One of Melbourne’s most unlikely best-selling authors is Mark Brandon Read (1954-2013), better known as Chopper. The notorious criminal spent long periods of his life in prison for a plethora of crimes, including armed robbery, assault, arson, kidnapping and murder. He collected letters he sent while incarcerated in the 1991 book Chopper: From the Inside, which became a best-seller in Australia. Until his death of liver cancer in 2013, he wrote over a dozen (semi-)autobiographical accounts of his life as a criminal. You can preview them here: amazon.
Because of his scandalous public image in Australia, he was asked to feature in two commercials in Australia: warning for the dangers of drunk driving, and speaking out against domestic violence.
Besides his own literary career, he is often referenced in books, songs and movies. Best known is the 2000 film Chopper, which won numerous industry prizes when released and has since then gained a cult following. It stars Melbourne actor Eric Bana, who spent several days living with Chopper Read to prepare for the role. Race Taste review: Chopper is a character you will never forget.
Author William Gibson (of Neuromancer fame) based the character Keith Blackwell in his Bridge trilogy on Chopper Read. He wrote in his acknowledgments:
Anything I know about the toecutting business, I owe to the criminal memoirs of Mark Brandon “Chopper” Read (Chopper from the inside, Sly Ink, Australia, 1991). Mr. Read is a great deal scarier than Blackwell, and has even fewer ears.
In 2018 the Australian true-crime television show Underbelly released a spin-off mini-series called Underbelly Files: Chopper.