, John (1871-1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol 12 (Melb UP, 1990), 580; [http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A120651b.htm/ online] .

Jason Steger, 'Mrs Wren and the brickie: The veil lifted', the Age (Melbourne), 12 Nov 2005; [http://www.theage.com.au/news/books/mrs-wren-and-the-brickie-the-veil-lifted/2005/11/11/1131578237905.html/ online] .

Jenny Hocking, "Frank Hardy: Politics, Literature, Life" (Lothian, 2005).

*cite book | last = Macintyre| first = Stewart | year = 1998 | title = The Reds: The Communist Party of Australia from Origins to Illegality | publisher = Allen & Unwin| url =http://books.google.com.au/books?id=2JG01HuwZsYC&pg=PA269&lpg=PA269&dq=Movement+Against+War+and+Fascism&source=web&ots=0AqD2LISNQ&sig=4HwkiRZO4JPRhURdgiYP_-fyYAc&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPA273,M1

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