Chub Insecurity

I started snooping around the far-right scene mid-2015. The tentative title for the book was Cronulla Hajj, hajj being the journey Muslims take to Mecca. Back then, I had thought the end point for the book would a December 2015 rally to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Cronulla riots.

But the far-right kept cartwheeling past that date. There were signs they'd impact the 2016 Australian Federal Election. I kept chasing the story and changed the title to Stranger in a Strange Land. Moses says in the bible, about his time in Egypt, 'I have been a stranger in a strange land'. That's what I felt like too, digging around Australia.

Penguin was preparing to release this incarnation of the book and even sent out artwork to some online bookstores. But now the Trump movement was growing - could Trump really become president? - and my Penguin editor and I knew I had to keep going.

Penguin decided Stranger in a Strange Land was a bit flowery and pompous and literary, whereas my brand was shlock and shtick and danger. I retitled the book Next Thing I Knew, We Were Extremists.

The Penguin lawyer said no dice. That title could suggest every character in the book was an extremist which could spell trouble. We haggled and settled on Depends What You Mean By Extremist. Some of the other proposed titles I scribbled on a piece of paper: Hide Me Under the Floorboards, The Penguin Book of Racists, The Great Aussie Joke Book, John Safran's Extreme Play Dates, The Quran, The Nazis are Coming!, You Are A Wanker, The Golem from Ipswich, Causing a Fuehrer, A Frank Diary and The Satanic Verses.

Tensions were high because Penguin still liked the artwork for Stranger In A Strange Land and just wanted to slip in the new title. But I'd lost 10kg since the cover photo was snapped so wanted to replace it with a photo of my non-jowlly face. The fat face photo was a selfie snapped outside a Bendigo pub where I had been hanging with the far-right after a rally. A shaved-headed man was hovering behind me but Penguin thought it was too scary so stripped him out. I eventually won the fat face vs thin face war by whining and sulking.

Fat face

Fat face

Fat face

Fat face

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John Safran