The story of Michael Peterson, told again, but this time by those who knew him best.
It’s a slow morning in Byron Bay and of all the issues Sean Doherty might’ve expected to come across in that part of the world, finding someone to surf with probably wasn’t one of them.
In town to spruik his latest book, MP Untold, at the Readers and Writers Festival, Doherty’s ran through the list and came up empty…which given the current climate, might be a good thing.
“When you see an empty line up anywhere around here you know something’s wrong,” says Doherty. “I think this shark business has finally gotten to everyone. Everyone I’ve spoken to has either seen one or knows someone who has and is opting out; it’s pretty heavy.”
Of course, Doherty and his solid body of work need little in the way of spruiking, but shortly after the release of the brilliant, MP, The Life of Michael Peterson, the former Tracks editor realised there was a whole other side of MP’s story left untapped.
“I realised I fell into the trap of shaping MP’s story around the guys he surfed against as opposed the guys he hung out with,” he says. “Those were the guys he really felt at ease with and as it turns out, they were also the guys who were willing to keep his secrets.”
Indeed, it was a time where famous surfers could breeze into town; go about their business, whatever it may be, and leave, without even their mothers knowing where they’d been.
“It’s quite the juxtaposition to today’s scenario where just about every movement is mapped which is in part why the legend of MP grew to what it did,” Doherty says. “So it was a matter of following the breadcrumbs Michael had left and scooping up the little anecdotes.”
With the bullshit radar finely tuned, Doherty set about gathering the “little anecdotes” and presenting them as a series of first-person narratives, accompanied by a treasure trove of unseen photos.
“I found the people were a bit too willing to interject themselves into the story were perhaps stretching the truth a little,” says Doherty. “The guys who really struggled to offer up the stories; that’s where the gold was.”
Despite the success of the first book and the early positive response to the MP Untold, Doherty says there are “absolutely” no plans for a third instalment.
“Nah. I can rule that out entirely,” says Doherty. “I think I’ve exhausted that treasure trove, though the first book was optioned to be made into a film, so I’d like to see where that ends up.”
Which of course begs the question, who would the robust and highly efficient penman like to see cast as MP.
“The guy was a bit of a specimen, so it’d be along the lines of someone like Dave Rastovich,” says Doherty. “But if you ask Mrs MP, she’s shopping at the top end of town. She’s of the opinion Brad Pitt would fill the role quite nicely.”