Book Review: Gelignite’ Jack Murray: An Aussie Larrikin Legend

‘Gelignite’ Jack Murray: An Aussie Larrikin Legend by Phil Murray

Rating: 4-stars

Genre: Sport Biography

Review by Danica Streader

“Truth is stranger than fiction”… whilst this quote might be one of the most lucid comments in the book relevant to society, and perhaps one of my favourite statements, this perfectly defines the actions of Australian larrikin, ‘Gelignite’ Jack Murray. Most notable for his easy-going manner and good-nature, Jack Murray drew national attention by coming first in the 1954 REDEX Round Australia Reliability Trials using motoring knowledge and explosive antics, which had earned him the infamous moniker, ‘Gelignite’. You will also see Jack Murray competing in stock racing, wrestling, hunting and waterskiing, and these ambitious exploits don’t stop here; Murray is a man best known for his cheekiness, persistent will and professional eccentric behavior.

This well-crafted sport biography by Phil Murray, seeks to shed truth to his father’s name and life lived. Each chapter portrays Jack Murray as a true icon, particularly as he shows audiences that being Australian is having the ability to smile in the face of adversity and a determination to approach challenges without fear. Further to this, the author has sensationalised historical references by reporting Murray’s adventures coinciding with the Gold Rush, Second World War, Moon Landing, and the advent of Women’s Liberation. This book has also expertly brought about controversy in the use of explosives. Being praised with publicity for using gelignite as entertainment, Jack Murray’s actions in the 1950s and 60s are in binary opposition with the rise of terrorism in our modern world. This biography is a must-read for younger generations to learn of a whole different world, and one that has shaped Australian cultural traditions.

From a personal standpoint, there is no better person than the son of ‘Gelignite’ Jack to recount Murray’s life events, achievements and never-before-told stories to the public. Phil Murray supports his information with newspaper articles, photographs, television transcripts and verification via personal contracts to Jack Murray. Some of the information would be difficult to divulge, hence why truth is stranger than fiction.

It seems that this book has captivated the baby boomer generation once again with Phil’s recollection of Jack Murray’s non-stop ‘explosive’ life events, in an effort to keep his father’s spirit alive and well. Despite the constant repetition of ‘Gelignite’ Jack’s REDEX trial results in the beginning half, this book remains interesting, accurate and should be deemed an important aspect of modern history. In saying that, I would recommend this sport biography to those who have strong interests in motorsport and watersport, as well as those who want a personal insight into life around the 1950s, especially through the eyes of someone coined a true Australian.  

‘Gelignite’ Jack Murray: An Aussie Larrikin is published by New Holland Publishers Australia, RRP $29.99, and is available at leading retailers or online at:

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