Review: Public Enemies by Mark Dapin


Title: Public Enemies: Russell ‘Mad Dog’ Cox, Ray Denning and the Golden Age of Armed Robbery

Author: Mark Dapin

Published: August 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read August 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin


My Thoughts:

Public Enemies is a fascinating and unexpectedly entertaining true crime book featuring infamous Australian bank robbers, Russell ‘Mad Dog’ Cox and Ray Denning, from Mark Dapin.

Pieced together from various sources including personal records, news reports, legal documents and interviews, Dapin attempts to sort fact from fiction to present a comprehensive and realistic portrait of Denning and Cox, and the path that led to them being deemed Australian Public Enemies, Number One and Two in the 1980’s. He explores their difficult childhoods marked by poverty and abandonment, teenage years spent in and out of appallingly abusive reformatory schools, and their criminal behaviour, resulting in various terms of imprisonment (and repeated escapes), throughout adulthood.

For a time, Denning, Cox and other bank robbers like them, were considered ‘legends’, anti-heroes whose crimes and activities attracted newspaper headlines (to which author Michael Robotham, who was at the time a cadet journalist attests), female fans of all ages, and grudging admiration for their daring and cunning.

Of the two men, Denning was clearly the more colourful character. A walking contradiction, he was a hard, violent man, but also charming, with a great sense of humour. For years he espoused anti-authoritarian views, and used his notoriety while on the run to campaign against the regular bashing of prisoners meted out by prison guards, and the the practice of ‘verballing’, (the creation of unsubstantiated, fabricated statements), used by the police to secure convictions. Then suddenly in the late 1980’s, Denning became an unrepentant ‘supergrass’, informing on, and testifying against, many of his associates. Not that the police nor government were grateful, reneging on an agreement to provide him with witness protection services. He died a few weeks after his release from jail in 1993, officially from a self-administered heroin overdose, though that verdict is in doubt.

Russell ‘Mad Dog’ Cox, whose real name was not Russell or Cox, nor Mad Dog (a nickname he despised) was both harder and more violent than Denning, suspected of being involved in at least three murders, but was also considered to be intelligent and even ‘professional’, arguably one of the more successful bank/payroll robbers of the era. Like Denning however, Cox had a knack for escaping jail, and once, incredulously, trying to break in.

Denning and Cox worked together only sporadically, but moved within the same criminal circles which stretched from Victoria to Queensland. Dapin exhaustively explores their milieu, introducing their associates, common enemies (like Roger Rogerson), and occasionally even their victims. Though it can be challenging to keep track of so many people and details, the additional context is compelling.

Public Enemies is provocative, gripping and entertaining, written in a personable tone, rife with Australian colloquialisms, I found myself utterly absorbed in the life and times of Ray Denning and Russell Cox.


Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$32.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Florence @ Miscellany Pages
    Aug 22, 2020 @ 06:34:51

    Ooh, this one sounds interesting! I like true crime that’s centred on something other than serial killers so this would be a great fit. Thank you for sharing! 📚❤️ X

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Helen Murdoch
    Aug 22, 2020 @ 09:39:38

    True crime books are so interesting and this one sounds good.

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Jennifer
    Aug 22, 2020 @ 09:52:13

    This looks interesting. Thanks, Shelleyrae, for another great review.

    Liked by 1 person


  4. Anne - Books of My Heart
    Aug 23, 2020 @ 06:28:14

    Fascinating! Excellent review!

    Liked by 1 person


  5. Trackback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundaySalon #SundayPost | book'd out
  6. carhicks
    Aug 24, 2020 @ 01:42:04

    This does sound interesting. I like that it is true crime, but not about murderers or serial killers. Great review.

    Liked by 1 person


  7. Trackback: Six Degrees of Separation: Rodham to Life or Death | book'd out

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