Paul Wilson is one of Australia’s best-known and most respected social scientists. With degrees in Psychology and Sociology, his books cover topics in sexuality, crime and Australian society. The Man They Called A Monster follows in the footsteps of Intimacy, which was published by Cassells in 1979.
Dr Wilson has lectured in New Zealand, Great Britain and all of the Australian states. In 1974-5 he was a Fulbright Visiting Professor at the University of California, Irvine. He is presently Reader in Sociology at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, which is the city where the events recorded in this book took place.
Once in a lifetime, if he is lucky, a social scientist stumbles across an incident that is both controversial and far-reaching in its implications. I came across such an incident two years ago when by accident, rather than design, I met Clarence Osborne.
The man himself was rather unimpressive and some would say distasteful. But the story he unfolded and the records and manuscripts he had in his possession were provocatively tantalising. This man had collected information about the physical and psycho-logical characteristics of thousands of boys and adolescents to whom he had sexually and emotionally related over a twenty-year period. This information, together with additional research material I collected on paedophilia, is the basis of this book. The conclusions I draw from the material are, it seems to me, inescapable, even if they are bound to be unpopular.
I knew that writing about paedophilia would be a difficult and controversial task. Indeed, both my friends and enemies expressed concern for me while writing this book. My friends considered that the ‘radical troublemaker’ image that had been projected onto me by those in power in Queensland would now be changed to a ‘deviant’ image. After all, anyone who writes about boy lovers without the vitriol that usually accompanies such journalistic discussions on the topic would have to suffer the deviant label himself. And my enemies were quite sure that if Paul Wilson was writing a book about paedophiles then he must have degenerated to a level of madness which made even them feel some pity.
But this book does not arise either out of deviancy or madness. It arises out of a compelling drive to write accurately and fairly a unique story that I had somewhat fortuitously acquired. It may not be a happy story, but it is one that must be told.
My decision to proceed with the book was finally made after a unique incident which should be related to the reader if for no other reason than to demonstrate the part that chance plays in a writer’s decision to work on a topic. While in Mackay, North Queensland, I was reading through Osborne’s own manuscript which told of his life, trying to decide whether I should write a book on the issues that his life raised.
A neighbour and friend of mine, Jim Barry, a well-known solicitor in the town, called in to the house I was staying at and asked me what I was reading. I told him I was reading Clarence Osborne’s manuscript and invited him to look at it with a view to giving me legal advice on its possible publication. [*1]
Jim took the manuscript back to his home, sat down and proceeded to read it. He was interrupted by a knock on the door which he opened and greeted a young man of about twenty-six whom he knew well. This man asked Jim if he was working on office problems. Jim replied that he was ‘just looking at material Paul Wilson had on a so-called Brisbane sex-monster who had recently been in the newspapers’.
The man became very white and very frightened. He said he had met this Mr Osborne and wondered what was in the manuscript about him personally. Jim reassured his visitor that Osborne only included first names and the beginning initial of the surname when writing about his past partners. To prove the point Jim opened the manuscript at random and said to his visitor, ‘Here look for yourself …. John K., Barry M., Jack T. . .!’ There was a stunned silence. Jack T. happened to be the visitor. It was a chance in a million and one that I took advantage of.
Jim Barry suggested that the young man reassure himself about his privacy being protected by speaking to me. I then spent two hours with Jim’s visitor both reassuring him and checking the notes that Osborne had taken with the young man’s recollection of what happened, when as a youth, he had met and related to Osborne. The two accounts coincided. I knew then that this book had to be written. If ever a sign from heaven was needed to tell an author to proceed with a book then this was that sign.
The difficult problem, though, was how to tell the story. Clarence Osborne’s life and activities were full of paradoxes. In them we see both the unique and the general, the delicate and the brutally crude, the trivial and the far-reaching. His life could be sensationalised or it could be intellectually dissected in a cold-blooded impersonal way. I have attempted to avoid both extremes and to use the story of the man and his life to illustrate the wider psychological and social questions that the topic of paedophilia brings up. Consequently within each chapter I have attempted to move from a discussion of Clarence Osborne to the wider questions surrounding adult-youth relationships and the consideration of the legal, psychological anc1 moral issues involved in this controversial topic.
Despite the difficulties of writing a book about men who love boys, I received help and co-operation from a number of unexpected sources. Many of the men who, as youths, had had a relationship with Osborne, recounted their experiences with a frankness and honesty that I found invaluable. While they may have initially come to see me to find out whether the police or I had a record of their association with Clarence Osborne, they soon confided in me and gave me their trust. They can be sure that this trust has been, and will continue to be, respected.
Assistance also came from the Queensland police force, who allowed me to interview officers associated with the case and to peruse some relevant material. Some officers went well beyond the call of duty and commented on earlier drafts of the manuscript. To save them embarrassment I will not mention them by name.
As usual though, encouragement and support came from trusted friends and colleagues. My friends in journalism, Hugh Lunn and Adrian MacGregor, offered me encouragement as did Carolyn Mason, Judy Abbes and Jeff Smiley. Editorial assistance and social support was given by Marilyn Bitomsky who, as she has done in the past, provided me with the motivation to keep writing when authorship appeared to be an uphill losing battle. Jim and Mary Barry, and Pam and Alf Rowe from Mackay encouraged me in ways which were both intellectual and personal, while Marian Rarnsay and the Inma Community provided me with the setting and support to contemplate the structure of this book.
Colleagues from a number of Australian universities and academic institutions contributed invaluable ideas for the book. I would particularly like to thank Lex Watson from the Government Depart-ment at Sydney University, Professor John Collins from the Psychology Department at Macquarie University, Gary Jaynes from the Social Biology Resource Centre in Melbourne and Professor Duncan Chappell, formerly from the Australian Law Reform Commission and now Professor of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, Canada. Finally, I would like to thank Bernard Macdougall and John Shaw for their critical but constructive reading of earlier drafts of this book. Bernard Macdougall, in particular, used his lively intelligence in commenting on an earlier draft of the manuscript.
None of these people, however, can take any -responsibility for what is in this book. In writing about one of our society’s most taboo topics I alone must bear the brunt of any criticisms that arise from this book. I am, however, satisfied that every effort which was humanly possible has been made to present the reader with an accurate account of what occurred between Clarence Osborne and his youthful partners.
Paul R. Wilson