'Les Carlyon has died, and Australia has lost one of its greatest wordsmiths.' Greg Baum, The Age
'He's been called Australia's Damon Runyon, but that tag is far too limiting to do him justice. Certainly his turf stories are usually character-driven gems. But read him on Anzac Cove, or Bradman, or Ted Whitten, or any part of the essence of this country. He writes with gritty elegance.' Harry Gordon
Les Carlyon was one of Australia's greatest journalists and writers. His career in newspapers was stellar – he became editor of The Age at 33, and went on to become editor in chief of The Herald & Weekly Times. But he was always much more about the written word than about management, winning two Walkley Awards and the coveted Graham Perkin Journalist of the Year Award in a career where he covered everything from politics to horse racing.
Yet most Australians will know him as an author, writing books that gave us the very essence of our history and our culture - as though he was in the trenches of the Western Front, or in the betting ring at Flemington. His epic account of the first ANZAC campaign, Gallipoli (2001), was truly ground-breaking, combining incredible research and an ability to capture the human essence with a style that was distinctively his own. Gallipoli went on to become an international bestseller, and his sequel, The Great War (2006), won the Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History, and was the 2007 Australian Book Industry Book of the Year. The Master (2012), an intimate portrait of Bart Cummings, cemented Les's place as Australia's greatest-ever horse racing writer.
From Don Bradman to Paul Keating, from Flemington to Flanders, from Henry Lawson to Clive James, A Life in Words is a collection of Les's very best writing, taken from across his career.
Les Carlyon was born in 1942 and died in 2019. He was universally admired as a superlative descriptive writer. He was a reporter, editor, historian, educator and mentor. But above all he was a gifted storyteller, combining elegant prose with a laconic irreverence and biting analysis. He was editor of The Age and editor-in-chief of The Herald and Weekly Times. He shone as a turf writer and war historian. He quietly mentored a generation of Victoria's best journalists, won two Walkleys and is the only journalist to receive Lifetime Achievement awards from both the Walkley Foundation and the Melbourne Press Club. In 2014, he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.