Why I wrote a book about Shane Warne (and s-x), by Paul Barry

Friday, 4 August, 2006

Author and journalist Paul Barry responds to a series of Crikey questions about his new Shane Warne biography, Spun Out:

Thanks for the questions. Can I suggest you read the book before you go any further? Sadly, neither Richard Hinds nor Paul Toohey did that before reaching for their sprayguns.

You ask for whom I wrote this book. The answer is: for anyone who is interested in sport, celebrity and heroes, and in our modern obsession with these things. In particular, I wrote it for people who think that Shane Warne is a wonderful cricketer.

As to why I wrote it … like just about every Australian (or every Australian male), I sat in front of the TV last winter marvelling at how brilliantly Shane Warne was playing for

his country. At a time when his personal life was in ruins, when he was shamed on the front page of every newspaper in the cricketing world, when his marriage had broken up, when he was facing a multi-million dollar divorce, and when he had lost a $300,000 gig with Channel Nine, he was playing better than ever before. Most people in such circumstances would have crawled into a corner and cried. Yet he did the opposite. At times, it seemed like he was the only thing standing between England and the Ashes. And I couldn’t help think that there was something quite remarkable about him, something worth exploring and celebrating, that he must have extraordinary mental strength.

But I also wanted to figure out how someone who was so brilliant on the field could make such a mess of his life off it. I wondered if the two were related. I think they are.

You ask, “Why is there so much s-x in the book?” One answer is that Shane has lots of it. But I think you mean, “Why was there so much s-x in Good Weekend” or on the front page of The Australian the same day? The Good Weekend extract was an edited version of ONE of the book’s 27 chapters. The Oz front page was a boiled down version of The Good Weekend piece.

There is s-x in the book — four out of 27 chapters deal with the ten-or-so s-x scandals that have become public — but most of Spun Out is about other things. The s-x is in the book because it has constantly got Warne into trouble and has repeatedly put him on the front pages of newspapers here and in England. He lost the vice-captaincy of the Australian team in September 2000 because of his alleged harassment of an English nurse, Donna Wright. He lost his marriage because of other s-x scandals in 2003 and 2005.

He lost his contract with Channel Nine because of the UK tabloid exposes before the Ashes. One could not possibly write a book about Warne without dealing with this stuff, unless you just wanted a scorecard of his cricket. You cannot understand the man or people’s reactions to him unless you realise that he has continued to “have fun” as he puts it, despite certain knowledge that he risked his career and his marriage by doing so.

You ask whether I considered the effect that this book would have on Simone Warne. Did Shane ask that, I wonder, as he reached for his mobile? Did Crikey ask that when it published stories about Shane’s peccadilloes in the past?

Finally, you ask how I respond to Richard Hinds from The SMH describing the book as “more Kath and Kim than Four Corners“, and to Paul Toohey in The Bulletin calling it one of “the most graceless and unfair pieces of investigative journalism ever pieced together in this country”.

Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it’s a big call from Paul. I might take it more seriously if he had actually read the book before condemning it so grandly. His view is not shared by two former cricket writers who read the book before publication. Nor is it shared by the ABC’s First Tuesday Book Club reviewer. They liked the book. But then they read it in its entirety, rather than sounding off at one extract.