Light and Shadow
by Mark Colvin

Melbourne University Press

In 1972, Mark Colvin travelled, via Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Beijing, to meet his father in Ulan Bator. In a waiting room at a border train station, a PLA soldier, ostensibly practising his English, told him how the Chinese Air Force had shot down the plane of Mao Zedong’s deputy, Lin Biao (who was defecting to Moscow after a failed coup). Colvin, then a political naif, recounted the story to his father a couple of days later, only to see him react with fury that he’d missed the intelligence scoop of the year “by a whole 36 hours”. It was the first Chinese account of the circum­stances of Lin’s death, and Colvin junior was meant to pass it on. Light and Shadow, while a memoir of Colvin’s career as a British-Australian journalist and broadcaster, also re-examines his father’s life as a spy, which dictated the family’s move­ments, including to Malaysia and Vietnam. Close but distant, father and son led lives not dissimilar. Colvin writes: “I think of the 1980s as a time when my father stopped fighting the cold war and I started covering it.”