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Posted on 19 Feb 2012 in Crime Scene, Non-Fiction |

RICHARD HALL The Mr Asia Connection: The True Story of Underbelly’s Terry Clark. Reviewed by LInda Funnell

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Why watch Underbelly when this factual account of the 1970s Kiwi-led drug empire is so gripping?

Richard Hall’s The Mr Asia Connection (originally published as Greed: the Mr Asia Connection in 1981) traces the rise of Terry Clark from small-time, small-town boy in New Zealand to a multimillionaire drug czar punting thousands at a time at London’s posh Ladbroke’s casino, leaving the cleaning lady £20 tips in the wastepaper basket and photographing his lawyer girlfriend rolling naked in banknotes.

It’s a story that’s as chaotic as it is compelling, spanning Auckland, Sydney, Singapore, Bangkok, London and LA, and it’s one of the great strengths of Richard Hall’s account that it manages to make sense of what became an increasingly tangled set of relationships.

It all came thoroughly unravelled when the handless body of Clark’s business partner, Martin Johnston, aka ‘Mr Asia’, was found in a flooded Lancashire quarry in 1979.

Terry Clark didn’t hesitate to use murder to solve business problems, and the book retails the stories of the six people he is known to have killed – all of them, at one time or another, involved in his business of importing and selling first Thai sticks and then heroin.

The case was huge, and in Australia led to the establishment of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drug Trafficking, presided over by Justice Don Stewart.  In 1981 a Lancashire court convicted Terry Clark of the murder of Martin Johnston, and he was given a 20-year jail sentence.  He had served barely two years of it before dying of a heart attack in Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight in August 1983.  The heart attack was widely suspected not to have had a natural cause.

Written as Clark’s trial was unfolding in Lancashire, The Mr Asia Connection feels as fresh and immediate – and dangerous – as when it was first written.

This edition has been revised by crime publishing veteran John Kerr, who provides some textual notes from material not available in 1981, as well as a fresh introduction, an epilogue bringing events up to date, and a generous biographical note on the author, who died in 2003.

Richard Hall The Mr Asia Connection: The True Story of Underbelly’s Terry Clark The Five Mile Press 2010 PB 320pp $19.95

If you would like to see if this book is available through Newtown Library, click here.