When 60-something Grant Tree was a young man, growing up in Cottesloe, he made a few mistakes. Like more than a few others in the seaside ‘hood, the young surfer became immersed in the seedy world of drug users. Over time, tragically, he lost friends and acquaintances whose lives were destroyed due to their lifestyle choices, and Grant himself ended up in jail. Thankfully Grant survived that sorry chapter. He’s even happy to let the world in on some of what went on behind closed doors in our seemingly pristine beachside suburb.
Grant’s daughter, Georgia Tree interviewed her father for new book, Old Boy, (Fremantle Press) described as “my dad’s story of addiction, resurrection, dumb luck and love. ” It includes references to Grant’s former close pal, Brian Chambers, who was later, famously hanged in Malaysia in 1986 for smuggling heroin.
Georgia chats to The Starfish:
What made you want to write it, and in doing so, let the world in on some of the darker aspects of your dad’s life?
When my Nan died a few years ago I regretted not recording her little slice of Australian history. I decided then to investigate some of my other family’s histories. My dad has always said I’d write his story one day, so that was the natural place to start.
Your book also exposes readers to a darker underbelly of Cottesloe, one of our most well-heeled suburbs! Do you think this will surprise some people, the level of drug-taking here in the 70s and 80s?
Absolutely – it surprised me! Who knew Perth was that cool?
What was the process like, interviewing your father about his past?
It was emotional at times but ultimately healing for both of us.
Was he surprisingly candid or was it hard to elicit certain facts out of him?
I think he surprised even himself with the things he remembered.
How hard was it for Grant to remember the details of his life, growing up in Perth a few decades ago – and did it dredge up some painful memories for him?
He’s got a pretty solid memory (amazing considering his rock’n’roll past). But yes, some memories, especially those regarding grief were painful.
What’s your relationship like with your dad?
He’s my best mate.
Was writing the book, and interviewing him about the contents, a bonding experience for the two of you?
Your dad was very candid about his drug taking, his jail sentence, and mistakes made. Was it confronting for you to hear him reveal all this to you?
It was when he first told me. I’d digested it by the time we sat down to interview.
Do many people in your life already know this story about your dad’s colourful background, or will it come as a huge surprise to some?
It was definitely a surprise to many. But its spurred on a lot of conversations between people my age and their own parents who lived through that period and had similar experiences.
Were there some interesting tales you had to leave out of the book?
Not really! But there are some that Dad never told me, for that very reason.
In the book, we learn Grant feels guilty his friend Brian Chambers was executed – and perhaps may not have been caught and sentenced in Malaysia if your dad had dobbed him in earlier. Does that prey on Grant a lot ?
Absolutely. That survivor’s guilt is a strong theme of the book.
Who will the book appeal to?
Hopefully everyone! But Perth, Pilbara people, footy lovers and dads and daughters in particular.
Grant must be proud of the book you’ve written?
He’s very proud and a little bit shocked at the attention.
You are a political advisor; and an author: do the two roles complement each other?
The book is quite political which is informed by my work for sure, but the reason I’m in this job is due to Dad’s sense of social justice and interest in politics more broadly in the first place. I’m not sure the roles complement each other however, I’m too busy with work to write! I need a holiday.