Margaret Simons wins at W.A. Premier’s Book Awards

October 14 / 145

Dr Margaret Simons has won the Western Australia History Award at the W.A. Premier’s Book Awards for her biography of media magnate Kerry Stokes.

She received the award at a ceremony in Perth on 21 September, alongside other winners including Richard Flanagan and Tim Winton.

Dr Simons said she was chuffed to win after the challenges she had writing the book.

“Writing the book was very hard work from go to woah, particularly since Mr Stokes clearly did not want it written, and put barriers in my way. To have this endorsement was very cheering.”

Her book, Kerry Stokes: Self-made man is an unauthorised biography of the West Australian billionaire chairman of the Seven Network and the biggest shareholder in Seven Media.

The judges called the book a “fascinating biography of a very public and private man”. They commented on the great challenge of writing an unauthorised biography, and in particular, Mr Stokes’ refusal to cooperate with the book. “But, with her journalist’s eye for the good story and her skill in ferreting out hidden histories, she ‘got beneath his skin’, so to speak,” they wrote.

“The book pulls no punches about Stokes, but is not a hostile biography, and one even gets the impression that Simons came to admire her subject.”

Dr Simons agreed. “Yes, I think Stokes’ journey from nothing to one of Australia’s most wealthy men is truly impressive. He is to my mind more interesting than either Packer or Murdoch, who started with small fortunes built by their fathers.

“Stokes started with nothing. But being a self-made man comes at a price. Stokes has been ruthless. He is a charming man, but there is also a dark side. So while I admire him in some ways, it is also true to say that many of the people I spoke to are frightened of him and when you know the full history, you can see why.”

Dr Simons is an associate professor in the Arts Faculty and is the Director of the Centre for Advancing Journalism, where she coordinates the Master of Journalism course.

She has written eleven books. Malcom Fraser: The Political Memoirs, which she co-wrote with the former Prime Minister, won both the Book of the Year and the Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction at the NSW Premier's Literary Awards in 2011.

Her advice to journalism students dealing with ‘difficult’ subjects is simply to “keep going!”

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