My ex-wife and I saw the premiere of Chopper in 2000, and we both thought it was one of the weirdest flicks we'd ever seen. Even so, I named my mixed breed Manx kitten after him shortly afterward. I bought the VHS tape after that and barely watched it, but I still own it thirteen years later. The flick was on cable last night and I saw it again after all this time. When I woke up this morning, I found out that Mark Read died of liver cancer today. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
Chopper was one of the quirkiest, most homicidal criminals in the history of crime. Eric Bana's over-the-top portrayal made you feel as if you were watching a homicide waiting to happen at any given moment. It probably had to do with the fact that he routinely carried around three handguns and a low-caliber sawed-off shotgun. He was extremely paranoid and would kill in imagined self-defense at the drop of the hat. He killed a Australian Mob figure in prison, starting a vendetta between Chopper and the Mob that ended with a score of 19-0, according to Read. One reason that Chopper fared so well is that he turned police informant, which he perceived as a license to kill. He hunted down every criminal supposedly looking for him, and knocked off a couple of others for good measure. All his victims were Mob enforcers, dealers, pimps and other assorted crooks, which undoubtedly was a reason for his police connections to look the other way.
When they finally put Read away, he embarked on a career as an author, having an anthology of memoirs published in a no-holds-barred series telling all about his life of crime. His books sold over a quarter-million copies, making him one of Australia's best-selling authors. A number of TV interviews were conducted in prison, and eventually they made the movie. Chopper died in Tasmania, safe from retaliation from the Aussie Mob.
It struck me as odd that Tenth Street Press, based in Australia, didn't notice the unintended similarity between Chopper and Jack Gawain (my anti-hero in The Standard). You'd think they'd work up the connection and try to drum up a little publicity. I'm sure that'd be far too much to ask. Money, after all, is not what writing about. You could've asked Chopper.
Farewell, Mark "Chopper" Read. You may not be missed, but certainly will not be forgotten.