This book marks my second Port Pirie-related review, the first being Mr. Showbiz: The Biography of Robert Stigwood, who was born in Pirie. The difference is, I have actually met both the author and the subject of this new book but can only now say that I ‘know’ Geoff Brock.
The Man Who Saved a City is a title that says a lot. In fact, it says it all. Greg Mayfield’s book is not simply another political biography because Geoff Brock is, most assuredly, not just another politician.
Mayfield’s book is the tale of Geoff Brock – both the boy and the man – who is the son of a rabbit trapper and, with his father away so much, a pseudo-single mother. He has never forgotten what it means to go without but also to hold that against anyone. Mayfield covers Brock’s life from his earliest memories of childhood to working and travelling alongside his father. He includes Brock’s harsh days of schooling – bullied for his height, size, clothes and stutter – to his first jobs and moving through the ranks of major companies, including BP and the Port Pirie Smelter.
Hours were spent interviewing Geoff. His vivid, descriptive memories of the Port Pirie of his young days are recounted in lavish detail, emotionally and sensitively, replete with morals and lessons learned. This all leads to Geoff’s first political decision – to enter into the arena of Local Government as a Council Member and, in time, Mayor of Port Pirie. Each step of Geoff’s journey is prompted by the people around him and demonstrates where his passion and drive for Regional SA has come from.
However, it doesn’t stop there. There is a lot of personal detail in this book which also includes the conditions he lived in, the pride he had in his parent’s for providing for himself and his siblings, and meeting the woman who he would one day marry and, tragically, lose in a car accident – a moment that haunts him to this very day, especially when he hears the sounds of sirens. This personal openness also defines his political approach as the Independent Member for Frome and Minister for Regional Development. Geoff Brock is truly a man of the people.
There is also the obligatory review of the events that led him to become ‘Kingmaker’ after the 2014 State Election and the personal vitriol that was levelled at him for his decision. This decision, while personally challenging, has resulted in some of the strongest State and Federal investment in the regions, particularly for the City of Port Pirie. Having read of all that came before, and what happened since, Geoff Brock has obviously learned the ways of politics but remains true to himself and his constituents.
The Man Who Saved a City is not only a tale of the life (to date) of a sincere and genuine man, but the blueprint, in this writer’s opinion, for what politics truly needs: those who would serve the people, not for their own gain, but for the betterment of all.
Reviewed by Glen Christie
Rating out of 10: 8
Distributed by: Wakefield Press
Released: January 2018