That's Life, Derryn Hinch, by Greg Tingle


That's life is an honest, no hold's barred account of Derryn Hinch's life.

From his early childhood growing up in New Zealand, through to his early years as a journalist who cracks a foreign correspondent gig, covering events around the globe, to his sackings, sometimes very public, time in jail (for getting true justice), Derryn really cuts loose.

Whether you grew up in the 40s and 50s, had parents who did, or just want to read about a personality who "made it" in the media business, this is the book for you.

Just like the man himself; at least the one portrayed on TV and radio, there is a certain touchingness or poignancy inherent in the writing. One can even imagine sitting down with Derryn in his loungeroom, or at a bar, as Derryn's story unfolds.

It is an uncomplicated read, about a seemly complicated life, but has an honesty and unpretentiousness about his anecdotes.

From the onset, Derryn makes it clear that he never intended to write an autobiography; however his contact at Penguin books, Bob Sessions, encouraged Derryn to put his life story to print, while working on The Derryn Hinch Diet.

Derryn is clearly not trying to impress anyone in this book. The same may be said for his approach in his television and radio work, which for me makes him even more believable. Derryn delivers the goods, with a clarity and sincerity.

The first few chapters outline Derryn's formative years, learning about sex, relationships and death, including his own mother's. Derryn later goes on to outline a number of life threatening experiences, from covering events in third world countries, to getting in and out of the Detroit and Los Angeles riots. All of the losses suffered, and observed, whether of the close or not so close; obviously resonate and go towards the personality and attitude of the man Hinch is today.

"Cheers" tells of the role played by alcohol in Australian society, and how it can bring out the best and worst in people. Derryn is a man enough to admit that he is flawed, and has driven home drunk in the past. Obviously he realises now his error of judgment. One must also consider that drinking and the media business have long gone hand in hand, whether it be socialising with clients, or escaping the reality of an enormous work schedule, with sometimes unrealistic deadlines to meet.

The chapter entitled "Suffer little children" expresses many of the injustices that can occur to children, firstly at the hands of their parents or "carers", then at the hand of the Australian legal system. Derryn found "the system" unjust, even taking justice into his own hands; resulting in a stint in jail, effectively getting a child molester off the streets. Even the media had a go at Derryn for his good act, with one newspaper headlining, "Hinch must elevate his ethics". Yet another example of the Hinch attitude to fair play, and protecting the innocent.

This leads the reader into "The Jail Diaries", which is the tale of Hinch's 12 days in the clink, his personnel sacrifice for helping ensure that real justice was done for a young person and their family. Derryn Hinch was the first, but I doubt the last, journalist to be jailed for contempt of court. The reader may secretly wonder if jail time was the ultimate prize for Hinch, to make his point. Something tells me, it was just the effect of his actions, rather than part of a master plan. Hinch certainly made the most of his time in jail, with some riveting one on one interviews conducted with some of society's true scum.

"A Low Brow" describes a story of the ups and downs of the professional boxing world, where Hinch finds himself dodging punches and chairs in boxing riots in Nevada. Hinch gets another dose of "biffo" on Newport, Rhode Island; this time whilst covering the America's Cup, when after "roughing up" a mugger and a thief, Hinch gets his cash back in his wallet.

The most telling chapter on the media business is aptly entitled "TV or not TV", and tells of Hinch's struggle in and out of the business, including his rocky road with Channel Seven, which ends publicly with Hinch declaring, "So that's it. On Friday, November 29th, 1991, that's life. Goodbye".

For those of us who ever considered what the life of a journalist is like, at the top end of town; or been interested in the life of a fascinating, successful man, who is also a very public figure; this is definitely the book for you.

*The book review is published on the official Derryn Hinch website


Interview: Derryn Hinch - 19th January 2003

Profile: Derryn Hinch

Derryn Hinch official website