Flash Jim: The astonishing story of the convict fraudster who wrote Australia's first dictionary
The astonishing story of James Hardy Vaux, writer of Australia's first dictionary and first true-crime memoir.
If you wear 'togs', tell a 'yarn', call someone 'sly', or refuse to 'snitch' on a friend then you are talking like a convict.
These words, and hundreds of others, once left colonial magistrates baffled and police confused. So comprehensible to us today, the flash language of criminals and convicts had marine officer Watkin Tench complaining about the need for an interpreter in the colonial court.
Luckily, by 1811, that man was at hand. James Hardy Vaux - conman, pickpocket, absconder and thief, born into comfortable circumstances in England - was so drawn to a life of crime he was transported to Australia ... not once, but three times!
Vaux's talents, glibness and audacity were extraordinary, and perceiving an opportunity to ingratiate himself with authorities during his second sentence, he set about writing a dictionary of the criminal slang of the colony, which was recognised for its uniqueness and taken back to England to be published.
Kel Richards tells Vaux's story brilliantly, with the help of Vaux's own extraordinarily candid memoir of misdeeds - one of the first true-crime memoirs ever published. Kel's book combines two of his favourite subjects: the inventiveness, humour and origins of Australian English, and our history of fabulous, disreputable characters.
With echoes of 'The Surgeon of Crowthorne' as well as 'Oliver Twist', 'Flash Jim' is a ripping read - especially for those who appreciate the power of words and the convict contribution to our idiom.
About the Author:
Kel Richards is a veteran Australian author, journalist and broadcaster. In a long career he has hosted the ABC's flagship national daily radio current affairs show AM, worked as a senior journalist and associate producer with ABC television current affairs, and hosted his own talkback shows on commercial radio. Kel is currently a Sky News contributor and a writer for The Spectator Australia. He famously presented News Radio's regular 'Wordwatch' segment on ABC (till 2010) and now writes a column on language for Australian Geographic.
Dimensions: H 21.1cm x W 15.5cm x D 2.6cm
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: 2021
Number of Pages: 320