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The Dam Busters, The Great Escape and Reach for the Sky were all written by Paul Brickhill, an Australian hero of WWII. 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of his birth and the 25th anniversary of his death. It was 1956 and the writer from Sydney’s lower North Shore had every reason to feel blessed. Former journalist Paul Brickhill was the highest-earning author in the UK and two of his bestselling books – The Dam Busters and Reach for the Sky – had recently been made into blockbuster films. Another of his books – inspired by his experiences as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft 3 in Germany during the Second World War – was attracting Hollywood interest. That book was The Great Escape. Yet, life for the enigmatic Brickhill was never simple. He was beset with mental-health issues and his marriage to model Margot Slater was tempestuous. He struggled with alcohol and writer’s block too, as his success – and all that accompanied it – threatened to overwhelm him. In The Hero Maker, award-winning historical author and biographer Stephen Dando-Collins exposes the contradictions of one of Australia’s most successful, but troubled, writers. Brickhill’s extraordinary story – from the youth with a debilitating stutter to Sydney Sun journalist to Spitfire pilot and POW to feted author – explodes vividly to life on the centenary of his birth.
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