Her superb biography is, beyond the poignant portrait of the artist and the man, an important addition to the history of our literature and our understanding of its human genesis and cost.o - Shelton Lea was born secretly, and adopted in the most bizarre circumstances into a high profile family. Growing up he was told he would never inherit the family fortune; that he had been adopted as a playmate for the natural children. Here began a life of extremes and excesses. Family dynamics produced disastrous outcomes and his adoptive mother placed him in a psychiatric institution at the age of three. He escaped from boys' homes, lived with gypsies, Aborigines, in doorways, in parks and went to prisons along the east coast of Australia. But genetics propelled his ascendance. He was born with tremendous gifts and when, as a teenager in a putrid lock-up, he discovered the writings of Ezra Pound, he knew the path his life would take. Reports of the legendary Shelton Lea spread. He was a romantic, bohemian outlaw - charming, insolent and contemptuous of authority. He stepped far beyond the bounds of propriety, encouraging comparisons to Rimbaud and Villon. When he died he took his wizard words, his mesmerising performance, his rabble rousing, and he was hailed as a seer of our age.
Diana Georgeff is an Australian journalist who has worked and lived many years in London, Italy and the USA. She specialised in politics and social issues and more recently in cultural history, travel and food. She has worked in Australia and London for ACP, the National Times and the ABC.