Working class man Jimmy Barnes wins book award

He sings ballads and blue-collar odes to the working class man and now Jimmy Barnes is officially an award-winning author - with a new memoir in the works.

Barnes received the biography award at the Australian Book Industry Awards Thursday night for Working Class Boy, his debut book describing a harrowing childhood and self-destructive teens.

Turns out Cold Chisel's lead singer can not only reach the decibels of a single jet engine but write a treat. The book went straight to No.1 and has hit double-platinum figures in music sales parlance.

The second book picks up exactly where the first leaves off - the band in a blacked-out baker's truck - "our equipment and our bags, there was no windows, one door", heading out of Adelaide for Armidale.

The closing pages Barnes finished only last week, taking readers through his days as Cold Chisel's frontman and his solo career to present day. Both volumes are all about family: "Family in terms of my siblings, family in terms of my grandchildren, family in terms of the band."

Working Class Boy was "therapy for me", Barnes says. "This was stuff I had to get out. People were surprised: One, that I could write, and, two, they were surprised by the story. A lot of this stuff I wrote about I hadn't told anybody, it was stuff I had hidden."

The first book led to the second. "I had no intentions of writing a book but when I started writing the first one, it's a long life, I've done a lot of stuff, it's a big life and I thought I should concentrate on the first one first, the story of my life as a child and where a lot of the stuff that happened to me and around us to our family shaped the way I would take on the world as an adult, some of that would shape me to become the way I am as a frontman, as a singer.

"Some of that was really good and some of it was really bad. I figured I would take it up to there. By the time I was 17 years old joining Cold Chisel I figured it was a story on its own and finished it there. This [next] one carries on from where the last one stops."

Book of the year and fiction book of the year went to the Australian crime novel The Dry, by journalist Jane Harper. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, by Dominic Smith, took honours for literary fiction book, while Niki Savva's The Road to Ruin, a dissection of the prime minister's office under Tony Abbott, was named non-fiction book of the year.

With the federal government's proposals for free import of books and free use of copyrighted material less of a burning issue the industry's night of nights was a celebration of writing and song.

After selling more than three million copies of 24 novels in a 25-year career, Di Morrissey was inducted into the ABIA Hall of Fame joining the elite company of Peter Carey, John Marsden, Margaret Fulton and Bryce Courtenay.

Literary agent Margaret Connolly was recognised for her dedicated service to Australian children's literature.

It was announced that the ABC presenter Tony Jones has a new novel coming: The Twentieth Man, inspired by terrorists attacks in Sydney in the 1970s.

Miles Franklin award winner Michelle de Kretser's next book will be Life to Come, out in September,whilePeter FitzSimons has turned his sights on the ill-fated explorers Burke and Wills.

Literary agent Margaret Connolly was recognised for her dedicated service to Australian children's literature.


Gold ABIA for Book of the Year:The Dry, Jane Harper, (Macmillan Australia, Pan Macmillan Australia)

Biography Book of the Year: Working Class Boy, Jimmy Barnes, (HarperCollins, HarperCollins Publishers)

Audiobook of the Year: The 78-Storey Treehouse, Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, Narrator Stig Wemyss (Bolinda Audio, Bolinda Publishing)

Book of the Year for Younger Children: The 78-Storey Treehouse, Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, (Pan Australia, Pan Macmillan Australia)

Book of the Year for Older Children: The Bone Sparrow, Zana Fraillon, (Lothian, Hachette Australia)

General Fiction Book of the Year: The Dry, Jane Harper, (Macmillan Australia, Pan Macmillan Australia)

General Non-fiction Book of the Year: The Road to Ruin: How Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin Destroyed Their Own Government, Niki Savva, (Scribe Publications)

Illustrated Book of the Year: Penguin Bloom, Cameron Bloom & Bradley Trevor Greive, (ABC Books, HarperCollins Publishers)

International Book of the Year: Commonwealth, Ann Patchett, (Bloomsbury Publishing, Bloomsbury)

Literary Fiction Book of the Year: The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, Dominic Smith, (Allen & Unwin, Allen & Unwin)

Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year: Fight Like a Girl, Clementine Ford, (Allen & Unwin, Allen & Unwin)

Small Publishers' Adult Book of the Year:The Australian Native Bee Book, Tim Heard (Sugarbag Bees)

Small Publishers' Children's Book of the Year: My Sister is a Superhero, Damon Young, illustrated by Peter Carnavas, (University of Queensland Press)

The story Working class man Jimmy Barnes wins book award first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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