Streets of Our Town

Radio Station 4ZZZ (FM 102.1) is running a radiothon under the theme ‘Streets of Our Town’.

Local writer, Bernie Dowling, puts his own spin on the streets of greater Brisbane in the Crime Thriller Iraqi Icicle.

These stories are to be acted on radio program Paradigm Shift which begins at Noon this Friday 12 August 2011.

Past Paradigm Shifts can be found in the Menu above

Another Bernie, Bernie Neville, will be talking on the Paradigm Shift about politics past and present from a rank and file worker’s perspective.

Bernie Neville was one of the 1001 workers at South East Qld Electricity Board sacked by Joh Bjelke-Petersen in 1985. Bernie Neville was a cable jointer and believes in underground power (in more ways than one). Bernie has a wealth of experience in union and community campaigns and gave his take on the Streets (and buildings) of Our Town. We will be talking about everything — how the Electrical Trades Union fed the sacked workers and their families for 9 months, the sellout by Labor leaders, Harry Hauneschild and Ray Dempsey who allowed Trades Hall to be sold said that they had to sell it because of the plumbing and the wiring. Despite the fact that they had the best tradesmen in Qld turning up to union meetings in the building each week — I agree with Bernie Neville – very bad sellout, one of the worst especially since Trades Hall had been given to the workers and their organisations as long ago as 1919 after years of struggle to find a home for the unions in a central place in Brisbane CBD. The old trades hall had a health and safety training centre right next door and was big enough to hold all the Brisbane unions plus community groups. The only union to put a fush at the sellout was the left aligned Unemployed Workers union.

Even a leading communist went along with the plan saying that said that they had to sell it because of the plumbing and the wiring. Despite the fact that they had the best tradesmen in Qld turning up to union meetings in the building each week, I agree with Bernie Neville – very bad.

The workers own resistance, the Communist Party building was sold out in a similar to 4ZZZ for a song. It is little wonder Bernie Neville is so critical of the hypocrites of the labour movement.

But what happened to the community building in West End called AHIMSA house that was gifted to the community by a retired meat-worker. It was given up to a fraudster who still runs his business from the same building.   Both Bernie Neville and Thomas (Paradigm Shift) are from Leeds in England so we got onto the causes of the rioting in the UK. I will put the show up on Paradigm Shift

Iraqi Icicle by Bernie Dowling

Blues-rock diva Janis Joplin liked to shout at her concerts that drugs ‘n’ sex ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll would get us well; would get the whole world well. Joplin died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27. Janis was not around Brisbane between 1986 and 1992, the setting and time frame of Queensland journalist Bernie Dowling’s first novel Iraqi Icicle. But drugs ‘n’ sex `n’ rock roll certainly were. In spades. Along with war.

In October 1970, when Janis died, heroin was an international scourge and America and its allies were prosecuting the Vietnam War. In January 1991, heroin was an international scourge and America and its allies were prosecuting the first Iraq War, also called the Persian Gulf War.

Janis Joplin rates a passing reference in Iraqi Icicle, a private detective thriller with an unlikely sleuth, Steele Hill, an orphan who claims to be John Lennon’s love child and lives for gambling and alternative rock music.

The novel questions whether rock music lived up to Joplin’s boast of it changing the world.

Whenever he drives by, Steele Hill shakes his fist at the yuppie white apartments which replaced Cloudland and he says the Go-Betweens wrote a song about the ballroom’s demolition. He is referring to a few lines from the band’s most successful single The Streets of Your Town.

Iraqi Icicle is a darkly humorous novel of a period which saw the explosion of personal computers and mobile phones in Australia, and, in Queensland, the Fitzgerald Inquiry into police corruption which toppled the long-serving Joh Bjelke-Petersen government.

There are three characters in this part of the story
1. Narrator/ Steele Hill, — amateur detective in the crime thriller genre
2. Mooney— Police Sergeant
3. Schmidt— Police Constable

Narrator/ Steele Hill
It was a week before I saw the cops again. They tried to kick down the door of my flat, which is on the floor below My Cucumber Natalie and not 800 metres from my beloved Brisbane racetracks.

I was listening to the latest Go-Betweens album 16 Lover’s Lane and letting the sound vibrate through me as I sat in my armchair. Unfortunately I had to get up or risk the two detectives breaking my door down and claiming I had assaulted their feet. I invited the dees in and offered them cups of rat poison. Mooney and Schmidt exchanged meaningful glances. It didn’t worry me a bit. Meaningful glances come as easily as breathing to coppers; they mean nothing. I did open my eyes a little wider when Constable Schmidt barked, ‘Cyanide.’

Mooney supported his junior. ‘But you already know that, Hill.” Cyanide had killed Suzanne Lu.

Mooney and Schmidt knew I had not murdered a complete stranger with a poison I would not know from Vegemite. I decided to stop this nonsense. I looked straight at Mooney, into those hateful eyes. ‘It’s a fair cop, Senior Sergeant.’ Mooney would love to be a senior sergeant, come pension day, so I could always get a bite with that one. I saw the blood rise in his eyes and I pressed on. ‘After you have proved that one, you can start on the Theory of Relativity.” The Sergeant growled back at me.

‘You’re a smart arse, Hill, too smart for your own good. But you’re in this up to that long hair at the back of your neck. Seven-thirty, tomorrow night, La Boite. The others already know about it. Be there, or we will kick down whatever door you’re hiding behind and then start on your face.’

‘I’m there,’ I said. You have to admit the invite had a certain charm to it. The next track playing on the sixth Go-Bees album was The Streets of Your Town which they had released twice, once the previous year when the album came out and more successfully in June of that year of 1989. The band was signed with the major US label Capitol and some fans were saying the guitar-based pop rockers who started in Brisbane in the late seventies were going to grab the world recognition they deserved. Clouds inevitably darkened a rock band’s horizon and, by December, rumours erupted the Go-Betweens had broken up. If the rumour of a bust-up was true, it was an inopportune time as even an unhip copper like Mooney recognised the chorus of the band’s deeply disturbing radio-friendly single.

Round and round, up and down
Through the streets of your town.
Everyday I make my way
Through the streets of your town.

‘That’s that slag’s song,’ Mooney screamed at the record player. ‘That drummer, what’s her name, Lindy Morrison, fucking bitch stole my watch. ‘I’m not listening to that crap any more. When you’re done, Schmidt, I’ll see you in the car.’

Mooney stormed out the cracked door. Schmidt walked and looked around the room before he approached the record player.

‘Congratulations, Hill. You play the only song not recorded by Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin or Kenny Rogers that Mooney knows. ‘And now I have to hear about her stealing his watch for the rest of the day.’

‘What’s that about? If Mooney’s been to a Go-Betweens concert, I have to throw out my entire record collection.’ Schmidt moved away from the stereo and began to rummage through kitchen cupboards and drawers.

‘It was way back in 1978, before Lindy Morrison was even in the band, as far as I know. You remember, the Premier at the time, Joh Bjelke-Petersen banned street marches as a form of civil protest.’

‘Vaguely, I was only 13 or 14 at the time and the nuns in the orphanage weren’t big on breakfast table discussions of the political news of the day.’

‘I wasn’t much older myself, but the old coppers tell me the uni students and their crackpot mates would call a demonstration at the drop of a hat. After a scuffle at one demo, Mooney charged Morrison with stealing his watch.’

‘And did she?’

‘From what I gather, his watch came off in a melee and Morrison held the watch in the air as if to say ‘Who owns the watch?’ And Mooney pinched her. Anyway, she got off at the pre-trial committal stage. But Mooney swears black and blue she got away with trying to nick his watch. If you ask me, he probably only charged her because he did not want to be grateful to a 20-something girl for returning it.’

I nodded to say Schmidt’s suggestion made some sense while he continued his unenthusiastic search.

‘I’m supposed to give you an early Christmas present,’ Schmidt said.

A ‘present’ was cop lingo for planting something such as dope or a firearm or incriminating evidence on someone, such as me, they did not like. Schmidt threw me a plastic bag which I instinctively caught. It contained about 50 grams of marijuana.

‘I couldn’t be bothered as you will be in jail soon enough. By the way, I would plan not to be here about dawn on the fourteenth when some unwelcome visitors from the drug squad are likely to arrive.’

Hard copies of the full novel, Iraqi Icicle, available online at Digital Print Australia Iraqi Icicle Price per Unit (book): $24.95 (including 10 % GST)

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