Larry Writer, author of Razor and Bumper: The Life and Times of Frank ‘Bumper’ Farrell, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |February 18, 2011

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Larry Writer

author of Bumper: The Life and Times of Frank ‘Bumper’ Farrell, Razor and more…,

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Sydney in 1950, and went to seven different primary schools, including Darlinghurst Public in the heart of Bumper Farrell’s beat, and then completed my secondary education at Blakehurst High School.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was 12 I wanted to play lock forward for St George, although I never quite worked out how I was going to unseat Johnny Raper from the position. At 18 I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do (although my mother did: “Any job in a bank when you can wear a nice tie will be perfect.”) At 30 I wanted to write fiction… until I started reading F Scott Fitzgerald and, realising with a jolt that I could never begin to compete with the fiction masters, I used my journalistic training to throw myself into the world of non-fiction.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That being rich and famous was important and something to strive for and ruthlessly attain. I now realise that all that matters is trying to be decent, kind and loving. A cliché, but there’s nothing truer.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

Having the chance to be European bureau chief for both Australian Consolidated Press and Time Inc Australia in the ‘80s and ‘90s respectively was personally and professionally exhilarating and made me appreciate travelling which, with music and reading and films, will give me pleasure my whole life. Meeting my wife Carol and having beautiful children who rely on me has generated a fierce work ethic (which is essential for a freelance writer). Learning to play the ukulele: it won’t make me rich, but I’ll never be sad.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

I LOVE books. I love how they feel and look and smell and glow from my bookshelves. Nothing so beautiful could ever be obsolete.

6. Please tell us about your latest book, Bumper: The Life and Times of Frank ‘Bumper’ Farrell…

It’s a biography of the legendary policeman and rugby league champion Frank “Bumper” Farrell, a man who was as compassionate as he could be intimidating and eccentric and who lived life by his own rules at a compelling time and place in Australian history, the 1930s-‘80s in inner-Sydney.

(BBGuru: From the publisher:

The sprawling saga of a legendary Australian character.

Frank Bumper Farrell was the roughest, toughest street cop and leader of a vice squad Australia has ever seen. Strong as a bull, with cauliflowered ears and fists like hams, Bumper s beat from 1938 to 1976 was the most lawless in the land – the mean streets of Kings Cross and inner Sydney. His adversaries were such notorious criminals as Abe Saffron, Lennie McPherson, Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh and their gangs as well as the hooligans, sly groggers, SP bookies, pimps and spivs.

Criminals knew just where they stood: he would catch them, he would hurt them, and then he would lock them away. He was a legendary Rugby League player for Newtown, and represented Australia against England and New Zealand.

Here s Bumper Farrell in brutal, passionate and hilarious action . . . saving Ita Buttrose from a stalker; sparking a national scandal when accused of biting off a rival player s ear; beating Lennie McPherson so severely the hard man cried; single-handedly fighting a mob of gangsters in Kings Cross and winning; terrorising the hoons who harassed the prostitutes in the brothel lanes by driving over the top of them; commandeering the police launch to take him home to his beach home, diving overboard in full uniform and catching a wave to shore; dispensing kindness and charity to the poor.

Bumper Farrell: lawman, sportsman, larrikin . . . legend.)

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

Inspire readers to treasure what’s gone before and made us the way we are. I like to give readers a glimpse, even if refracted through my perceptions and insights and selective research, into people and places and events they may not have known about, or known only a little about. In a humble way I try to keep long-gone people and locations as alive as the present.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Anyone who inspires me to be a better human being. The list is long and changes every day. Today it’s my wife, it’s a man I read about who found $50,000 in cash and handed it in, and it’s Jimmy Buffett who, at his concert at the Opera House last night, made me feel that having fun and feeling good is a noble end in itself.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

For people to read and enjoy Bumper: The Life and Times of Frank ‘Bumper’ Farrell, and for the Underbelly writers, actors and directors to turn my book Razor into a rich and chilling evocation of Sydney past when it screens this September.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Make deep and questing research the foundation of everything you write. An author who has done his or her homework will never have writer’s block. And, have discipline: write every day and never cut corners.

Larry, thank you for playing.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

Follow John: Twitter Website


  • Catherine Williamson

    April 5, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    My family are very interested in obtaining the book about Bumper Farrell. My grandmother was Doris Farrell who was Bumper’s first cousin.
    Unfortunately as the Farrell family is quite large not all chapters kept in touch over the years, and my grandmother when she married in 1922 moved down to the Illawarra, where my mother and the rest of our side of the family has lived since.
    But the family always spoke of the legend of Bumper. And my brother himself was a very talented NRL player in his youth, and won the Rothman Cup for his kicking at the age of 17 in 1976.
    I certainly would be appreciative of knowing where I can obtain a copy of the book and the rest of Mr Writer’s books also look interesting. Also if any of the Farrell family wish to contact me they are quite welcome.

    • April 5, 2011 at 2:41 pm

      Booktopia is a bookshop. Click on the picture of the book and you’ll be taken through to the Booktopia website where you can buy the book and all of Mr Writer’s other books.
      Thank you

    • Ellen

      June 19, 2011 at 2:57 pm

      Hello Catherine
      I am researching the family of my partner Errol O’Farrell, ggrandson of John O’Farrell known as Farrell who settled in Winton Qld in 1882 but born in Tyrone Ireland. Errol’s father used to say that Bumper was a cousin and I was wondering where a connection could possibly be. The first son of the original settler, John O’Farrell/Farrell was Robert John who was registered only as Farrell settled in Coffs Harbour. He in turn, had a son William I believe who moved to Newcastle. I would appreciate any feedback as this lot are hard to track. My email address is: Regards

  • julia sweet

    May 3, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    I have just received my copy of Larry Writer’s book about Bumper Farrell. Can’t put it down. My father was his friend Cos Mooney. He died in 1963 aged 51. I would dearly love to contact Maureen or Susan who I remember so well. I remember the cracker night when the jumping jack set off the box of crackers. Hilarious! I am now living at Mooloolah in Queensland, happily married, my first husband passed away 20 years ago. I would be thrilled if you could pass on the email addy to the family.

    • Maureen Elsegood

      May 9, 2011 at 8:44 am

      Hi Julia, I am so pleased to be able to contact you. How I remember those picnics we used to have with the Hyde family and others. I remember Cos so well. Dad, Cos, Carl Weik, Pop Farrell and myself used to stand in the same spot at Hensons Park week after week. Please email me and we can keep in touch. My email address is Love, Maureen “Farrell”.

  • Lesley Donnelly

    August 21, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    my mother’s parents(my grand parents) owned the Traedsmans Arm hotel during the days of Razor and was brought up there

  • Tolla Anderson

    August 22, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Greetings Larry Writer
    I am thoroughly enjoying Underbelly Razor and realise that this is just a tiny part of the whole Kate Leigh and Tilly Devine story and that their whole life adventures would take many episodes of a mini series. One question why didn’t Tilly and Kate kill one another or try to kill one another? In the male dominated world of crime male rivals were killed off quicker than you could say razor. I would have loved to have seen a “making of Underbelly Razor” to give current viewers a taste of 1920 and 1930s Sydney, put the series in historical context and show non Sydney siders what Sydney looked like etc in that era.

  • Patricia

    August 23, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Hello Larry Writer,
    I am 74 years old and when I was about 9 years old my mother, father and younger sister(7 years) lived in one upstairs room in a building in Palmer Street, Sydney. (I stayed with my grandparents in the country).
    Years later my mother told me that the girls in Palmer Street would be standing outside their door/s and when a customer came they both went inside. This was interesting to my sister who watched through the upstairs window opposite. One day she said” Mummy, why are those girls standing outside and then go inside with the men?” My mother replied ” O’h they are just selling cigarettes”!
    I never forgot this. Mum also told me that Tilly Devine would arrive in her chauffer driven car, dressed to kill, to collect the takings from her “girls” each week.

    • Brian Raffa

      September 27, 2011 at 8:03 pm

      Hi Patricia i was born in Woolloomooloo in Nicholsen St.I am 70 years old. I read Larry writers book Bumper and i recognised two peole in it one was Corbett who i went to school with and the other was Judith Stone who i also went to school with. I was wondering how to get in touch with Larry to see what has become of Judith Stone and Corbett
      Brian of woollooloomoo

      • Katrina Corbett

        February 6, 2012 at 9:42 am

        Hi Brian,
        My name is Katrina Corbett and I have recently been talking to my grandfather about the razor gangs and what he knows about it. His father was a reporter for The Sun and he knew Kate and Tilly fairly well by the sounds of things. Just woundering if he may be the Corbett you might be talking about as I have not read this book yet? My grandfathers name is William (Bill) Corbett. Hope that helps.

  • Lesley Donnelly

    September 2, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    I am trying to find an email address for larry Writer. Does anyone know it email address is,

  • Boris Rieneck

    January 19, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Dear Larry Writer,I enjoyed your book “underbelly razor” very much and thought I should let you know…I was amazed to read about the 1916 light horsemen mutiny,that wasn’t in our school history books,was it ?
    I also learned something about my family,from your book…
    My father always hated and despised Australians,and never had a good word to say about them,called them liars,thieves,scoundrels etc.,which was something I found confusing,After all I was born and raised here,and managed to get along OK with people.
    Now thanks to your book I know why,My father was a Russian emigre who fled the Revolution,and came to Sydney in 1935 and due to poor circumstances,language difficulties, etc ,lived in Surry hills,and Woolloomloo obviously among the characters/settings that you so well describe.
    Having come from a quite traditional/conservative background,He would have obviously found difficulty getting along with such people.
    Once again thank you for your good book—-Boris.

  • john devine

    November 30, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Hi Larry i hope you get this email.Im new to this form of communication so unsure if you’ll get it.I’ve been trying to get in contact George Parsons Mac Uni would you have he’s email address or some way of contacting him? Thanks for the 2nd book.Tilly’s boy John.

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