Slide into Sydney’s true crime underworld
Sydney’s Kings Cross, doubled as one of Australia’s most prominent red-light districts, and a ground breaker in music, theatre and culture. The area gained popularity after World War II with returning and stationed soldiers both here and from overseas. With its colourful street characters and illicit activities, it attracted not only a suburban audience, but also birthed high level criminal syndicates. Over the decades, many notable shady characters made their mark in the Cross and went on to find themselves footnotes in Australian criminal history.
Australians have had a long fascination with the Sydney’s criminal underworld from the old school captains like Fred "Paddles" Anderson, Lennie McPherson, George Freeman, Abe Saffron, Fayez Hakim to the Cabramatta, Bankstown and various biker gangs to the infamous corrupt police detectives like Roger Rogerson and Mark Standen. The 'Golden Mile' also produced characters like nightclub owner John Ibrahim and notorious hitmen Neddy Smith, Christopher "Rent-A-Kill" Flannery.
These days, the New South Wales lockout laws have reduced Australia’s ‘glitter strip’ to a pale shadow of its former self. Go on a deep dive into the history of the Cross with libraries.
Sunshine Coast Libraries members have loaned Sydney true crime titles 1,777 times! While you are on the couch, check out the range of titles on eAudiobook, eBooks and eMagazines available through libraries. Free access 24/7 with your library card or to get the full true crime experience head to the library catalogue to reserve these Sydney crime and corruption items.
Reserve these titles and collect from your local library:
- Savage obsessions: true crime from the streets of Kings Cross by Glen McNamara
All the stories are true, and centre on the crime capital Kings Cross. Written by former detective and whistle blower Glen McNamara, who worked the beat in the 1980s, the crime stories cover obsession from every angle.
- He must be Obeid by Kate McClymont: Queensland had the Fitzgerald Inquiry and the Moonlight State. New South Wales has Eddie Obeid. Meet Australia's most corrupt politician whose brazen misdeeds were said to be on a scale "unexceeded since the days of the Rum Corps".
- Hate mail by Mark Morri: the riveting story being the Sydney parcel bombing case involving a personal trainer, a model and a rising TV star.
- The worst woman in Sydney: the life and crimes of Kate Leigh Read about the Matriarch of the criminal underworld ...or the Robin Hood of inner Sydney? The legend of Kate Leigh, Sydney's famed brothel madam, sly grog seller and drug dealer, has loomed large in TV's Underbelly and every other account of Sydney's criminal history from the 1920s to the 1960s.
- Leviathan: the unauthorised biography of Sydney by John Birmingham - an electrifying, epic history of the city of Sydney as you have never seen her before. To peer deeply into this ghost city, is to understand that Sydney has a soul and that it is a very dark place indeed.
- The dodger: inside the world of Roger Rogerson by Duncan McNab - as a former Sydney detective himself, journalist Duncan McNab intimately knows the world of Roger Rogerson, Australia's most notorious ex-policeman.
- The Griffith Wars: the powerful true story of Donald Mackay’s murder and the town that stood up to the mafia by Tom Gilling
- A Hard Place by Brett Stevens: inside story from officer who served in the police force for 13 years, working at Sydney’s infamous red-light district of Kings Cross, followed by the Tactical Response Group.
- Dead man walking: the murky world of Michael McGurk and Ron Medich by Kate McClymont - Kate McClymont is Australia's best-known investigative journalist. This Sydney story involves bumbling criminals, turncoats, snitches, developers, wealthy people brought down, and devastated families. It unpacks the structures of our major cities and asks some big, big questions.
Reserve these Sydney crime drama series on DVD:
- Underbelly – The Golden Mile: the third series of the popular crime drama series Underbelly. It is a thirteen-part series loosely based on real events that stemmed from the mile-long nightclub/red light district in the Sydney suburb of Kings Cross, also known as the Golden Mile, between 1988 and 1999. It depicts the organized crimes in Kings Cross and the police corruption leading up to the 1995 Wood Royal Commission. It is a prequel to Underbelly, which was about the Melbourne gangland killings, and a sequel to Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities. Among the characters are John Ibrahim, Kim Hollingsworth, George Freeman, Lenny McPherson and MP John Hatton.
- Blue Murder: the highly acclaimed drama that delves into corruption in the NSW police force and crime underworld of the 80's. Blue Murder begins with Sydney criminal Neddy Smith's activities in the late 1970s, charting his gradual acceptance into a circle of corrupt police officers led by top cop Rogerson and culminates with the shooting of policeman Michael Drury and the crumbling of Rogerson's empire in the late 80s.
- Blue Murder: Killer Cop – Richard Roxburgh reprises his heralded portrayal of Australia’s most notorious former high-flying NSW police detective Roger Rogerson, who after a decorated career was dismissed from the police force over allegations of corruption and suspected involvement in several murders.
- The Life and Times of Roger Rogerson: This fascinating portrayal of his life and times provides a unique insight into Sydney's underworld covering the characters crimes and key events that spanned Roger’s career as one of the city's most feared law enforcers. Hosted by Neil Mercer (Gangs of Oz) award-winning renowned crime journalist and author.
- Les Norton: follows the exploits of a country boy who escapes to Sydney working as a bouncer/fixer at the city’s most notorious illegal casino in 1985. Stars David Wenham and Rebel Wilson.
Libraries love these Sydney underworld eBooks:
- Mr Big: Lennie McPherson and his life of crime by Tony Reeves: the true and never-before-told story of Lennie McPherson - the Mr Big of Sydney crime - reveals a world of violence, police corruption, drugs, prostitution, murder and greed.
- Who bombed the Hilton? By Rachael Landers - on 13 February 1978 a bomb exploded outside the Hilton Hotel in George Street, Sydney. Award-winning filmmaker and historian Rachel Landers wrestles with the evidence to unravel this complex cold case in forensic detail, exposing corruption, conspiracy theories and political intrigue - and a prime suspect.
- Angel of Death: Dulcie Markham, Australia’s most beautiful bad woman by Leigh Straw - This is the story of 'pretty' Dulcie Markham, a key figure of the underworld of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Nicknamed the 'Black Widow' and 'Angel of Death' by the crooks, reporters and police who knew her best.
- Killing Mr Rent-a-kill: the true story behind the life, crimes and disappearance of one of Australia’s most notorious hitmen, Christopher Dale Flannery by Duncan McNab
Borrow up to 30 eBooks on your device. To get started download the ePlatform by Wheelers, RBDigital and Libby apps. Select Sunshine Coast Libraries and enter your member number and password. Need help setting up your device for eBooks? Watch this video tutorial.
Libraries love these Sydney underworld eAudiobooks:
- Last king of the Cross by John H. Ibrahim: In the mongrel tongue of the streets, John Ibrahim writes of fleeing war-torn Tripoli with his family and growing up in Sydney's rough and tumble west, before establishing himself as a tough guy and teen delinquent, then a bouncer, enforcer and nightclub king on the Golden Mile.
- Loose Units by Paul F. Verhoeven: a goldmine of true-crime stories, showing Paul’s father John's dramatic (and sometimes dodgy) experience of policing in Sydney in the 1980s. The crims, the car chases, the frequent brushes with death and violence, and the grey zone between what's ethical and what's effective.
You can borrow up to 30 eAudiobooks from each provider at a time for a period of three weeks. To get started, download the BorrowBox, Libby, and RBDigital apps, select Sunshine Coast Libraries and enter your member number and password. Need help setting up your device for eAudiobooks? Watch this video tutorial.
On the web
Sydney underworld feature interviews on the web:
- Neddy Smith – the intriguing story of Sydney’s hardest crime boss
- 60 Minutes Australia: Bad Cop, Good Cop – the sordid truth of police corruption.
- Channel 7 Mike Willesee Who killed Sally-Anne Huckstepp
- Lenny McPherson and George Freeman full documentary
- Kings Cross Sydney Nightlife
- Channel Seven Sunday Night House Ibrahim – Sydney’s powerful brothers arrested
Listen on the go with these gut health podcasts:
- I Catch Killers with Gary Jubelin: After 34 years in the police and 25 years in homicide, Detective Inspector (retd) Gary Jubelin is tracking down the detectives who inspire him - and the odd hardcore criminal - to extract their tricks of the trade.
- Naked City by John Silvester: take a journey into the dark depths of the Australian criminal underworld with Australia’s most formidable crime reporter. Co-wrote the Underbelly books.
- Life and Crimes by Andrew Rule: enjoy one of Australia’s most prolific journalists and true crime authors. In Life and Crimes, the Sunday Herald Sun columnist shines a light on the dark corners of Australian life, from the story behind the biggest mysteries and crims of today. Co-wrote the Underbelly books.
All podcasts are free and available to listen on: Android - Google Play, Procast, Downcast, Pocket Casts, Player FM and AntennaPod, iOS - Apple Podcasts app, RadioPublic, Pocket Casts, Castbox, Podbean and Stitcher.
Stream this classic Australian Kings Cross drama on Kanopy:
Two Hands starring Heath Ledger and Rose Byrne Nineteen-year-old strip club promoter Jimmy (Heath Ledger) is just scraping by in the red-light district of Sydney. When local crime lord Pando (Bryan Brown) offers him a shot at working for his syndicate, Jimmy jumps at the chance to deliver a costly package. But, when Jimmy gets jacked by a couple of kids, he's indebted to the dangerous gangster for $10,000. Running out of time, he schemes to rob a bank to save himself and a beautiful girl he desires (Rose Byrne) from a gruesome demise.
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