The cover of Ray Whitrod’s re-released autobiography, Before I Sleep: My Life Fighting Crime and Corruption, strongly hints at a hard-hitting true crime memoir, dominated by the author’s troubled period as Queensland police commissioner from 1970 to 1976, when, as the blurb suggests, the state was ‘a haven for crooks from both sides of the law’. This impression is reinforced by a foreword from author–journalist Matthew Condon, whose books Three Crooked Kings (2013) and Jacks and Jokers (2014) revived interest in the extent of corruption in pre-Fitzgerald Inquiry Queensland.
Before I Sleep is not quite what it appears. Whitrod’s Queensland years take up just fifty-three of its 227 pages, and his recollections, in keeping with the tone of the book generally, are sober and non-sensationalist. Whitrod was a moderately conservative, deeply religious man, motivated by public service. He consistently downplays the dramatic aspects of his story, avoids personal attacks, and, with a few exceptions, seems reluctant to engage in harsh criticism. This is not a problem, as such. It is Whitrod’s autobiography, and he has the right to define himself as he sees fit. But many readers of Before I Sleep might be expecting a rather different book. For this is a family history as much as it is about Whitrod’s law enforcement career. The prose is competent but not superlative. What elevates it is the author’s incredible recall of detail, which brings to life many scenes that would otherwise be prosaic.