Book Review: How I Clawed My Way to the Middle, by John Wood • Glam Adelaide

Book Review: How I Clawed My Way to the Middle, by John Wood

MEMOIR: The long-awaited autobiography of one of Australia’s best loved actors.

A no holds barred, honest memoir of the life of one of Australia’s much-loved actors.

John Wood is no stranger to most Australians, particularly if you’ve seen any of his television performances, over the past several decades: from Michael Aloysius Rafferty in Rafferty’s Rules, to Senior Sergeant Tom Croydon in Blue Heelers. Most recently, he’s been seen as Patrick Tyneman in The Doctor Blake Mysteries. You know him and his immediately-recognisable voice.

What many Australians probably don’t know is his theatrical work, which extends back to the 1960s, and the parts he has played in a career that spans over five decades…and shows no signs of stopping, yet.

In this work, his Agent-inspired autobiography, you will discover the John Wood that only a select few truly know – a multi-talented, multi-faceted, genuinely ‘Aussie bloke’ who has never taken any of the opportunities given to him for granted. Though, as he attests in reference to his years on TV, there are some regrets.

From the opening preface, the reader cannot help but hear John’s voice – something that cannot be said for every autobiography – and it is this recognisable tone that carries you over the subsequent 300-plus pages.

John reflects on the long-gone Australian way of life of the 50s and 60s, from home life, to school, to his decision to pursue a life on the stage. It was a decision that was championed by his wife, Leslie, who has been the love of his life since the moment he lay eyes on her – and features as prominently as his ‘mistress’ (the theatrical arts) as foundational aspects of the man he has become.

We follow him into the financially challenging times as he studied at NIDA, as well as a wage-driven period of work alongside his father at a local abattoir. From thereon in, after graduating and beginning his professional career, we are guided through the ups-and downs of his life in Australian theatre and television and the challenges of this fickle industry.

Wood’s first love has always been the theatre although this is not (for obvious reasons) what he is most publically recognised for. Throughout the book, which is peppered with a cast list of Australian luminaries and legends, we are treated to the catalogue of stagecraft which has seen him work for Australia’s preeminent theatrical companies.

The greatest challenge of his book lies not with the reader, but with the author – John Wood is brutally and lovingly honest, not only about the industry – for which he has strong words, passionately stated, for those he’s worked with, be they loved or loathed – but about his own choices, particularly the sacrifices he made and moments of family life he never saw. The book, in turns, provides joy and sadness although never in a ‘poor me’ manner.

Now in his 70s, John is far from done, with a theatrical tour of Senior Moments scheduled for 2021. Until then, I highly recommend you join John Wood on this guided tour to ‘the middle’.

N.B. – This book is also available in audio format, read by the author – and if, like me, you love John’s dulcet tones, it is highly recommended you indulge yourself in the audiobook version.

Reviewed by Glen Christie

Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: August 2020
RRP: $34.99 trade paperback, $32.99 audiobook, $15.99 eBook

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