AN UNQUALIFIED SUCCESS The Extraordinary Life of Allan Percy Fleming
225 x 150 mm, 344 pp, 50 b&w photos and maps
9781922013545, $39.95, Hardcover
The career of Allan Percy Fleming (1912- 2001)--teacher, soldier, journalist, trade commissioner, senior bureaucrat, librarian, counter terrorist--was characterised by the lack of 'appropriate' training. 'I was a demonstration; he once remarked, 'of the art of how to do things when unqualified’.
Fleming taught for a while at his old school (Scotch College) and then embarked on a career in journalism, first on the Melbourne Argus and then the Brisbane Courier-Mail where he was leader-writer. At the outbreak of World War II he enlisted in the AIF as a private rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel (decorated, wounded twice, captured, escaped). What followed was a whole procession of jobs: a spell back in journalism, an assignment to reorganise Australia's defence intelligence, trade commissioner in Paris, representing Australia in international trade negotiation and next, the greatest switch of all, to Commonwealth parliamentary librarian and, most controversially, to National Librarian. Then after he retired he was back at work setting up Australia's first counter terrorist organisation.
In this book Peter Golding traces the story of Fleming's remarkable life, adding flesh to the skeleton of a succession of careers with a fascinating range of incidents including a brief and cheeky encounter with Rommel in North Africa and a tender love story that began in a college tower.
Peter Golding's working life began as a copy boy on the Melbourne Argus and he has been writing ever since, first as a reporter of general news then as a political commentator and after that as a daily columnist. He also wrote speeches, once for a prime minister. He has several books to his name, notably Black Jack McEwen: Political Gladiator (Melbourne University Press, 1996) and They Called Him Old Smoothie: John Joseph Cahill (Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2009), Golding was born in Western Australia and currently lives in Mosman (NSW).