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Book Reviews: I Survived by John Wayne Ryan

categories: Book, Underbelly Brisbane, Whisky Firebombing, Queensland Police Corruption, Brisbane Nightclub Fires, Fitzgerald Inquiry, John Ryan Bodyguard, Ryan Private Detective, Karate Champion, Weapons Master, True Crime


John Wayne Ryan

Author John Wayne Ryanabout this book: This is about my time as a Bodyguard/Private Detective operating in Brisbane , Australia my former Home town during the 1970s.

I was approached by the relation of a victim in 2011 of the Whisky au Go Go Mass Murder that I know a lot about and although I talked about writing this book for 30 + years I realized after our talk that it had to be told.

The hardest part about writing this book was knowing that a Mother and her two girls are still missing and even their Bodies have never been recovered and the suspects that carried this out have never been bought to book

My research was living through all this and surviving but a lot of people didn't.

This is for all the victims of that Corruption and Violence that took many lives and ruined others.

My son designed the cover from a press photo from the Courier Mail, my wife thought of the title , I am thankful they never had to experience this part of my life.

My whole life has been surviving adventures, this was one of the earliest and deadliest.

what to read next: if you read and liked this book...


The most shocking thing about this book is that no Australian TV production company has picked it up to make it into a mini-series. Screams out to be an 'Underbelly' Series. Shocking amount of corruption in the Queensland police force. [by Ren Lexander]

 An Addictive Read

Once I started this, I had to keep going to see what happened next. This is written by a Detective / Bodyguard who was there in the middle of it all. I found it very Real and told in a way that was understandable & from a View that it is "This is How it was - Take it or Leave it." I know from my Family that what John has written is very true & he may not be a Famous Journalist or Author, But he sure knows how to tell it Straight, and when he worked you kept out of his way. [by Dominic]

 Whiskey Au Go Go fire anniversary

On the 08.03.2016 - the anniversary of the Whiskey Au Go Go fire in 1973 - I'm reading 'The Real Whiskey Au Go Go Story, chapter 6, page 83 of 'I Survived'. For anyone interested in serious investigation into this tragedy, and other events basically buried in history, John and Cat Ryans' book gives relief from the great thirst that develops in people with sincere questions. Feel like I found an oasis in the desert. It is an addictive read. Got my own copy after ordering it from the local library twice. [by Donna]

 extremely insightful

wow, Only Lend Books you don't want back, no-one is touching this book! Honest, insightful, touching and a little humourous at times, fantastic read, look forward to the next [by Chris]

 Justice Coming

Bought this after seeing that a trial is coming in Brisbane after 42 years and mentioned in this book. I like true crime and although this isn't any masterpiece it hits the mark because when you live & survive this sort of organized corruption & murderous cops you don't have to enhance anything. I think this guy cares about the victims, which is surprising for the hard man rep he was. Great read, hope there may be more to come & hope there is finally some justice in Queensland for ALL the victims & that ALL the facts come out in the coming trial. Well done John.

 Hard Times - Hard Man

I knew of John. Had to read this after the recent committal hearing now going to be a Trial over the McCulkins. I know there is MUCH more. Here's 3 Incidents I saw & heard from family.

1. John took out Poss' Mate with One Hit in the Hamo Hotel.Poss reckon anyone who can hit like that has go to be respected. Remember Pos Killed a Guy with his fists at the Kedron Park Hotel

2. John took out a Hitman with one hit who was looking for him at the Osborne Hotel who had come up from Sydney to collect the 'Contract' on John. Ryan hit him so hard it sounded like a Pistol went off & we thought John had Shot him. He took the Guy & his mate outside put the Guys own gun in his Mouth & told him to get back to Sydney.

3. Five guys Jumped John in Duncan Street after he left Pinnochios, they were paid to 'get' him. He put at least 3 of them in Hospital with his Bare hands hear a coupe ran for their Lives

None of this seemed to appear in the book. Hope he puts some more out. Great Read, brought back memories. Some retired Queensland Cops still alive would be nervous. [by Peter]

 A MUST read

Nothing ever beats getting THE story from those who lived through THE story itself. John Ryan lived, breathed and remarkably survived the seriously evil dark era of Queensland's crime and corruption. John not only survived it, he is still speaking out in the hope that the justice system will finally right the wrongs of an extremely corrupt government, and the corrupt and murderous culture within the Qld Police at the time!

'I Survived' is naturally about John's experiences, and what he saw as well as how he survived - but by telling his story you will understand it is just as much about seeking justice for those who didn't survive.

One of those who fell is my father, Brian Bolton. Dad, better known as The Eagle was a newspaper crime reporter who regularly informed Sunday Sun readers what he discovered from his informants. By the early 80's dad found himself trapped in the misery of Queensland's crime and corruption. Inside his head a revolving door of horrific events that would never go away. Dad's life came to an end four days prior to the 14th anniversary of the Whiskey Au Go Go firebombing. He left this life a broken man.

'I Survived' is not a's a real story and when you reach the end of the book you will find confirmation that the (so called) "good guys" were the 'worst of THE worst' bad guys. Anyone who got in their way was either murdered or their reputation destroyed. Or in John Ryan's case, run out of the state.

If you lived in Queensland at the time then you should be outraged. If you didn't, or it was before your time, you should be outraged. If you have never been to Queensland you should be outraged because corruption left unchecked, allowed to grow, and then covered up; it will happen anywhere and everywhere and to anyone.

At least for the sake of the 15 innocent people who had their lives taken at the Whiskey Au Go Go on March 8, 1973; for their families; for the survivors of the firebombing and their families; for Barbara, Vicky and Leanne McCulkin; for John Andrew Stuart; for my father; for Shirley Brifman; for Gay Baker; for the so many other innocent victims of Queensland's then corrupt government and its police force, read this book. John explains it all in really simple terms. It's not going to win a literary masterpiece prize - but reality never requires added colour. You will though realise this is what happened. [by Mark Bolton]

 I Survived

Not the best written True Crime Book I have read, but I couldn't put it down waiting to see what was next. Good to read about a 'Good' Hard guy instead of some scum Crim or Dirty Cop. I liked the narrative style & amazed this guy is alive. Can't wait for his next one. Thought a TV show would be on about this, it seems Queensland led the way in Police Managed Crime with Government sanction. More please Mr. Ryan

 I survived

What a great book. Love the truth about how this man did actually survive. How John actually put his life on the line, to help people and the actual victims family. I know he cannot bring the victims back, but John and Cat actually care about the families left behind. I cannot imagine what they went through to find justice. If anything like that happened to my family, I know John and Cat would find the truth. Thank you for a remarkable book, looking forward to the next one. You are truly amazing and caring people. [by Lynette]

 Hard Man Hard Times

I don't know what a good adjective is to describe this book except to say I enjoyed it as a True Crime Story from the Shameful past of my old Hometown Brisbane. With some of the Current happenings in relation to corruption around the East Coast of Australia right now, you would have to wonder if it is still around in a different way.

I hope Mr. Ryan writes more as although he is Not a professional Author he gets the story across as one who has Lived it & that has got to be the best Research one can have. With an up coming Hearing about one of the Cases in the Book which could reveal a lot of what Mr. Ryan wrote about.

 Real & Raw

Because of a coming Trial from Murders back then I had to read what Mr. Ryan had written. Wow! More than I expected. Heard a lot about this guy when I was young & heard a lot of stories. Hope he writes more, he says it like it was. Maybe some of it is still around.

 Hands On

Only read this this year because of some recent arrests. If ever I read a True Hands On account of Brisbane and the Corrupt Cops and being in bed with the Scum of the Underbelly and Painters & Dockers this Book has got to be IT. My Father knew John and backs up everything he says BUT says John knows a lot more going back to the 60s. Hope the coming Trial throws some more light on the Disgusting Police & Government we had back then in Brisbane. Lets hear some more from Mr. Ryan please. [by Len]

 Raw & Gutsy

I knew of John in those days also. He did and knew a lot more. Eyes in the back of your head from Crooked Cops & Dogs of Mates were the order of the day. They tried just about every way possible to get John & he proved to be the Hardest guy of them all. Hope he writes about the rest. Good one John.

 Old Brisbane Fella

I worked around the Brisbane Pubs and Clubs in those days and remember John well and there is no doubt in my mind that he has written an honest hands on story, they were rotten times when you had to have eyes in your Ass. Looking forward to your next book John. [by Dale]

 True Crime and Alive

With a recent arrest about an incident of Kidnap & Murders mentioned in this Book, I had to get my own Copy. Fantastic read, I wish John would spill it all. My Dad informed Ryan knows it All. A lot more than is in this book. I felt as if when I had finished there was a lot to come. If you like Real Crime and Told by a Guy that lived through it. This is the Book on Brisbane & the Corruption. [by Gavin]

 Criminal Cops

I bought this in March 2015 when the Author was in Brisbane to help dedicate the Memorial Plaque for the 15 Victims of the Whisky au Go Go Mass Murder. Noticed that the Queensland Government had NOTHING to do with the Plaque. Met the Author and made me respect him as a Corruption Fighter even more. The Book is a Great read, I wish he would bring out more of the Incidents he spoke to us about as well. [by Paul]

 Letting Go

This is a good true crime book by somebody who was amongst it. Reads like he is letting go, although it left me wanting more. Ironically now there are arrests on one of his stories - it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming trial. Hope he releases more. [by Leo]

 Hardman Survivor Factual Story

I just read this because I actually am a survivor of the Whisky fire Murder. I worked there that night and John was there as our Protector until the weekend before. He has fought for decades to get justice for everybody including the McCulkins and I relived those times while reading his story. Thank you John please publish all of the rest. I enjoyed this, it should be told and we know you know most of it. Great Book. [by Lara]


Had an idea of some of this from my family when I was younger. Mind boggling that all of this happened and even more amazing that this guy survived. Loved the book and it is good to read something from someone who lived it. [by Daniel]

 Thriller from Life

Read this as True Crime but felt like I was reading a thriller. Amazing that this was allowed to happen by Government, but checking past media it is true. How Detective Ryan survived is a story that I felt good to read about. We need people like this to keep us informed. Hope he follows through with his promised life in the clubs in the sixties sounds like the foundation of everything. Exciting to read. Well done. [by Jeremy]

 A Thriller

Told as a Narrative by a participant who survived. I like True Crime & after finishing this I can see where the current Corruption in Australia got its' start. Waiting for the Sixties adventures. A good read. [by Kurt]

 Raw but Real

This isn't a particularly well written book. But it certainly is exciting in it's raw matter of fact style. It is obvious the writer is one of the rare individuals who believes in honesty. Liked it very much and although not a professional author I hope to read more of this Man's life adventures. He certainly tells it as it is. [by Jamie]

 Excellent History

Tried for quite a while to get this Book. Well worth the effort. Great Narrative from a Guy who has been there, done that. No wonder he has a reputation of hating Corruption after having his first major case like this. People like this are what keeps the scum answerable, glad he Survived, but amazed he has. Like to read more from him, hope he keeps writing. Check him out on the web, he is still very active & internationally known. [by Scott]

 Very Good Read

Took a while to get this, I suggest Mr.Ryan get a different publisher or distributor. Written as a Narrative & obviously by someone who lived the whole box & dice. Kept my interest & wanted more after finishing it. Hope there is another in the works as the book suggested. Love to read his adventures in the Clubs etc in the sixties. Highly recommend this. [by Dominic]

 Good True Crime Survival Story

Although some things were known this Book shows just how deep the Corruption & Crime Control really went. Amazing Mr. Ryan got through it all alive. I just bought this because I was a Student in one of his recent classes. Now I understand why he is so Anti Corruption & Crooked Cops. He caught a couple of crooked Detectives in Western Australia also I hear that were friends of his until he found them out. [by Lee]

 Totally Thrilling

Wow.Finally someone came forward to blow everything open. The Inquiries & stories kept covering but I guess they forgot there was a living survivor that was Not Corrupt. Read this after reading another book about crooked kings. Amazing Ryan lived. Hope the sixties where it seems to have started & he was involved in comes out in his next Book. I rate this 10 out of 10 for a thriller - kept reading to see what was next. [by Bryan]

 Surviving True Crime

This book is well named & is a Narrative of true crime in Brisbane that my family assures me was really happening. I like True Crime stories & this one is a beauty. Well done Mr Ryan hope you give us more of your experiences in writing especially the sixties, according to another book I just read you were right in amongst the clubs & underbelly then also. Amazes me this person lived. [by Daniel]


Although from overseas it is amazing to read a first hand account of some of the shenanigans happening in Australia in the 70s. It is amazing when you check out the web & you realise this guy actually survived even though he knew too much. Good read & hope there is more come the stories are excellent & he seems to live from one adventure to another. John is well known in the Law Enforcement area as a Straight shooter & Corruption hater now I understand where it all started. [by Ron]

 Exciting & Scary

I found it hard to realize that this could really happen in Australia until I looked into the web. This book should be a lesson to everyone that hates corruption. I enjoyed the fact that this was written by someone who actually lived amongst what was occurring. Great stories, great adventure, amazed he is around to tell the story. People like this guy keep the spotlight on the corruption around us. Well done, hope there is more to come from Mr.Ryan [by Freiderich]

 Exciting but Scary Stories

I love True Crime in Australia & this was scary in parts but astonishing when you realize it all happened. This was hard to buy he should get another publisher. Well worth the effort though, a great read for true crime fans absolutely loved it. Hope there is more to come, it says Book 1 I hope there is a Book 2 about the old underbelly in Brisbane. [by Vance]

 What a Ride

It is amazing this guy is still alive, it is frightening to think that all this was allowed to happen & even managed by the people supposedly protecting the public, Police & Politicians.

I read this because I was a Security student of the Authors recently & became curious about him. He has a lot more he could add to this I would say & I hope he writes about all the goings on in Brisbane in the 60s 70s & 80s. My family was from Brisbane & they remember a lot of this also. Great Book, great stories - hope there is more. [by Andrew]


I just finished this Book & it left me wanting more , but I could not put it down once I had started. This is a great story & it is frightening to think that such organised Corruption was allowed to exist in Australia & now when you look at the Inquiries happening you can see where the modern corruption started. This Bloke can only be admired for what he has done. I found it a Gripping Thriller but scary when you realize it is all True & he lived through it. [by Lance]


Great Thrilling ride through this part of a guys life. The corruption is mind boggling the Murders and mayhem scary, he is lucky to be alive. Well done for a first book hope to see more especially about the sixties. [by Barry]

 Fantastic Thriller

This True Crime story reads like a thriller, the pace left me wanting to get to the end & now I want more. Here's a Guy that says it like it is & for a first time writer incredible. This should be a TV movie & there is obviously more stories from Mr. Ryan [by Bev]

 Awesome True Crime

The unbelievable corruption in Queensland exposed by this Detective is an example of how sometimes the Good Guy does Survive. Could not put this down looking forward to his next book.If this was in the States this would be a True Crime movie. I have had the Honor of Training (Police) with this man in the USA & Australia his Integrity is beyond reproach. [by Pat]

 How did they get away with the corruption for so long?

I grew up in Brisbane and John's book sent shivers down my spine. The corruption that was about then, and no one, no journalists, be they paper, radio or tv, politicians, police, judges and magistrates had the guts to do something about it. We had a sanitised commission of inquiry, and just recently documents from that inquiry have been released or shredded. Corruption just does not disappear, same game different names.

 exciting thriller

This is a great read and exciting thriller type part of this guys life. He should get a different publisher it was a pain trying to buy it and the editing leaves a lot to be desired. Hope Ryan writes more his life seems to be a total one on the 'edge' Loved it. [by Gerry]

 I Survived

If you love True Crime you will love this book. This guy says it like it is/was & no pretty pictures about it. From the seemy side of the Nightclubs to Cops arranging Mayhem & Murder this has got it all & you have gotta love his "Standing by the River" quote this guy has got guts. Had to finish it & left me wanting more. Hope Ryan keeps writing his whole life seems to be an adventure & he sure is a Survivor [by Clarke]

 I Survived

This was a great read and a great ride but I feel like there is more. Highly recommend this book. When's the next one coming? Ryan tells it like it was. [by Lawrence]

 I Survived

This is an exciting adventure I could not put down wondering what was coming next. Now I've finished I want more. Great, hope this bloke writes more. [by Graeme]

 Loved it

Reads as a thriller. Loved it, few grammar mistakes but not a problem. A first time Australian author? He writes like he's got experience. I had trouble putting it down wondering what was coming - hope there are more from this writer. [by Les]

 I Survived

This reads like a risky adventure and it is hard to believe this is the first Book Mr Ryan has written. I love True Crime and this is a book I couldn't put down. [by Rob]





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