Hugh Lunn with veteran reporter and author Ken Blanch in 2006. Photo by L.J. May.

Writer Watch

Hugh Lunn


The Books


Books written as an investigative journalist and war correspondent


Joh: The Life and Political Adventures of Johannes Bjelke-Petersen (1978), Behind the Banana Curtain (1980) – that’s Queensland to you – and Queenslanders (1984) are all out of print and Hugh has no copies – but they are still available to read through the Brisbane City Council (BCC) Library Service.


VIETNAM: A Reporter's War (1985)

This riveting account of the Vietnam War, not surprisingly, won The Age Book of the Year Award 1985. This is a no B/S, ego-free account of the war, probably the best book I’ve read on the subject. Hugh arrives in Vietnam for Reuters in 1967 as a fresh-faced and eager 25-year-old, but when the bullets start flying he is terrified as he hits the dirt, and we are with him every step of the way.

This book is a ‘must read’ for every Australian and has had three different publishers, two of them in New York. It is still in print with ABC books and Hugh has some copies left.



Over the Top with Jim: Hugh Lunn’s tap-dancing, bugle-blowing memoir of a well-spent boyhood (1989)

It is the 1950s and the cold war is hot news and so are the cakes at ‘Lunns for Buns’, Fred and Olive’s busy cake shop in Annerley Junction, Brisbane. Fear of communists is rampant; many Australians are convinced that it is only a matter of time before the yellow peril will descend on Australia and there will be reds under the beds.

Into this world of suspicion arrives Jim Egoroff, subversive Russian agent and all-round tough guy, aged nine. Not only is Jim Russian (gosh) but his family had come to Australia from Harbin in northern China – a double-bunger threat. After Hugh calls him a communist pig, Jim threatens to ‘rubber his ears’. Hugh’s already perilous childhood threatens to become a whole lot more frightening.

As he wrestles with the problem of dealing with Jim, young Hugh muses thusly: ‘Although I was only nine years old, I knew enough to know that you just don’t get Russians called James... Maybe, after six years of religious instruction by the nuns at our St Joseph’s Convent, I knew that the name of an apostle didn’t sit well on a Red. Not even Judas, let alone James. For, despite what he had done by telling on God, Judas was still a Catholic and he could well have made an Act of Contrition just as he passed away and thus could have died in the State of Grace (barring any last-minute impure thoughts) and gone straight to Heaven.’

Ray Martin said of this book: ‘I defy you to read it without laughing out loud.’ After it came out, Jim Egoroff flew back from overseas and yelled, ‘Open the door Lunn so I can punish you for your sins.’

There have been three editions of this best-selling memoir, first published in 1989 and serialised on the ABC radio program Australia All Over. The book has never been out of print, with three publishers in 23 years. Hugh has some copies at home to sign for enthusiasts.

The Over the Top with Jim Album (1995)

This is a companion book to Over the Top with Jim, using photographs of the fifties and other illustrations and memorabilia. It is now out of print but there are copies in BCC libraries. Hugh has some albums left.

More Over the Top with Jim Stories (1992)

It was Australia’s popular ABC Radio presenter Ian ‘Macca’ McNamara who encouraged Hugh to write this follow-up to Over the Top with Jim. It was originally published as Fred and Olive’s Blessed Lino until the publisher, UQP, changed the title for subsequent editions. The book is now out of print and Hugh has none at his place, but there are copies in BCC libraries, both in hard copy and as a sound recording.

Head Over Heels, University of Queensland Press (1992)

This sequel to the bestselling Over the Top with Jim follows Hugh from late adolescence to his early misadventures as a cadet reporter at the Courier-Mail, and his obsession with his luminous fellow cadet, Sally-Anne, a girl who would later go on to become Sally-Anne Atkinson, Lord Mayor of Brisbane, and who had no idea at the time that the torch Hugh carried for her would have lit up Brisbane.

In their later years, Sally-Anne and Hugh have occasionally found themselves speaking at the same function or sitting on the same panel, whereupon the audience and other members of the panel take great pleasure in giving them a hard time because of this memoir.

Hugh says: ‘Head Over Heels is currently out of print, but ABC Books are talking about reprinting it next year.’ Meanwhile, Hugh has about half a dozen copies and you can also find the book in BCC libraries.

Spies Like Us (1995)

Hugh went to Hong Kong on the eve of the Cultural Revolution with his mad tennis-playing mate Fletch. He manages to fall in love (again) and blunders into ‘Red’ China.

Hugh says: ‘What do you do when it's the swinging 1960s and you've got the job as a reporter and the car, a Sunbeam Alpine, but lost the love? I went to Hong Kong with my Wimbledon tennis-playing mate Ken Fletcher. He knew all about gambling and women and my education was completed by Steve Dunleavy, the Sydney reporter who wrestles grizzly bears on TV and invented tabloid TV in the United States. Which is how I ended up in ‘Red’ China in 1965 and got into trouble in Russia.’

Spies Like Us is a great book – ‘It’s a ripper,’ said Ian ‘Macca’ McNamara. It is still in print, now with ABC Books, and Hugh has some copies for signing.

Working for Rupert (2001)

In the next episode of his brilliant career, Hugh spends seventeen years working on the Australian as Rupert Murdoch’s ‘foreign correspondent’ in Queensland. Often Clark Kent but never Superman, Hugh battles editors, colleagues and executives in News Corporation’s most remote and exotic outpost of world empire.

Hovering like an unquiet ghost over Hugh’s life is Rupert; every now and again, when he’s least expected, dropping in for one of his ‘terror from the sky’ visits. Even Microsoft’s Bill Gates describes Murdoch as ‘the most influential man in the world’.

From close quarters in the 1970s and 1980s, Hugh observes the rise and rise of Rupert Murdoch and, by way of contrast, recounts his own wild ride in which he gets sacked, hired, sacked and hired again by a cast of editors who come and go like nappies on a baby.

Hugh says: ‘No publisher wants to touch this book: I wonder why? Out of print. I have the only copies, which people are, all of a sudden, hungry to get hold of.’ If this book goes missing from the BCC Library Service we’ll know why.

On the Road to Anywhere (2003)

This book, the seventh of Hugh Lunn’s memoirs, came out some eighteen months after Working for Rupert. After Over the Top with Jim was serialised on the ABC, Hugh was invited to go on a tour of Australia with the ABC’s radio presenter Ian ‘Macca’ McNamara to talk to audiences about how he came to write Over the Top with Jim and what happened to make it No. 1 in Australia.

The stories, accompanied by photos, tell of his encounters with some well-known and little-known Australians, including Bille Brown and Ray Martin. They went everywhere man! Gundagai, Euroa, Warnambool, Swan Hill, Hobart, Batlow, Goulburn, Ross, Burnie, Raymond Terrace... you name it.

Hugh says: ‘This is one of my best books. It’s out of print but I have a few left.’



The Great Fletch (2008)

We first met Hugh Lunn’s friend Kenny Fletcher in Over the Top with Jim and later in Spies Like Us where, in Hong Kong, he became the model for the American TV show I Spy, with ‘Kelly Robinson’ played by Robert Culp, and his best mate ‘Scottie’ played by a then unknown American comedian named Bill Cosby.

It was a long way from Annerley Junction where Kenny, a lonely child with an irrepressible spirit, was given a racquet by a passing French tennis star and perfected a stunning forehand. Annerley Junction was more than a little surprised when young Ken was seeded Number 3 at Wimbledon.

Kenny Fletcher’s achievements included five Wimbledon titles, and he was the only man ever to win the Grand Slam of Mixed doubles (with Margaret Court) using the stroke that Harry Hopman called ‘the best forehand in the world, He had his name etched on the Davis Cup and then went on to lead a glamorous life in Paris, London and Hong Kong. Kenny Fletcher died in 2005 at the age of 65.

Kris Humphreys wrote in the Sunday Age: ‘This book had me wishing I could race out and buy tickets to the tennis... Ken Fletcher was the James Bond of the tennis world, mixing it up with film stars and royalty, yet worried that his mum would disapprove of his glamorous life.’

Hugh says: ‘The Great Fletch was reprinted by ABC Books in February 2012 and is still going strong. It’s my favourite. I have copies if anyone wants a signed one.’


The State of the Nation and language please!

Lost for Words: Australia’s lost language in words and stories (2006)

‘She could talk under wet cement with a mouthful of marbles’... ‘It’s snowing down south!’... ‘A shut mouth catches no flies!’... Stop prattling on, you girls. Can you keep it down to a dull roar?’... ‘He’s all mouth and trousers!’... ‘I look like I’ve been dragged through a bush backwards!’

If these phrases ring a bell, then you remember the colourful, candid lingo of 1940s, 50s and 60s Australia. Hugh Lunn spent sixteen years collecting the words and phrases that many Australians once used every day. Hugh points out that our own rich language has been eroded and replaced by global TV shorthand, such as: as if, you wish, get real, puh-leese, whatever...

Hugh says: ‘Lost for Words is still in print with ABC Books. It has been printed 11 times in six years and is my second most popular book. Bookshops have been going through them like wind through a barbwire fence and it shows that I’m an Aussie through to my underpants. I have copies available.’

Words Fail Me: A journey through Australia’s lost language (2010)

This companion volume to the enormously popular Lost for Words was precipitated when hundreds of readers responded to that book by sending Hugh Lunn a torrent of further forgotten words and sayings. ‘So many arrived it was like trying to take a sip out of a fire hose,’ Hugh said.

In Words Fail Me, Hugh intertwines sayings and phrases of yesteryear with true stories and anecdotes that recapture what Australia used to be like ‘back when’ – and contrasts these with modern language madness. He takes on the road signs, gobbledegook, jargon and corporate-speak that have replaced our richly inventive Australian language. These days people would say that Hugh ‘is having issues!’

Hugh says: ‘The book was reprinted and is still in print with ABC Books. I have copies.’

You can email Hugh at if you would like a signed copy of his books. Having said that, let me say this...

‘Quit while you’re behind Lunn!’ – Jim Egoroff