Close to the Flame: The life of Stuart Challender
Wakefield Press, $45 hb, 243 pp, 9781743054567
Richard Davis is admirably determined that major Australian musical artists whose careers were attenuated by illness should not fade into oblivion. In Wotan’s Daughter (2012), he chronicled the career of Marjorie Lawrence, afflicted by polio just as she had become one of the world’s leading dramatic sopranos. Now, in Close to the Flame, he has given us a biography of Stuart Challender (1947–91), whose undoubted talent was beginning to be recognised internationally as he succumbed to AIDS. But whereas Lawrence’s pre-polio performances took place entirely overseas, the major part of Challender’s career was in Australia, and his influence on Australian performers and composers was profound.