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Union Jack – synopsis
This dramatic political novel features a cast of rogues, opportunists and idealists set against a background of corruption, strikes and union bashing. Yet this is not the 1980s but the 1920s and Jack O’Leary — socialist, railway worker and fiery unionist — befriends Fred Paterson, a young lawyer who has joined the newly-formed Communist Party of Australia.
They face two very powerful opponents; Queensland Premier and Labor big man Bill McCormack is trying to bully his party into following his line, supported by his mate Ted Theodore. Years of behind-the-scenes dealings and manipulation of government contracts have cemented their friendship and turned them into wealthy men.
When McCormack and Theodore direct members of the ALP to sign an anti-Communist pledge or be expelled, Jack and Fred lead a campaign to hold the Party true to its socialist roots. Ultimately, McCormack and Theodore fall victim to their own vendettas when Jack’s union exposes their crooked dealings, ending their political careers.
Thinking he can make a difference for his members, Jack becomes organiser for the Australian Railways Union but lives with a secret that, if uncovered, will end his political aspirations. However an altogether different danger stalks his future.
This book is intended for those interested in Australian political and working-class history. Whilst the manuscript takes the form of an historical novel, it is thoroughly researched and factually correct and could reliably be used as a reference source.
Jack O’Leary was the author’s grandfather.