zeus header



all there was cover


All There Was is an honest and astonishing insight into one man’s lifelong struggle with manic-depression. As a comic actor and a languages teacher he thrived on performance: the adrenalin boost it supplied often controlled and moderated the darker side of his nature.

A flawed individualist who mismanaged the promising life that was his to nurture, he lost all confidence in the decision-making process and stumbled from one family crisis to another, from one relationship to another, one marriage to another, one school to another.

Escape became his obsession and his failure, until his only recourse appeared to be silent reclusiveness. His story is about one of life’s loneliest afflictions and one sufferer’s battle to keep the Black Dog at bay.         


In Store Price: $29.95 
Online Price:   $28.95



Ebook version - $AUD9.00 upload.


ISBN: 978-1-921731-52-5
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 329
Genre: Non Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins


James H Mannell
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published:  2019
Language: English


     Read a sample:    





To Kate Ruth Mannell, my granddaughter, a free spirit.


To those whose loss weighed so heavily on me over the years.


author bio


A seventh-generation Australian, Jim is a graduate of the University of Sydney with majors in French and English and sub-majors in Psychology and Anthropology. Later he gained further sub-majors in German and Italian at the University of New England and a certificate in Adult TESOL. He was a secondary school teacher of foreign languages and English for 40 years, including 12 years as a deputy principal.  

In his retirement he taught adult language learners for another 10 years. His involvement in stage acting spanned more than four decades during which he played major roles in some 30 productions. This is his fourth published book. 

His writing credits are A Chalkie of the State (2013 teaching memoir), Dropping the Sausage (2013 humorous memoir about his “accidental” life) and his novel, The Time Before (2014), a romantic drama set in two different eras of the 20th century. All There Was might be seen as the third memoir book in the trilogy of self-revelation.

 Read a sample:

Escape is exhilarating if you’re young enough, but you can get addicted to it and one day you discover you’re an old and inveterate escapee and you’ve got an insurmountable problem. By the time I was 19, escape was becoming a part of my psychological make-up as I dreamed of escaping from the parental home and after I achieved that, I was soon longing hopelessly to escape from the reality of premature marriage and parenthood.

I plunged into the world of theatrical non-reality, which fed my propensity for escaping from what I didn’t like about my life, but the stage would always remain a half-baked break-out. The shock of premature fatherhood led to elopement with my pregnant girlfriend: that too was an imperfect escape because I was too quickly reeled in by my father and led back to the fold and all I wanted to do for the next two years was escape again.

Within two years I was living with my wife in our own home and in a relationship that quickly palled, but it took eight years to escape from the marriage that had steamrolled my youth. Even so, that was merely a pyrrhic victory. It certainly didn’t help my son and it didn’t help me either: the person I’d impulsively married and then cast adrift would always be my son’s mother and therefore would always be in my life and doing her best to subvert it.

As a teacher I’d end up serving at 11 state secondary schools and there wasn’t a single one from which I didn’t want to escape within a year or two of arriving. I couldn’t wait to be promoted from classroom teacher to head teacher and then escape from there to deputyship, never imagining that running a high school would become a 12-year sentence from which I’d only ultimately escape by going back to the classroom. By the age of 40 I’d already changed my residential address a dozen times and of those there were only two homes I’d aspired to stay in indefinitely. In the decades that followed there’d be many more residential escapes.

Over the years I also sought a couple of dozen romantic relationships and then sought to escape from them, sometimes painfully tardily and at other times with almost obscene haste. Even on the more mundane level of sporting involvement I changed football clubs 13 times in 33 years, testimony to my distaste for male bonding. The desperation with which I contemplated escape continued into the 21st century until my options were pitifully few and reclusiveness became my only recourse.


the first half




age of unenlightenment


There was a lot I could have learnt with a little help from those who were there to cherish and mentor me. The first inkling I had that it wasn’t going to happen was when I found myself captivated by Susan, a fellow first grader, a shy little girl with beautiful dark eyes and long curly black hair. I stood in the playground staring at her, unable to breathe, afraid she’d notice, or someone else would notice me watching her. I couldn’t understand the hold she had over me and wasn’t sure I enjoyed it, but in any case it was beyond my power to cross the 15-yard abyss that separated us in order to speak to her. I didn’t know that my nine-year-old sister had noticed me spying on the object of my adoration and at home that night, she teased me about it. Usually when Margaret spoke to me she rarely had anything nice to say, but suddenly she was showing, or feigning, interest in me and being only seven and desperate, I shared with her my secret love for Susan and quickly learned that my sister couldn’t be trusted.

The next day at school I saw her go right up to Susan and whisper my secret in her ear. I felt my face and ears turning red. Margaret was smirking and Susan was smiling and I wanted to dig a hole and bury myself, but instead I sprinted for the nearest school building and ran underneath the verandah to hide, but its clearance was just a little lower than I was: I hit my head and almost scalped myself. That was the beginning of the first really unhappy day I’d spent at school. Margaret didn’t come to check on me later in the day, but back at home that night she derided me mercilessly. For the next four years I pined for Susan and it was fortunate that classes became single-sex in the upper grades of Condell Park Primary School and I saw less and less of her big, beautiful eyes. I was destined never to speak to her or hear her voice.

It was normal for me to be timid, shy and introspective at school, which stamped me as a well-behaved schoolboy. I had no “mates” and after the Susan disaster in first grade, fraternising with girls was out of the question. Sessions of folk dancing were excruciating; the gentle touch of Susan’s hand would have rescued me, but I was never lucky enough to take it in mine and I found almost all of the other girls at school wildly unattractive...


My sister had actually detested me from birth and I didn’t get to work out why until I was older and a fraction wiser, which was after I’d found I was excelling in primary school. She made her disgruntlement clear when my parents gave her a little brother in 1945. The arbitrariness of birth had sown in her the seed of antipathy towards me that hardly diminished with the passing years. Worse was to come when her second and final sibling also came out male. When she found herself looking down on a fresh horror, her revulsion ratcheted up several clicks and she demanded that her parents send the new baby back and get a girl. She refused to acknowledge my brother Bill’s existence at first and called him “Helen” instead of William for six months and became angry when her mother refused to let her dress him up as a girl-child. The contempt she had for me, her first male disappointment, continued apace and became an undercurrent that ran through the rest of our lives. It was so strong, especially when it joined forces with her sibling jealousy, that she vowed there and then never to be interested in anything I was interested in, such as sporting prowess and academic progress, singing, acting and foreign languages.

Her most pathological aversion (after her first brother) was school and schooling, a blind spot that stayed with her from age five till forever. Through infants’ and primary school she fought her mother or grandmother when it was time to leave for school, sometimes digging her heels in and having to have her fingers pried from the slats of picket fences all the way to school. Above average in intelligence but no rocket scientist, she developed a steadfast and successful approach to doing as little work at school as possible, spending 10 years, a painful 30 school terms, impatiently waiting till she was 15 so she could end her schooling. The fruits of her school days were a scratchy Intermediate Certificate and a healthy contempt for senior high school students, university graduates in general and her younger brother in particular. Whenever her lack of schooling became an issue, she countered it by maintaining that the school of life conferred on her a summa cum laude education and her 60-odd jobs qualified her in just about everything. She was truly a monument to Pope’s dictum: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

The children of Eric and Ruth Mannell shared a whacky sense of humour, but we had no idea where it had come from. My father always struck me as rather humourless and when he got the joke it was mostly a delayed reaction. He tried to join in the banter but the basis of his sense of humour was feeble puns and corny rejoinders. Ruth wasn’t a barrel of laughs because by the time we were young adults it was obvious to us that for her being married to Eric was no laughing matter, even though she did her best to conceal it. Nevertheless she appreciated her children’s entertainment value at the dinner table, around the campsite, in the backyard and at talent quests. She was sometimes even complicit in high jinks and if that happened to be at Dad’s expense, he quickly brought her to heel. As we grew, her innate sense of fun grew with us. When Margaret left the nest and the city behind her in favour of country life in northern New South Wales, she wasn’t missed by her brothers even though she’d been part of the comedy act; she really had little to offer and Bill and I continued as a duo for the rest of his tragically curtailed life. By the time we were young husbands and fathers, it was a comic partnership that came easy to us…


From the beginning, for better or for worse, I was influenced much less by the male of the species than the female. Apart from my father, the males who peopled my childhood were remote figures for different reasons. My maternal grandfather Ted Wilkinson, who was 65 when I was born, was undeniably fascinating for me: the friendly, gentle old man (considerably older than his wife) was a veteran of the Boer War and of a marriage that must have been just a little hellish. He was a storyteller with a special place in the hearts of the children of his youngest daughter Ruth, but he was a tragic figure and I came to recognise that quite early. Eileen, my grandmother, kept him pretty much confined to his own bedroom, where he smoked his cigarettes, bandaged his troublesome legs and set fire to his mattress. By the time I was 10 I had a soft spot for him simply because he was a loner, almost a prisoner in the home that belonged to his wife. I was a loner as well and felt I had an affinity with the old man. In addition, family members regularly remarked that I looked more like Ted than his own two sons did.

His older son James, after whom I was named, was a commando in World War II and like his father was easy going and immensely likable. In my boyhood I found the tall, broad-shouldered man with a craggy good-looking face a little intimidating but he also inspired admiration and affection in me. After the war he was seduced by an older married woman, Molly, who was possibly the only sex partner he ever had. His mother and sisters didn’t talk much about him because of the “adultery thing”. Jim lived in the post office sub branch and general store only three doors down the street from his mother’s home in a scandalous ménage à trois arrangement with Molly McGoldrick and her husband, the post office manager. Uncle Jim and old Mr Mac were mates, who drank beer together in the tiny living room at the back of the store and gambled small amounts on the horses. It was obvious even to a naïve 10-year-old that he was the black sheep of his straight-laced family. I was destined to acquire the isolationist gene by the time I was 20 and I also shared with Ted and his older son a propensity for misadventure. One day in his early forties, Ted was walking home from work at the Chullora railway yards, when he was run down by two drunken youths who were driving on the wrong side of the road. The guilty pair then dragged his unconscious and broken body over to the “right” side of the road. Amazingly my grandmother stood up in court and spoke in their defence because she knew their families and felt sorry for them. In addition to being a married man with no sex life, Ted was left an invalid pensioner, disempowering him even more emphatically. Eileen became head of the family. Meanwhile his son Jim at roughly the same age burned several of his toes off in an industrial accident. Both men limped through the latter half of their lives, as did I in my own twilight years.

Until his death Ted Wilkinson lived with his wife and two pious spinster daughters, Dorothy (Doss) and Eileen jnr (Spuds), who lived chaste and sheltered lives and were sexual conscientious objectors. They were puritans like my parents and my paternal grandparents. Not so much my grandmother Eileen, who was simply a wowser, although in contrast to her four daughters, religion didn’t mean a whole lot to her, but then neither did sex. She and her silent partner Ted managed to breed five wowsers out of six. To the entire Wilkinson family, with the exception of son James, sex was a three-letter word…





                                                   All Prices in Australian Dollars                                                                                CURRENCY CONVERTER                    

                                 (c)2018 Zeus Publications           All rights reserved.