Crime figure and writer;
Born: November 17, 1954; Died: October 9, 2013.
Mark "Chopper" Read, who has died aged 58, was one of Australia's most notorious and colourful crime figures.
He spent 23 years in prison for a variety of crimes including assault and armed robbery and, after learning to read and write in prison, wrote more than a dozen books detailing his long career of violence.
He gained international fame in 2000 after the Australian-born actor Eric Bana played him in the critically successful film Chopper.
After Read was released from prison for the final time in 1998, he transformed himself into a crime writer and painter, and spoke out against drink driving and violence against women.
He was never convicted of killing anyone, although he claimed in his books to have murdered 19 underworld figures.
Critics said he greatly exaggerated the extent of his crimes in an attempt to gain more publicity. He claimed to have survived being stabbed, shot, run over by a car and beaten on the head with a hammer.
He was the son of a soldier father and was raised in Melbourne, spending his first five years in a children's home. In his teenage years, he was placed in psychiatric institutions and later became the leader of a street gang. He claimed that he only ever targeted other criminals.
In the 1970s, he was sentenced to 17 years in Pentridge prison in Melbourne for kidnapping a judge in an attempt to secure the released of a member of his gang.
In the years after prison, he married Mary-Ann Hodge, who had visited him in jail, and they had a son, Charlie, whose birth Read credited with softening him. "Fatherhood changed me," he said. "I reckon I became a human being at 45 when I saw my first boy born."
He went on to take part in anti-drink-driving commercials. "I know most of you out there may hate my guts - I'm not a very popular person," he once said one of the adverts. "But you drink and you drive ... you're a murdering maggot just the same as I am."
So was Read really the ruthless killer he claimed to be, or was he simply a masterful teller of tall tales?
Read's former associate, ex-police detective Roger "The Dodger" Rogerson - himself notorious for spending three years in jail in the 1990s on a charge of perverting the course of justice - said it is almost certainly the latter.
"He made it all up," Rogerson said. "In the end, he was an entertainer. He reinvented himself. And he was clever."
His books include Chopper, From the Inside: Confessions of Mark Brandon Read; Hits and Memories; and How to Shoot Friends and Influence People. He later wrote crime fiction and even children's books.
His marriage to Hodge ended in 2001. He is survived by his wife, Margaret, and his sons, Roy and Charlie.
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