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On Air is Mike Carlton's story, no holds barred.

Mike Carlton was born to controversy. His father Jimmy, a renowned Olympic athlete and later a Catholic priest, married his mother after a whirlwind wartime courtship. This scandal was hushed up at first, but eventually it made headlines. Six years later, Jimmy Carlton died in his wife’s arms, felled by asthma.

It was a tough beginning. Mike would have a Sydney suburban childhood where every penny counted. Unable to afford a university education, he left school at sixteen to begin a life in journalism that would propel him to the top, as one of Australia’s best-known media figures. In an often turbulent career of more than fifty years he has been a war correspondent, political reporter, a TV news and current affairs reporter, an award-winning radio presenter in both Sydney and London, an outspoken newspaper columnist and a biting satirist. In later life he realised a lifelong ambition -- to write three bestselling books of Australian naval history.

On Air is his story, no holds barred. With characteristic humour and flair, Mike tells of the feuds and the friendships, the fun and the follies, writing candidly of the extraordinary parade of characters and events he has encountered in the unique life he has led.


Carlton paint[s] vivid, visceral pen portraits of those he has encountered ... This book is engagingly written, and frequently amusing, with Carlton prepared to send himself up and acknowledge his own faults, limitations and excesses. There are also contemporary resonances, ranging from attacks on the independence of the ABC to the treatment of women in the media

Bridget Griffen-Foley, Sydney Morning Herald

A page-turning, poignant biography

Australian Women's Weekly

I'd say you could hardly find a better guide than this to what's happened to us in Oz over the past 55 years ... Carlton delivers soundly on Indonesia, Vietnam and the UK, where he spent time as a correspondent.

Annabel Lawson, Country Style

They'll say what they like about the Sydney media world over the past six years, but they won’t say it lacks colour, and this book has the lot.

Peter FitzSimons, Sun-Herald

On Air ... won me. It is warm, funny, witty and charming as well as sensible, knowledgeable and at times brutally honest. For those millennials who believe the world began on the day they were born, On Air is also a lucid and useful history lesson of what life was like in the second half of the 20th century ... You can almost hear Carlton talking from the pages in the same glib, radio cadence that captivated audiences for three decades. There is no doubt: he was bloody good at it and in this book he demonstrates a deep understanding of how radio works, connecting the person at the microphone to an audience on a one-to-one level ... Carlton made his name as an irreverent reporter/raconteur and much of this comes through in his memoir. But, in keeping with his persona of multiple characters, he also shows great reverence for friends, family, the art of broadcasting -- and life itself. It’s a terrific read.

Mark Day, Australian

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Formats & editions

  • Hardback


    October 1, 2018

    William Heinemann Australia

    560 pages

    RRP $55.00

    Online retailers

    • Fishpond
    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    October 1, 2018

    RHA eBooks Adult

    512 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks NZ
    • Amazon Kindle NZ
    • Google Play EBook NZ
    • Kobo
    • Booktopia NZ

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