This book ends debate about the possible existence of a fabulous gold reef that “Harry” Lasseter claimed in 1930 he had found in Central Australia as a young man, famously prompting a well-funded expedition to go in futile search of it at the outset of the Great Depression.
While other writers have previously disproved aspects of the life story that Lasseter claimed for himself, none has adopted the chronological biography approach which shows so sharply the pattern of behaviour that leaves no room for doubt: Lasseter was a compulsive delusionary liar, constantly demanding the attention of figures in authority for his own personal benefit.
Far from the honest working man battling to get the ‘square deal’ that he claimed was his due, Lasseter revealed himself time and again as a persuasive poseur full of big ideas that were usually impractical, unoriginal or founded on empty promises. While argument might continue to focus on what motivated the figures who joined in promoting his reef story, there remains not a shred of doubt that there never was any gold.
Chris Clark is a Canberra historian who has been writing books for nearly 40 years without ever knowing about his family’s connection with the story of Lasseter’s Reef. This is his first title published since retiring from the Public Service in 2013, and the first in 25 years not on a defence subject.
His defence-related books (published as Chris Coulthard-Clark) include several biographies, a volume in the official war history series covering RAAF operations in Vietnam, a history of Australian Defence Industries, and the Encyclopedia of Australian Battles (now in its third edition).
Among his books reflecting his Canberra location are a history of Duntroon military college, a biography of Admiral Sir John Crace (born at Gungahlin), and an edited volume on Government House, Yarralumla.