‘From page 1 of Ratbag, Soldier, Saint, I entered the magnificent maze of the life of Issy Smith, wonderfully led through that life by Issy’s granddaughter, Lian Knight. In her affectionate and uplifting words we learn of his extraordinary odyssey which brought him from Europe to the Middle East to the British Isles and to Australia, from a hand to mouth subsistence to a military career, from the routine of peacetime to the horrors of war, from anonymity to great fame as a war hero, accorded the highest accolade. He was always a battler, against the trials of war, against economic hardship, ill health and prejudice but he never stopped striving. A legendary figure, Issy’s story is pared back from the earlier wealth of conjecture by Lian’s wry and attractive biography but we finish this account of his life knowing him still to be a legend, an ordinary man making his way around the world and its history, a hero and a remarkable Australian.’
– General the Hon Sir Peter Cosgrove AK AC(Mil) CVO MC (RETD)
Lian Knight has recreated the amazing life of her grandfather, a war hero. What has been published about him is extraordinary – 2000 newspaper articles, many printed more than a century ago. Yet almost nothing written about him is consistent. The press varied his name, his age, his place of birth, where he lived and what he did. There were whispers that he emerged from poverty, delivering fish before dawn in London’s East End in the markets and laneways of Jack the Ripper’s local haunts, before joining the army at just thirteen. Averse to authority, he was a military superior’s nightmare. He served in South Africa and India before migrating to Australia.
When World War I broke out, he was despatched to the Western Front where, gassed, bombed and working against remarkable odds, he saved the lives of many and was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for valour. He became legendary, gaining medals and escaping death on numerous occasions. After the war he married and finally returned to Australia. He was famous in England and Australia for his bravery and kindness to his fellow man. Later as a movie star, a politician, a boxer, a celebrated Australian identity and a good Samaritan, his notoriety seemed to know no bounds. Which of these stories were real? A mixture of truth and fantasy has continued to be reported … until now.
About the author: Born in Sydney and raised in Melbourne, Lian Knight has held a number of senior roles in several major corporates before fulfilling her lifelong dream to write. Her first novel, Idle Lies, was published by Hybrid Publishers in 2019.
Read more about Lian Knight.
Listen to Lian Knight interviewed on Noosa FM radio 101.3 to hear about the amazing story of her grandfather and how she found out about him!