Read was born in Melbourne in 1954 to a mother who was a 7th Day Adventist and an Army man father. He showed behavioural problems that saw him in and out of childrens homes, and psychiatric hospitals. He gravitated to crime whilst still a teenager, robbing massage parlours before finding that drug pushers were far more profitable. He also targeted other criminals using bolt cutters and a blow torch to torture them into giving up their illicit gains. These type of criminals in Australia are known as "Standover Men". Over here, for a long time, they were known as "Thieves Ponces" - the best known were the Krays - but now it`s the term "Taxmen". To me, they are still ponces. He was jailed in 1973 for attempting to kidnap a judge in order to get a friend released from prison. In Pentridge Prison, he and a couple of associates became known as "The Overcoat Gang" wearing long coats to conceal weapons in an ongoing war with other criminals. He asked a friend to slice his ears off, as a protest about authorities refusal to move him to another prison. He was also repeatedly stabbed in the abdomen, then a couple of years after this, a triple killer slit his stomach open.
He then had short spells on the outside before he was back behind bars. As usual, he had methods of forcing people to hand over money to him, a cigar held to a stick of gelignite for example, showing just what a hero he was to the public. He started his writing career thanks to journalist John Silvester who persuaded him to write of his experiences. Then started his climb to "celebrity". He claimed that his first murder was that of Painters & Dockers Union boss Des Costello in the beginning of the 70`s. There had been waterfront wars between dockers and others in Melbourne, stretching back to the 50`s.(They made London & Liverpool dockers look like sweethearts) Read says he was just 17 years old at the time. Another was that of a drug pusher that he shot "In self defence" and was acquitted. He also claimed to have murdered Sid Collins, president of an Outlaws MC chapter. He received 6 years for GBH! Despite killing an Outlaw, there were no reprisals, which surely would not have gone down well in the USA, or were this lot not able to come up to the mark?
So what is the legacy of Read? Some writers and journalists see him as a bullshitter. Criminals have said that he immersed himself into other peoples` crimes, simply to boost his ego and credibility. He has admitted embroidering some of his stories. The question is, how much? If you read his books, every criminal in Oz is a complete wanker compared to him and some of his buddies. Abe Saffron, Neddy Smith, the Morans, the Pierces & Pettingills, Chris Flannery, Graeme Jensen, Mick Gatto, Graham Kinniburgh. All infamous Oz villains. All of them obviously unable to walk under the same sun as Read. Oz has lost it`s only criminal superstar.