The cover of The Alert Grey Twinkling Eyes of C. J. DeGaris

The Alert Grey Twinkling Eyes of C. J. DeGaris

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David Nichols

Entrepreneur, aviator, publisher, publicist, propagandist, playwright, songwriter, motorist, land developer, dreamer: for five brief years it seemed like there was nothing Clement John DeGaris couldn’t do. He’d talk you into investing your life savings with a promise of doubling them in a year and then, when he lost them, he’d talk you into giving him more. He was dashing, patriotic, handsome, fearless and funny: men and women adored him. He’d put a ‘second storey’ on Mildura with his marketing skills and tenacious work in the fruit, irrigation and land industries; he was going to build a new home afresh at Kendenup, Western Australia. Along the way, he wrote and sold books and plays, songs, suburbs and a host of other equally remarkable schemes. There seemed to be little that C. J. DeGaris couldn’t achieve: he was a new kind of Australian man, modern, quickwitted, unflappable.

David Nichols tells the story of this extraordinary comet in the Australian sky of a century ago with a vigour, humour and empathy appropriate to DeGaris himself. The tragedy that the man brings upon himself and his family, and the cruelty of fate, make a universal story as well as an unexplored piece of Australian history that stretches from the birth of Mildura, through to the South Australian settlement of Pyap, to the exciting creation of a new kind of ‘colony’ at Kendenup, and Melbourne’s roaring twenties. 

Born in Melbourne in 1965, David Nichols is a historian of urban and/or popular culture focusing primarily on 20th century Australia. In the 1980s and 90s he edited and wrote for glossy magazines in Sydney. He obtained his PhD from Deakin University in 2002 with a thesis exploring the origins and promotion of town planning in Australia in the early 20th century. Since 2007 he has taught history and theory in the urban planning program at the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning. Additionally, he has had a long association with public radio and is a regular commentator on urban and social issues. He lives with two cats and has a reasonable and well-managed obsession with Finland, its culture and its history.
Book details

FORMAT: Paperback
EXTENT: 400 pages
SIZE: 153 x 234 mm
ISBN: 978-1-76080-165-6
CATEGORY: Australian History, David Nichols, Non-fiction, Staples Fund