Paul Connolly is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist and author, and is the editor of the essay collection Father Figures.
Squat, bespectacled and balding, save for the defiant rearguard of grey hair that fell from his pink scalp like the flap of a legionnaire’s hat, James Balcombe looked nothing like your classic crime don. He may have been wearing a black suit in court, but his dishevelled mien, like that of a man leaving work drinks at 3am, lent the garment the gravitas of a tracksuit.
Nor did Balcombe – whose business, Awesome Party Hire, supplied inflatable jumping castles for fetes and children’s parties – look overly concerned as people accused him of undercutting competitors, of threatening “to come after” a witness if he worked for his competitors, and of orchestrating the firebombings of a string of rival bouncy-castle businesses.
It was as if Balcombe, supported in court by a woman whose baby bump was not yet a match for his own bulging belly, was not the wannabe king of...