Sydney’s fascination with Kings Cross goes back decades.

From its red light district to its bohemian side, the Cross’ reputation continues to draw writers to all facets of life in this unconventional area.

Here, we look at both fiction and non-fiction books where the Cross and our local area plays a starring role. Why not add them to your summer reading list?


With its notoriety as the centre of Sydney’s underworld, it’s little wonder Kings Cross has featured in many novels over the years.

In the 1960s, pulp fiction went to town with the Cross’ notorious depravity, producing the likes of Marsha Wayne’s Kings Cross Affair, which sports the subheading, “Mystery and terror in the violent jungle of drugs and vice”. The same era also gave us Address: Kings Cross by Charles Barrett, which focuses on teenagers and asks, “Were they after excitement, money or out to satisfy their wild urges?”

But not all fiction about Kings Cross is sensationalist. A longtime resident of Kings Cross, writer Mandy Sayer took inspiration for her novel The Cross from the Juanita Nielson case and the fight to save Victoria Street from developers.

If you’re a fan of Australian crime fiction you’re probably familiar with Cliff Hardy, the private investigator created by author Peter Corris. While the fictional character lives in Glebe, he spends much of time investigating crimes in Kings Cross, with the area featuring in books such as Make Me Rich and The Greenwich Apartments.

Winner of the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction, King of the Cross by Mark Dapin introduces readers to fictional underworld figure Jacob Mendoza as he writes his memoir and reflects on his life of crime.

At the other end of the scale is Julian Leatherdale’s The Opal Dragonfly. Set in the 1850s in the area known as Woolloomooloo Hill, this tale of the life of 17-year-old Isobel Macleod was inspired by the sumptuous surroundings and lifestyle of Elizabeth Bay House.


No book on Sydney’s underworld would be complete without mentioning Kings Cross. In their 2017 book, Sydney Noir: The golden years, authors Michael Duffy and Nick Hordern explore, among other things, how US soldiers taking leave from active service in Vietnam turned Kings Cross “into one big party”.

In Kings Cross: A biography, acclaimed playwright, author and Kings Cross local Louis Nowra broadens the focus. Nowra serves as tour guide in this book, which introduces readers to a host of well-known and unknown locals, examining both the myth and the reality of the area.

Sex and Thugs and Rock ’n’ Roll: A year in Kings Cross, 1963–1964 was written by Billy Thorpe, lead singer of the 1960s band The Aztecs, and recounts the year in which he arrived as a 17-year-old from Brisbane to be enveloped by the craziness of the Cross.

While many books examine the area’s seedier side, Aunts Up the Cross bucks the trend. First published in 1965, this witty, warm autobiography is set between the wars in bohemian Kings Cross, and tells of writer Robyn Dalton’s experiences being raised by a host of aunts in a large old house.

Proving that there’s more than one side to the Cross, Sydney Art Deco & Modernist Walks: Potts Point & Elizabeth Bay takes readers on a fascinating walk past 100 of the area’s most beautiful buildings, including work by Harry Seidler and Emil Sodersten.

Local and Art Deco aficionado Peter Sheridan also features many Potts Point apartment buildings in his book, Sydney Art Deco.

Anne-Maree Whitaker’s stunning Pictorial History Kings Cross takes readers through the area’s streets via fascinating early photographs, some of which had not been seen before the book’s 2012 publication.

And, a few years ago, we profiled Warren Fahey, author of The Good Old Bad Old Days, one of our favourite local history books.

If you’re looking for a good local read – and there are undoubtedly plenty more than we know about – pop on into the Potts Point Bookshop.

Looking to buy or sell in Kings Cross, Potts Point or Sydney’s east? Call my team today.

Article by Jason Boon

In a real estate market that is the focus of Australian, and indeed worldwide attention, Jason Boon's results in the Sydney scene make him a highly significant figure within the industry. A long-term specialist in the Potts Point and inner eastern suburbs area, he is uniquely placed to leverage his skills and local knowledge as the area undergoes significant change and diversification. Jason ha…