Big Book of Lunn


2 books in 1 Over the Top with Jim—childhood memoir serialised by ABCRadio and chosen as one of the “50 books you can’t put down” PLUS the sequel Head Over Heels–young love in the 1960s

First published: 2013

After I wrote the childhood memoir Over the Top with Jim – about growing up in Australia in the 1950s – many people wanted to know what happened next. Did I marry the redhead? How did I get over the eight-month false start in life? So I wrote the sequel, Head Over Heels – about finding your feet as a young man in the 1960s. The Big Book of Lunn combines the two books. It is a logical publication.


Just as I was about to give the Russian another one, Jim Egoroff turned around: “You Australian donkey,” he said, in English. Donkey? Of all the animals he could have picked this was the last one I had expected. Rat, dingo, grub, snake, yes … but donkeys were friendly, like kangaroos or horses. And how could they allow a foreigner, a dark New Australian, a banned Commo, to come to our school in Brisbane in broad daylight and call Australians names? “You Red worm,” I answered just before Egoroff lunged his palms at both sides of my head saying, “I rubber your ears,” “I rubber your ears.” It was like torture, Japanese torture at its worst, and this smart-alec Russky added a whole new threat to my already awful existence.


My only break was a weekly trip on the tram to Bulimba carrying a locked port, or the occasional message delivery up town. The nearer I got back to work, the more I felt cheated by the Christian Brothers who – having taught me to love Browning and Byron and to write essays on the form and the matter of thought – hadn’t warned that work would be so boring. And hadn’t warned that when I left school I would go so quickly from somebody to nobody. I always took as long as I could, sitting on the grass under a tree in Queen’s Park near the statue of Queen Victoria, wondering how to escape my fate.


When not studying at University my Russian mate Jim was re-stumping his mother’s house at Kangaroo Point, removing the wooden stumps which had held the house up for fifty years. To pull a 12-foot-long thick, heavy, black, ironbark stump out of the ground, we bent as low as we could to lift on the count of three – relying on our experience of winning three-legged races together at school. Jim pulled so hard that the only way I could stop the stump from landing on me was to hold on tight and go with it… I staggered around the Egoroff backyard with this giant stump in my arms, a stump which – like life – I could neither control nor put down. Luckily Jim caught us both… “You are one of my left-hand men,” Jim explained. “What does it profit a man to let his grass grow and then get lost in it?”


In the photo, we both had huge smiles and, as I studied the picture for hours, I was amazed by her lips, her hair, her elegant jaw line, and those big eyes. She truly was created of every creature’s best.


To break the resounding silence of the General Reporters’ Room I said to Sallyanne: “I bet I can guess how much you weigh.” I instantly regretted the remark. Guessing girls’ weights was something I was pretty good at, but I also knew that—while I had got a lot of girls’ weights right—I hadn’t got a girl. “Oh come now Hugh,” Sallyanne said, “that’s what they do with the bull at the Brisbane Exhibition. I hope you’re not saying I remind you of him.” She was right. Every year in August at the Ekka a bull was put on display and there was a prize for guessing his weight. Everyone in Queensland used to enter, except me. I had no idea what bulls weighed, but Sallyanne was about six stone 12 pounds, I reckoned… I couldn’t think of anything to say to her while standing so near—pushed closer and closer by hordes of people—and looking at her play with her glistening hair. I realised then and there that I loved listening to her voice because, unlike mine, it was clear and tinkling and sharp—like Olive’s crystal bowl.


Reviews of Over the Top With Jim

“A beautiful evocation of childhood. Don’t miss reading Over the Top with Jim. It’s one of the funniest most moving autobiographies around.”
Rosalind Dunn, The Sun

“A glittering gem of a memoir.”
Robert Macklin, Canberra Times

“Searingly funny account of growing up in a working-class family in 1950s Australia…holds a special place in the heart of thousands of Australians and that has made Hugh Lunn a national treasure.”
Southern Highland News, Bowral

“Hugh Lunn writes of his Brisbane suburban childhood with great feeling and affection. It’s a book that had me roaring with laughter…a warm, witty and amusing remembrance.”
Des Partridge, The Courier-Mail

“A universal story about growing up.”
Ross Fitzgerald, The Australian

“Very funny and irreverent…a classic.”
John Tidey, The Age

“A triumph for Australian publishing.”
Ian McNamara, ABC Radio Australia All Over

“What a delight! Can one really be so blessed with a Fred and Olive for a Mum and Dad? So Australian, so evocative…Bravo!”
Susan Johnson, novelist

“A wonderful, wonderful read. It takes pride of place in my house. I’m a very proud Australian and the things that that book covered, it was me. And I’m sure a lot of people saw themselves in all the things described. It was all very, very true.”
Wayne Roberts, on Brisbane radio

“An embarrassing book to read in public. I defy you to read it without laughing out loud.”
Ray Martin, Channel Nine

“Hugh has provided us with a large number of candid insights into his formative years, even some scarifyingly brutal insights. I’m impressed by the number of occasions when the notion of impure thoughts is mentioned… It’s an affectionate, slightly wistful, and embarrassingly accurate account of the way I remember growing up.”
John Dickie, Australia’s Chief Censor, 1989

Reviews of Head Over Heels

“Brilliantly witty…deftly written. This is a wonderful, and wonderfully innocent, beguiling book. Do yourself a favour. Devour Head Over Heels.”
Ross Fitzgerald, The Age

“Dripping with poignancy. The characters are so warmly traced that you find yourself rooting for young Hugh. Like Over the Top with Jim it will hit the vivid recall button for a great many readers. And you do laugh out loud.”
Quentin Dempster, Sydney Morning Herald

“Lunn has mastered that very difficult technique of drawing the reader into a world which is just as real, just as poignant, as our own reality…A gorgeously entertaining read.”
Robert Macklin, Canberra Times

“Nothing goes quite right for the child in Over the Top with Jim or the young journalist in Head Over Heels. How can you not warm to a character who makes the rest of us seem adequate?”
John Edwards, TIME Magazine

“It is perhaps only in Head Over Heels that Jim Egoroff – having fully developed his incredible physical strength and lost none of his idiosyncrasy — achieves true mythic status. My whole household read the book and everyone laughed out loud.”
Christina A. Thompson, Queensland: Words and Al 

“The absolute funniest book that’s been put out in Australia for years.”
Ray Martin, Midday Show

“As you come to the end you start rationing the pages — it’s that good.”
Phil Ryan, ABC Radio

“Even more delightful than Over the Top with Jim… lively and joyful stuff.”
Jane Freeman, Bookseller & Publisher

“A powerful, sensitive and often poignant account of young adulthood in the ’60s…a superb insight into the often crazy and chaotic newspaper office.”
Peter Charlton, The Courier-Mail 

“Hugh’s mad Russian-born mate Jim Egoroff could fracture a coconut and the English language with similar ease.”
Graeme Johnstone, Melbourne Herald-Sun

“Hugh Lunn combines the journalist’s disciplined eye with what Dorothy Parker defined as an essential quality of the humourist: the wild eye… [but] below the pen’s light touch one can sense long-forgotten pain.”
Herb Hild, The Catholic Leader

“People talk about Hugh Lunn’s books as though they capture some quintessentially Australian experience.”
Andrea Stretton, SBS Bookshow