Author(s): Ross Honeywill
At 13, Jim McNeil quit school for good. At 14, he started an affair with a brothel madam. For years he relished his life among the thugs, thieves and whores. By his 20s, he was a recidivist, had a wife, six kids and was well on his way to a 17-year sentence for shooting a policeman during an armed robbery.
When he wrote his first play, in prison, he'd never set foot in a theatre. Just four years later he was a celebrity, freed ten years early thanks to the agitation of a powerful group of Sydney elite, who declared him one of the country's most important writers. Three months later he married Robyn Nevin, won the Australian Writers' Guild script award, and was commissioned to write the screenplay for My Brilliant Career.
Charismatic and charming, he was at the height of his powers. He never wrote again. Pursued by Sydney society, and lost in a world that lacked the strict regimen of prison life, he fell back into alcoholism and violence. He returned to the streets and was dead within a decade. His four plays stand as a testament to a talent sadly wasted. For the first time, this is the story of his tragic, mesmerising life.
Short-listed for 2011 Ned Kelly Awards
Ross Honeywill's books include I-Cons, NEO Power and Lamarck's Evolution.