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The Nugan Hand merchant bank was the nexus of one of the most significant criminal conspiracies in Australian history. Established in Sydney in 1973, Nugan Hand was backed by the CIA in concert with domestic and international crime organisations. It acted as a front for a plethora of illegal activities, including gun-running, money laundering and tax fraud, most of which were ancillary to the main business: drugs, specifically heroin. Its legacy lives on in the heroin market that the bank helped to build and entrench.

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Richard Flanagan came to prominence some years ago like a collective delusion. Death of a River Guide (1994) sent a thrill through the literary community because of the raciness of its never-ending stories and in 1995, the baleful Year of Demidenko, we found ourselves giving the last of the Victorian Premier’s Prizes for new fiction to the Tasmanian arriviste who wrote fabulism like a Douanier Rousseau among the thylacines. Not long afterwards, Flanagan persuaded the producers to allow him to direct the film of his second novel, The Sound of One Hand Clapping (1997) with nothing but a few supervisory tips from Rolf de Heer by way of experienced guidance, a feat of Cocteau-like virtuosity or snake-oil powers of persuasion all but unprecedented in national (let alone Tasmanian) history.

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