This Mortal Boy: An immigrant from Belfast finds himself on a murder charge

Book review: In 1950s New Zealand, anti-Irishness fuels the case against Albert Black

October 1955, New Zealand. Nineteen-year old Albert Black is in Auckland jail. Johnny McBride is dead, killed by a single stab wound to the neck following an incident in Ye Olde Barn cafe, and Albert, also known as Paddy, is on trial for his life. Fiona Kidman’s This Mortal Boy reanimates what became known as the jukebox killer case and it seems the right time to do it, to push human ambiguity in the face of authoritarian certitudes.

It’s the aftermath of the 1954 Mazengarb Report into the moral delinquency of young, post-war adolescents getting out from under the puritan deadweight of their parents’ generation. The police are seizing and burning morally suspect books. For the most part the parents are sad and uncomprehending while the authorities are zealous and vengeful.

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