Secrets and threats

When Matthew Condon first sat down with disgraced former Queensland police commissioner Terry Lewis, he knew there was a fantastic story to be told. He never anticipated how the story would engulf his life.

Condon (Bachelor of Arts ’83) is a journalist and author of the celebrated Three Crooked Kings trilogy, the shocking true story of half a century of corruption involving Queensland police and government underworld figures.

The UQ alumnus was granted unprecedented access to Lewis, who was convicted, jailed and stripped of his knighthood for corruption and forgery as a result of the 1987 Fitzgerald Inquiry.

The trilogy includes the titles Three Crooked Kings, Jacks and Jokers, and All Fall Down. Condon’s latest book, Little Fish Are Sweet (published by UQP and released in November this year) is his extraordinary personal account of writing the trilogy.

“When the first volume was published I got hundreds of emails, letters and phone calls – people telling me where they were when these events happened,” Condon told Contact.

“The second book was published and the same thing happened. And it was the same with the final volume.

“It felt like the co-operation of hundreds and hundreds of Queenslanders who wanted to fill in the gaps that maybe hadn’t been fully explored.

"And some of the stories were so astonishing I thought it would be criminal to put them in a bottom drawer.”

Condon first met Lewis in February 2010 when Lewis wanted to tell his story. What followed was a six-year journey of in-depth interviews, meticulous research, and threats and intimidation.

“When I started finding discrepancies between what Lewis was telling me and what history was telling me, it started getting difficult with him.

“It was during the second book that he stopped all communication with me and demanded the return of his documents. That book covers the the period between 1976 and 1982, when he was police commissioner,” Condon said.

Matthew Condon talking to Contact about his latest book, Little Fish Are Sweet.

Matthew Condon talking to Contact about his latest book, Little Fish Are Sweet.

“It was a very violent period. A lot of good cops got demoted or chased out of the force. Prostitution and illegal casinos were taking off in the Valley. There was a lot of money at stake and he hated that interpretation of his history.”

Despite threats and intimidation, as well as attacks on his character, Condon tirelessly pursued his investigations.

“I had no concept, stupidly, that so many of these characters were still out there and wanting to preserve their version of history, as opposed to the truth,” Condon said.

“But it was most satisfying to give a voice to the hundreds of policemen and policewomen, ordinary citizens and decent politicians who tried to do something good.

“There were some who lost their lives, so to restore dignity to those human beings was very rewarding.”

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