John Bailey

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John Bailey is an Australian author with seven books to his credit. Bailey’s approach to writing has been to create a strong narrative against the background of an exotic or remote location.

His first book, The Wire Classroom (1969), described colonial life in New Guinea. His second, The Moon Baby (1972), was set in the future in an unnamed metropolis. His third, The White Divers of Broome (2001), concerned pearl shell diving in the coastal town of Broome in the north of Western Australia. The Lost German Slave Girl (2003), related the true story of a slave woman in Louisiana who claimed to be a German immigrant who had been illegally taken into bondage when she was a child. Mr Stuart’s Track (2006), revealed the forgotten life of John McDouall Stuart, the first explorer to cross Australia from coast to coast. Into the Unknown (2011), a biography of the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, was released in October 2011.

Both The Wire Classroom and The Moon Baby were published 40 years ago. Although obtaining critical acclaim, they were not a commercial success and Bailey then married with children decided that it was time he earned some money. Over the next twenty-five years, Bailey enjoyed a varied career, as a public servant in New Guinea, a teacher in England and a barrister in Melbourne. During this time, although he did not write, he retained the hope that some day he would eventually follow his dream to become a full-time writer. Finally in the year 1999 he took the plunge. He threw in the law and moved a thousand kilometres north to a small town close to the Queensland border in sub-tropical New South Wales where he lives with his wife Annie.

His risky decision to change careers at the age of 55 paid off. His books have been well received by the critics and the public alike. They have won, or been shortlisted for, literary prizes and have been optioned for movies.

In 2003 he was awarded the Centenary Medal by the Australian Government for services to literature. John Bailey’s writing has been described as ‘a blend of Steinbeck, Hemingway and Maugham.’ He’s an extraordinary biographer who has an eye for the unusual story. A trial lawyer by profession, he is fascinated by both Australian and American history and has built a successful literary career by bringing forgotten figures to life.

His latest book, Jefferson’s Second Father: the life and strange death of Chancellor Wythe, signer of the Declaration of Independence, explores the life and murder of George Wythe, signer of the Declaration of Independence.

John conducted research for Jefferson’s Second Father as a visiting scholar at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia, and at the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, also in Virginia.

John’s website is

Books by John Bailey