The best books about life’s adventures featuring crime, drugs, and travel

Why am I passionate about this?

I learned from a young age to question everything. The law always interested me, but I was an impatient high school graduate who instead completed a journalism cadetship in Sydney, Australia. I always loved police reporting and the ability to get inside the ‘real’ story where few others could. There is a certain pleasure observing the lives of (witting or unwitting) criminals and an element of “there by the grace…” too! I’ve always empathised with the underdog and the Drug Grannies were indeed just that. I believed there was more to their story. Earning their trust was important. I threw myself into their fight – more an activist than a journalist!


I wrote...

Betrayed: The incredible untold inside story of the two most unlikely drug-running grannies in Australian history

By Sandi Logan,

Book cover of Betrayed: The incredible untold inside story of the two most unlikely drug-running grannies in Australian history

What is my book about?

Betrayed is a fascinating and often jaw-dropping true story of two American women who unwittingly became Australia's 'Drug Grannies'. In 1977, Vera Hays and Florice Bessire thought they were about to embark on the trip of a lifetime when Vera's nephew, Vern, offered them a campervan to drive from Germany to India. Little did the women know Vern would secretly load drugs into the vehicle along the way. This inside story chronicles the women’s wild ride across continents and oceans to Australia, their arrest by narcotics agents, and all that the women faced in jail in the aftermath. As a journalist at the time, I have used interviews with the women and their diaries to tell this incredible tale, and their fight for justice.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Wake

Sandi Logan Why did I love this book?

This is a gripping crime novel by an Australian author who tantalizingly weaves the wonder of the land down under within a deeper mystery mixing guilt, grief, and the complexities of family life in the outback.

For the uninitiated, it takes the reader to parts of Australia where few visitors travel… except the circus, their workers, and their secrets. The reader can almost taste the red dust, and sweat the heat in this wonderful book. There is no private when crime becomes public!

I really enjoyed the author’s ability to bring the reader through so many suspenseful crescendos without ever losing us, and then dropping an absolute unexpected ‘reveal’ in the end. Brilliantly done!

By Shelley Burr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


"Politically savvy, cleverly plotted...the kind of book that invites the ravenous language of binge reading: compulsive, propulsive, addictive."--New York Times Book Review

For fans of Jane Harper’s The Dry or Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, a searing debut crime novel set in the Australian outback, where the grief and guilt surrounding an unsolved disappearance still haunt a small farming community…and will ultimately lead to a reckoning.

The tiny outback town of Nannine lies in the harsh red interior of Australia. Once a thriving center of stockyards and sheep stations, years of punishing drought have petrified the land and Nannine has been…


Book cover of Drugs, Guns & Lies: My life as an undercover cop

Sandi Logan Why did I love this book?

This is an outstanding inside look that goes well, well beyond the typical “whistleblower”-type tomes.

Keith Banks was a copper for 20 years in one of Australia’s most corrupt police organisations – the Queensland Police Force. During the 1980s, he let his hair grow, then down, and went undercover as a drug cop. As Banks says: “Undercover was like guerrilla warfare; to understand your enemy, you had to walk amongst them, to become them.”

Some of the decisions he had to make about allowing drugs – including heroin – get onto the street, and into the arms of kids barely into their teens in order to track down the major suppliers, are heartbreaking. This has to be one of the best Australian true crime/memoirs in many decades.

By Keith Banks, Ben Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Drugs, Guns & Lies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Banks has told his story in a raw and honest autobiography. It is the best true crime book published in Australia in a decade.' -John Silvester, Crime Reporter for The Age

Undercover was like guerrilla warfare; to understand your enemy, you had to walk amongst them, to become them. The trick was to keep an eye on that important line between who you were and who you were pretending to be.

This is the true story of Keith Banks, one of Queensland's most decorated police officers, and his journey into the world of drugs as an undercover operative in the…


Book cover of Operation Jungle

Sandi Logan Why did I love this book?

This is a memoir by a former narcotics agent who writes about a major drug importation masterminded by a combination of crooks and cops (though it is hard sometimes to work out who was who!).

On a broader scale, Operation Jungle also details the high-level corruption which existed in Queensland under disgraced senior police and politicians in league with each other. Shobbrook – as a brave, serving narcotics agent who transferred into the Australian Federal Police – “ratted” on the corrupt police and politicians before the Australian Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs, and so sealed his fate.

Australia was not ready for the truth. Instead of treating his evidence with respect, the author was forced out of the Australian Federal Police in 1980. It’s a gripping, thrilling true story.

By John Shobbrook,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Operation Jungle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A gripping blend of memoir, true crime, and corruption in the tropics. In the late 1970s, criminal mastermind John Milligan and his associates conspired to import heroin into Far North Queensland via a remote mountain-top airdrop. In a story that is stranger than fiction, it took them three trips through dense jungle to locate the heroin, but they only recovered one of the two packages. When narcotics agent John Shobbrook took on the investigation of this audacious crime, codenamed ‘Operation Jungle,’ his career was on the rise within the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. What he discovered unwittingly set in motion…


Book cover of Justice in Kelly Country: The Story of the Cop Who Hunted Australia's Most Notorious Bushrangers

Sandi Logan Why did I love this book?

There would be few Australians who didn’t know the name Ned Kelly, but there are likely many Australians who are uncertain whether Kelly was a good guy (a la Robin Hood) or a down-and-out bushranger scoundrel (i.e., bad guy).

The research that has gone into this wonderful story is breathtaking, and the fact the author is a distant relative of one of the policemen who hunted Ned Kelly is all the more remarkable. It’s about the law, justice, payback, character, and, importantly, values. The book brings a bygone rural era back to life, with real page-turning impetus lacing the suspense and drama in a way few history books offer.

Read this if you love real-life stories and want to learn more about Australia’s most notorious criminal.

By Lachlan Strahan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Justice in Kelly Country as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Partway through the Jerilderie Letter, Ned Kelly accused Senior Constable Anthony Strahan of threatening him: ‘he would shoot me … like a dog.’ Those few fateful words have echoed through Australian history and been the cause of much bloodshed and violence. They ushered in a national myth: the legend of the Kelly Gang. For two days after Anthony reputedly made his threat, Ned and his gang shot dead three police in an event now known as the Stringybark Creek killings. Ned’s reason for opening fire? He thought one cop was Anthony. Lachlan Strahan, Anthony’s great-great-grandson, grew up believing Ned Kelly…


Book cover of Key to the Highway

Sandi Logan Why did I love this book?

Discovery of a mysterious blues harp/harmonica by Seaford's Kananook Creek takes Chris Hunter on a wild, musical odyssey through the Australian outback to Perth, India, Bangkok, Borneo, and Rio.

Richard Andrews’ debut novel is an exciting mixture of sci-fi, mysticism, and adventure notwithstanding the book’s lead character is a cynical journalist who pursues Canberra's suppressed esoteric secret in a fight against the Alt Right.

On the journey to self-discovery, Hunter’s reality morphs with mythological gods, heroes, and villains, manifested as bikers, prophets, gun runners, shady businessmen, neo-Nazis, and miners. Key to the Highway is in a way a “hero’s journey. Get your leathers on for this exciting motorcycle odyssey towards self-discovery; it’s certainly a wild ride!

By Richard Andrews,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Key to the Highway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A cosmic motorbike fantasy and a magical blues harp take Chris Hunter on a wild, Orphic odyssey through the Australian Outback to Indonesia, India, Bangkok, Borneo and Rio. His reality morphs into a mythological world of gods and demons, manifested as bikers, prophets, gun runners, drug smugglers, shady businessmen and neo-Nazis. Empowered by an ancient esoteric secret, his journey to self-discovery climaxes in a battle with Alt-Right forces.


You might also like...

Book cover of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

Ethan Chorin Author Of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Story-lover Middle East expert Curious Iconoclast Optimist

Ethan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Benghazi: A New History is a look back at the enigmatic 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, its long-tail causes, and devastating (and largely unexamined) consequences for US domestic politics and foreign policy. It contains information not found elsewhere, and is backed up by 40 pages of citations and interviews with more than 250 key protagonists, experts, and witnesses.

So far, the book is the main -- and only -- antidote to a slew of early partisan “Benghazi” polemics, and the first to put the attack in its longer term historical, political, and social context. If you want to understand some of the events that have shaped present-day America, from political polarization and the election of Donald Trump, to January 6, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Russian expansionism, and the current Israel-Hamas war, I argue, you need to understand some of the twists and turns of America's most infamous "non-scandal, scandal.”

I was in Benghazi well before, during, and after the attack as a US diplomat and co-director of a medical NGO. I have written three books, and have been a contributor to The NYT, Foreign Affairs, Forbes, Salon, The Financial Times, Newsweek, and others.

By Ethan Chorin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On September 11, 2012, Al Qaeda proxies attacked and set fire to the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, killing a US Ambassador and three other Americans.  The attack launched one of the longest and most consequential 'scandals' in US history, only to disappear from public view once its political value was spent. 

Written in a highly engaging narrative style by one of a few Western experts on Libya, and decidely non-partisan, Benghazi!: A New History is the first to provide the full context for an event that divided, incited, and baffled most of America for more than three years, while silently reshaping…


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