Most Australians have heard of the Boer War of 1899 to 1902 and of Harry 'Breaker' Morant, a figure who rivals Ned Kelly as an archetypal Australian folk hero. Born in England and emigrating to Queensland in 1883 in his early twenties, Morant was a charming but reckless man who established a reputation as a rider, polo player and writer. He submitted ballads to The Bulletin that were published under the name 'The Breaker' and counted Banjo Paterson as a friend. When appeals were made for horsemen to serve in the war in South Africa, Morant joined up, first with the South Australian Mounted Rifles and then with a South African irregular unit, the Bushveldt Carbineers.
In September 1901 Morant and two other Australians, Lieutenants Peter Handcock and George Witton, were arrested for the murder of Boer prisoners. Morant and Handcock were court-martialled and executed in February 1902 as the Boer War was in its closing stages, but the debate over their convictions continues to this day.
Does Breaker Morant deserve his iconic status? Who was Harry Morant? What events and passions led him to a conflict that was essentially an Imperial war, played out on a distant continent under a foreign flag? Was he a scapegoat for British war crimes or a criminal himself?
With his trademark brilliant command of story, Peter FitzSimons unravels the many myths and fictions that surround the life of Harry Morant. The truths FitzSimons uncovers about 'The Breaker' and the part he played in the Boer War are astonishing - and, in the hands of this master storyteller, make compelling reading.
Peter FitzSimons is one of Australia's most prominent and successful media and publishing identities.
His busy professional life involves writing weekly columns for the Sydney Morning Herald and Sun Herald newspapers, appearing on Foxtel's The Back Page television show and, when time permits, authoring best-selling books. A correspondent for London's Daily Telegraph as well, he is also in high demand as a guest speaker and presenter.
For the past two decades, the much-traveled former Wallaby rugby international, who masters four languages, has interviewed some of the world's most famous figures, including former US President George Bush, Mother Theresa and football great Diego Maradona.
Writing is his passion. He is the biographer of World Cup winning Wallaby captains Nick Farr-Jones and John Eales, former Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley, war heroine Nancy Wake, former Australian Test cricket captain Steve Waugh and magazine queen Nene King.
In 2001 he was Australia's biggest selling non-fiction author with just under 250,000 sales. He duplicated that feat in 2004 with his book on Kokoda and had similar success in 2006 with his book on Tobruk.
Born on a farm in NSW's Central Coast, Peter FitzSimons attended Knox Grammar School in Sydney before accepting an American Field Service Scholarship to live in Ohio for a year. He returned to complete an arts degree at Sydney University, majoring in government and political science.
A second-rower, he won Wallaby selection in 1984, later moving to France and Italy where he played rugby for the next five years. On his return to Australia he again played for the Wallabies going on to play seven Test matches.
He launched his journalistic career with the Sydney Morning Herald in 1989. Two years later he released two best-selling books, Basking in Beirut and Little Theories of Life and signed a contract with the Nine Network that resulted in him presenting current affairs and sports programs for the next four years. His association with Foxtel commenced in 1995 and continues to this day.
Considered one of the ten most popular after-dinner speakers in Australia, Peter FitzSimons is married to Nine Network personality Lisa Wilkinson and they have three children.