Acknowledgements and Dedication
Despite the reality of the events I have described in this book, I have had much need to research established facts and official procedures, times, dates, places, flora and fauna, and a host of other matters in order to complete this history as accurately as possible.
In consequence, and in no particular order, I wish to thank the following for their assistance:
The Lapidary Society of NSW; the NSW Cactus and Succulent Society; the Bromeliad Society of NSW; various departments of the Queensland Police Services; Canning Street Hospital, Rockhampton; the Australian Federal Police Service; Outdoor Adventure Equipment p/l; the NSW private investigation agency who wished not to be named: the Criterion Hotel, Alpha, Queensland; Emerald Tourist Park, Queensland; the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service; Greyhound Australia; Countrylink Train Services NSW; Queensland Rail Services; Kennards Self-storage; ICI Research; Central Intelligence Agency (USA); the University of NSW; the Master Index of Army Records (USA); the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management; the European Organisation for Nuclear Research; Samsung; the Queensland Museum South Bank; the Rockhampton Aero Club, Queensland; the NSW Metropolitan Public Libraries Association; and the State Records Authority of NSW. My thanks to any other organisations or individuals I have overlooked, along with my apologies for having done so.
Additionally I must thank
all the individuals whose appearance in these pages has contributed to the
reality of the tale, and without whom the events would not have originally taken
place at all.
Finally thank you to my dear
Tammy for once again listening to half-finished excerpts, and providing creative
comments along the way.
This book, understandably enough, is dedicated to ‘Glenn’.
A most extraordinary gentleman.
About The Author
John Porter spent his childhood growing up amongst the fruit
orchards of North Kent, and after leaving school, gained horticultural
qualifications at Hadlow College near the historic spa town of Tunbridge Wells.
He migrated to Australia at the age of nineteen, with his first wife, in 1980.
deriving his main income over the years from employment in the plant industry
and his own wholesale and retail nurseries, John has always maintained the keen
interest in words and storytelling that was first fired up by his father’s vast
collection of books, and an enigmatic and inspirational English teacher at Queen
Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Faversham.
John has written
for many local organisations and groups in his native England, as well as
preparing a number of public documents for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
in the 1980s. He has contributed many poems and short stories to various
publications in England and Australia over the years, including meditations for
The Upper Room.
John Porter was
Winner of the New England Award for Crime Writing in 2014, with his story,
The Moonlighter. The story
also received a Commended Award in the Fiction category of the Thunderbolt
The author now lives and writes in rural New South Wales.
Many who read this tale will no doubt consider it fanciful, inventive and convoluted. They will perhaps view it as a highly improbable story cobbled together for the sake of an entertaining and absorbing narrative, rather than an account of events that actually took place. I hope those readers enjoy what they will undoubtedly see as a work of intriguing, if somewhat dubious, fiction.
For the others I will simply state that this book was one that cried out to be written. Life in Sydney during the late 1980s was colourful and dynamic, and I arrived as a young man from England, looking forward to a bright future in a rapidly developing and increasingly cosmopolitan country. As soon as I set foot on Australian soil it was as though my life suddenly brimmed with excitement and opportunity, and I launched myself into it with gusto.
‘Celebrate in 88’ was the catch-cry of all Australians that year. It was the country’s bicentenary of European settlement, and the tall ships gathered in Port Jackson to present the world with one of the most colourful and jubilant flotillas it had ever seen. Gorbachev, along with others who had learnt their diplomacy from reformist Nikita Khrushchev a few years earlier, had consolidated the somewhat fragmented Communist Party in the USSR, and was gradually building warmer relationships with the Western world. In America, Ronald Reagan had somewhat surprisingly initiated a massive military defence build-up in order to bolster public confidence and gain better ratings in the polls. A little-known part of that huge armaments ‘collection’ was new research into the development of biological and chemical weapons. The impoverished Soviet Union was unable to compete in the new arms race, and the year before I watched Australia celebrate 200 years of white settlement, Reagan challenged Gorbachev to join the USA and tear down the Berlin Wall together. Just one year later, as the events of this tale occurred, the challenge was met, and the wall was removed.
Immediately families were reunited, and people flowed across the previously forbidden and often fatal barrier … mostly from East to West. It felt to me at the time as though the entire world had been released from prison. I worked as a volunteer for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the UK before travelling to Australia, and the concept of glasnost excited me immensely. I assumed that the Western powers would similarly reach across the old borders to shake hands. As some of the accounts which follow indicate, the American armed forces were perhaps a little less reluctant to relax than were their Soviet counterparts
This story contains many cameos that I actually experienced, and snapshots of some fascinating and unusual characters. As such, the majority of this tale is written just as it occurred, although during the sometimes bizarre and mysterious account of my experiences I found several spaces where I had no facts to work with. For the sake of a coherent narrative I have bridged those small gaps with the most probable assumptions based firmly on what actually happened before and after the periods of missing detail.
In a nutshell, I was befriended (and employed) by an eccentric ex-scientist, who subsequently introduced me to a number of his friends and colleagues, each of whom exhibited their own curious idiosyncrasies. From the quirky to the outright freakish, a parade of characters drew me ever deeper into their strange worlds, and I became addicted to studying their frequently erratic views and lifestyles. Of course, other aspects of my life continued in a reasonably normal fashion at the same time. There was no need to record those details in this account … there was plenty to document without adding unnecessary red herrings.
Then suddenly, into my field of vision, and indeed, well within range of my sense of smell, stepped one singularly unconventional man, whose life history contained dozens of elements which most people, myself included, considered too extreme and bizarre to be true. Yet time after time, ‘proof’ appeared to validate his unlikely tales. With no apparent intention, he drew brief verbal pictures, but never seemed to quite finish them, and as months passed, an increasing number of lesser eccentrics were drawn along by his ongoing sagas. Frequently, the tales he told were clearly connected; at other times the threads were difficult to untangle. Some parts of his story remain mysteries to this day. This strange, singular newcomer wove a web that involved the legendary Lasseter’s Reef, American biological weapons research, covert CIA activity within Australia, a hidden hoard of gemstones and a sapphire mine, among many other equally unconventional and often startling topics.
The resulting chaotic attempts to clarify the truth or otherwise of this man’s revelations led several people to stake a great deal of money and time in a concerted effort to profit from his stories. As so often happens, greed frequently overcomes good sense. Although I will never be entirely sure of the exact fate of the extraordinary and grotesque Glenn Hogg, I have provided the reader with the most likely outcome to his tale, based on the facts I experienced over a period of several years. This book is not merely based on a true story, it is a true story. The culmination of the mystery and adventure, although hypothetical, is the only reasonable conclusion I can draw from the preceding real events.
I have retained the names of the original locations and settings, and all the characters are very real. Although all personal names other than mine have been changed, along with some business names, the titles, interests, and mannerisms of the people who walk through these pages are exact reflections of their real-life counterparts.
The events described herein are as I experienced them a little over two decades before I set them down, and many of the individuals mentioned still occupy a privileged place in my heart and memory. Many would be disconcerted and possibly angry if I had used their real names, and I hope that I have hidden their true identities sufficiently. If not, then I apologise. My intention was to write Glenn’s story, which is one that demanded to be told, not to expose others to scorn or ridicule in any way.
As I’ve indicated, a number of riddles arose during the period I have described. The chapters which follow contain my attempts to untangle those riddles and share with the reader a tale which even I still find difficult to believe actually occurred.
CHAPTER ONE - PART SAMPLE
During the late 80s I led something of a bohemian lifestyle. I was heading towards thirty years of age and had half a notion I was in the process of settling down, although I wasn’t altogether sure what that really meant. In the evenings I played board games or watched television with three other tenants of a shared house. At least once a week we went to a party in one of the nearby streets of Wahroonga or Turramurra, usually stumbling home in the early hours of the morning. We drank a little tequila, or cheap white wine, smoked a little pot, and we each held down a job that gave us enough income to pay the rent.
I worked in a tiny garden centre called ‘Kolor at the Korner’ in Hunters Hill, a salubrious peninsula on Sydney’s North Shore. My employer, Anthony, was a bespectacled, fresh-faced man in his early forties, not unlike a youthful Woody Allen, but dressed very fashionably, and very fastidious over his grooming.
Anthony had a slightly crazy look about him, and an unsettling way of peering sideways at you when he spoke. His soft voice, infectious laugh and kindly nature belied his forceful business acumen, and I was surprised to learn that he owned several small garden shops dotted along the affluent beachside suburbs.
We hit it off at my interview immediately, and Anthony offered me the position of manager at the small, boutique retail nursery, which in effect meant I managed myself, since I was the only employee of the little business.
At that time the area surrounding Kolor at the Korner was in a state of flux, midway through a major social change. Some old homes were still retained by families whose parents and grandparents had entertained guests and lovers there, watched their young men go off to war, and lamented their lost heroes.
Elderly residents brushed the dust off elderly furniture, and sat in darkly lit, wood-panelled rooms, reading the Sydney Morning Herald, and patting elderly cats. When their elderly bones finally ceased to move about, they were buried or burnt, or sometimes their sons, daughters, nephews or nieces moved them into expensive nursing homes while they were still just about alive. The newcomers to the peninsula were drawn from the ranks of the nouveau riche – advertising executives, designers, medical specialists, car-yard proprietors, and for all I know sanitation engineers and high-rise window-cleaning professionals.
After a while it became apparent that they all had one thing in common. Stretching themselves fully to raise funds to buy into the area, they had little or nothing left to maintain a lifestyle befitting their homes.
I often made deliveries, and upon entering the palatial entrance hall of some great home, was surprised to see cheap second-hand furniture – even milk crates, covered with fabric throws, instead of chairs. This is no exaggeration. Few of the recent ‘settlers’ had much spare change, and keeping up appearances was more important than a comfortable lifestyle.
Similarly, those elderly residents whose homes had been handed down to them had little money either. I called them the ‘nouveau poor’. Land rates were among Sydney’s highest, and most traditional home-owners no longer worked, but lived off pensions or investments. Either way they needed to watch their pennies very carefully.
In short, the homes near Kolor at the Korner were filled with seemingly rich people, few of whom had any money, and as a result the garden centre’s till was usually very sad. Gift-wrapped orchids in choice ceramic pots made up most of the sales. Society ladies took them for their lunch party hostesses. For all other garden needs, as well as basic groceries, people travelled to discount stores in neighbouring suburbs.
After closing the shop in the evening, I invariably caught a harbour ferry and enjoyed the ride to the ferry terminal at Darling Harbour. I would spend a pleasant hour walking through the Botanic Gardens, or along the harbour foreshores, watching the coming and going of ferries and pleasure craft, or the bustle of activity of Woolloomooloo’s naval docks. Mostly I bought a bag of chips, but occasionally I’d sit for an evening meal in one of the many intimate little international cafes or restaurants, before heading home by train.
I had been in Australia seven or eight months, and it was very different from my younger days in my native England. I was having fun, but the longevity of my employment was clearly in question.
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