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Bert Edwards

King of the West End

Patricia Sumerling

Bert Edwards
Albert Augustine Edwards, usually referred to as 'Bert', was one of Adelaide's most flamboyant characters. Reputedly the illegitimate son of Charles Cameron Kingston, premier of South Australia, he was born in obscurity in the slums of Adelaide's West End in 1888.

A self-made man, Bert was a city councillor, parliamentarian, and philanthropist, a friend of the poor and scourge of the establishment. He had connections and influence everywhere - in the markets, pubs, sporting clubs, churches and prisons - and soon enough he became known as the 'King of the West End'. Flash in dress and loud in manner, he brooked no opposition.

Bert's future looked rosy, until 1924, when the Labor Party took office and his enemies began to stack up quickly. It all came crashing down in 1931. In a sex scandal engineered against him, Bert was imprisoned for nearly two-and-a half years for gross indecency with an underage male.

And they say Adelaide was dull!

Here, dark and bright, is Bert Edwards in the full biography that his colourful life deserves.

Winner of the 2020 Historical Society of South Australia Keain Medal

Praise for Bert Edwards

'It is so easy for biographers to founder on the clashing rocks of character assassination or be sucked into the whirlpool of hagiography. Sumerling Odysseus-like has happily charted an intelligent course through these twin perils, giving us Bert warts and all. While she claims he remains a mystery, after her work he is no more so than any other person we may yet know and understand to practical purposes. This is a great and social service to us all. Sumerling has done justice to her subject and the underclass of which he was such a fine if flawed expression. Empathetic, compassionate and clinical, deft in her dissection of issues, she is equanimous and balanced without fence sitting; her work resonates. It is of local and national significance, indeed even of international significance if one looks to the history of show trials, such as brought down Oscar Wilde a generation before, and is historiography that graces non-fiction literature. Truly truth is stranger than fiction, and equally majestic and profound. Sumerling has done her discipline proud, and we may justly be gratified that she practices among us. Her prose is a pellucid vehicle for her narrative argument, beautifully paced and unfaltering in its rhythms. She deserves the widest possible audience on this occasion, like Bert himself. Sumerling's seminal work allows us to join in saying with conviction: Vale Bert Edwards, a better human being than those who brought him down. Let the philistine Establishment fear his legend ...' - David Faber, Historical Society of SA newsletter


Patricia Sumerling is co-author of the landmark publication Heritage of the City of Adelaide: An illustrated guide, 1990, and author of The Adelaide Park Lands: A social history, 2011, and Elephants and Egotists: In search of Samorn of the Adelaide Zoo, 2016. She debuted as a novelist in 2010 with a historical crime mystery The Noon Lady of Towitta.
Details
Category
Format Paperback
Size 234 x 156 mm
ISBN 9781743056776
Extent 294 pages
Price: AU$39.95 including GST
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