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george saul haim joseph marshall

George the Malay with all the troubles in the world, lying dead in the Mosman scrub for fifteen days, being torn around by rogue possums and wild rats, some semblance of a soft copy Rubiayat lying around him somewhere. A couple of pencilled asterisks by a particular verse. His favourite.

Ah, make the most of what we may yet spend,

Before we too, into the dust descend:

Dust under dust, and under dust to lie,

Sans wine, sans song, sans singer and sans end. 

Omar Khayyam was selling well in those days. Blame the war. A book of romantic Persian verse to be sent home to the little woman, or read by the lonely bride. Some soldiers took a copy to war.

George also had his poison, his cup and flask – a lemonade bottle. Only distant mountain spires were missing George: how you quested.

George was the marriage of fervour to shifting hopes. There was his book of poetry, ‘ Just You and I. ‘  Published and ignored. The doctors in Western Australia thought him insane and had him taken to the Heathcote Asylum after George had expressed his desire for the sea to take him.

George was talkative and philosophical over dinner. His conversation enthralled all who knew him well and there were many he entertained. He was kind, George, and generous to Gwen the hairdresser. Gwenneth Graham.

Gwenneth knew his heart. I’ve heard it said before that some hairdressers do that, know your heart.

Gwenneth bled herself to death in her warm bath not long after she was made to appear at the inquest into George Marshall’s suicide.

What isn’t clear anywhere are the questions they asked of this woman. A Courtroom of White Men.

When Gwen was on hard times George offered her money one day and she laughed. George!

Three days later there were two hundred pounds in her bank account.


Australia. 1945.


Coracina Novaehollandia.

This fellow comes by twice a day, depending on the sun’s position in the large glass pane that protects the home from summer’s north-easters.

He flies up to the glass about thirty or forty times, twice a day, flutters up and knocks it softly with his beak. Then he retires back to a branch of the Durobby that grows close by.

Sometimes he manages to fly over the top of the glass and into the atrium itself, this is where we sit watching him. And of course the bafflement continues. Now he’s fluttering up to the inside of the glass and tapping it with his beak. Same problem.

It doesn’t matter which side of the glass he’s on, the problem remains the same.

There’s only himself on the other side.

The Bookmaker from Rabaul.

29 Comments Post a comment
  1. ellen #

    George and Gwen fascinate me. George was characterized as having a traumatic brain injury as a child. Today neurologists know more about that condition. He was spoken of as being brilliant but having mood swings. He had a position of influence in the government Prices Exchange Commission. Then he screwed it up. He discovered something out of order and wound up sacked and thrown in a mental hospital. Gwen was a carefree girl about town whose landlord considered her too colorful for propriety. She had a former boyfriend, Andre (newspaper didn’t give last name ) who got into some trouble and took off. She complained to her mother about a dangerous man who had come into her life. Helmut Herndon was with her in her final hours but didn’t hear a peep when she thrashed about in the tub.

    Gwen’s purported suicide got a few lines in Trove, whereas, George’s purported suicide got lots of copy and an inquest.

    Do you suppose George got some nursing assistance when he was released from the booby hatch? A little nurse who communicated through poetry. Perhaps a young pretty Communist nurse in with a knowledge of insulin? As Claus Von Bulow’s housekeeper said, “What for insulin?”

    December 28, 2016
  2. Hi Pete, Do you recall whether George was involved in some kind of sect/cult?

    December 28, 2016
    • I’d reckon Ellen might have an answer there, “George and Gwen fascinate me.”

      December 28, 2016
  3. ellen #

    I never realized how influential George’s brother David was. After the war, he as a lawyer, was able to negotiate with Zhou en Lai for the release of Jews from China and Singapore to other countries since most Jews identified themselves as Russian Soviets. So an agreement between the Russian community and China was agreed upon and they were able to go to US, Canada and Australia and what was to become Israel.

    December 28, 2016
  4. ellen #

    Unpopular well connected man, young pretty gold digger who doesn’t notice too much water in the bathtub, German grifter who makes many trips for his import/export business…..I’m thinking drug cult.

    December 29, 2016
  5. Kings Cross was always a handy place to score .. still is.

    December 29, 2016
  6. Maybe Pakkies?

    December 29, 2016
    • Never knew a cafe society who didn’t know where to go for something other than coffee ..

      December 29, 2016
  7. ellen #

    Back to George who wanted to be called “Lorenzo”. He strikes me as a rebel. He doesn’t live with his family but is estranged from them. They are always trying to hospitalize him and he just wants to be a mystic poet. He loves the Sufi tradition of the Rubaiyat and they are staunchly Jewish. He discovers a gross irregularity at the Prices Commission. Could prices be fixed in a particular direction? This is not how Allah would want it. He describes this situation as “fascist”.
    He winds up on a beach in a scene that could be pictured in a Khayyam poem….a jug of wine and the moving finger stops writing.

    December 30, 2016
  8. The Sufi tradition or the Zoroastrian tradition? Right down to his ‘air’ burial perhaps.

    December 30, 2016
    • His nearest qibla wasn’t in the direction his head was positioned.

      December 30, 2016
  9. ellen #

    George’s suicide evidence, according to the newspaper, were the pages from the Rubaiyat.

    January 1, 2017
  10. ellen #

    What if Jessica left nursing school because of a med error? At the time insulin was being used for psyche cases. What if George got a hot shot from his temporary practical nurse? But a week after the inquest she’s peddling Omar Khayam’s verses to Boxall.

    January 29, 2017
  11. George drank his barbit from a lemonade bottle .. found at the scene. I read that somewhere.

    January 30, 2017
    • ellen #

      Sounds like spin to me. His body wasn’t found for months.

      January 30, 2017
  12. Glass don’t rust and bits of paper don’t blow away. Bodies don’t rot and possums don’t eat flesh. Blowflies don’t lay maggots and crows don’t pick out eyes.
    That’s the spin.

    January 30, 2017
  13. ellen #

    And newspapers told the truth in 1948. Just like today.

    January 31, 2017
  14. ellen #

    Jessica’s first foray into espionage consisted of minding George Marshall who had uncovered high irregularities at the Price Exchange where he worked. He ranted about Nazis. He was fired and became despondent. She was the perfect aide for him. Not only was she a nurse but into poetry which was his passion but which also was a source of failure to him. He dies on her watch and she decides to quit espionage completely. Not only did he die (commit suicide, accidentally poisoned, murdered because he knew too much?) but he was related to a prominent family who would get even. It was an enormous cock up for a rookie.
    The poem which Jessica gave to Boxall in the book, written in her hand, Indeed, indeed….repentance…..etc. is a message that although she foreswore spying after the spring (when George was rotting on the beach) she is willing to take another assignment.

    February 2, 2017
  15. Ellen … what skills do you reckon Jessica had that got her the second chance?

    February 4, 2017
    • ellen #

      I think she was good at chemistry like her uncle. I think she would have known of fast acting poisons like one that would kill mid-systole….or maybe she left that blood pressure cuff on too long.

      February 5, 2017
  16. Ellen, .. so we have a woman who lost one agent due to suicide (Marshall), and who was re-hired to kill another agent (SM) and make it look like suicide.
    Is this how you see it?

    February 5, 2017
  17. Byron Deveson #

    Pete, DA said that Jessie had a life long interest in pharmacology. That is more poisons oriented than pharmacy. And Jessie’s uncle was a pharmacologist, an expert court witness in the area of drugs, had been a manufacturing pharmacist and a pharmacist.

    February 5, 2017
    • …. and Verse 70 was her acceptance of a contract for continuence.

      February 5, 2017
  18. ellen #

    I don’t know that Marshall was a suicide. It takes a good assassin to make swallowing sleeping pills look like suicide. You would need the right dosage so that the body doesn’t reject it and then there is getting the person to take something lethal without putting up a fight. Under the guise of being a medical person, it is easier to poison someone. Poisoning stealthily is also a more feminine means of murder. Perhaps, Jessie was a black widow spy.

    The whole Marshall suicide is strange and melodramatic. He was traumatic brain injured not a loony fantasist. His brother in his eulogy was really reaching to sell the suicide angle. He doth protest too much. I don’t think the Marshall family bought “suicide”. The scion of a wealthy family doesn’t kill himself over losing a job or not getting a good reception of a book on poetry.

    Yes, Jessie had a dark side.

    February 6, 2017
  19. ellen #

    The Case of The Black Widow Spy-der.

    February 7, 2017
  20. Byron Deveson #

    Ellen, it was later (years later) that the KGB/GRU (Yes, I know these organizations went by other names back then) was discovered to have been “suiciding” nuisances. The KGB motto was said to be something like “Any fool can perform a murder, but it takes an artist to orchestrate a suicide”.

    February 8, 2017
  21. Byron Deveson #

    Correction, the KGB saying appears to be “Any fool can commit a murder, but it takes an artist to commit a good natural death”. Hmm.

    February 8, 2017
  22. ellen #

    I bet none of the corpses had any toxicology tests run.
    Jessica’s faint at viewing the bust could have been the result of guilt rather than loss.

    February 9, 2017

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