This is either the most well timed book on politics of recent times or the worst. In her meticulously detailed volume of the caustic three years of Julia Gillard's prime ministership, Kerry-Anne Walsh ends the narrative tantalisingly short of the final scene - the long-canvassed 'Ruddstoration'.
It seems churlish to fail the book on events overtaking it, but this is always the danger with seeking to tell history on the run. Indeed, one wonders, after reading it, whether Walsh's punchy news diary-style treatment might have worked better as a live blog than as a paperback.
Even so, this book will be welcomed by all those, including this blogger, who see the last three years as a colossal failure in political journalism and the wider media; a failure evidenced by glory-seeking journos riding anonymous sources to become players in the political game, of splenetic old broadcasters
unleashing misogynistic tirades and of an unashamedly partisan tabloid trash media telling outright lies to further the ideological and commercial interests of their proprietor.
In detailing the methodical white-anting of Gillard by Rudd and the complicity of many media figures in it, Walsh echoes many of the points made on this blog and elsewhere about an incestuous political-media complex that seems all about serving insiders and keeping the public in the dark.
But Walsh's views on these issues carry additional weight, given her 25-year history in the press gallery, working for both the popular (Daily Telegraph and the Sun Herald) and high-brow (The Bulletin and Radio National) news outlets. She also knows how the dark arts of spin doctoring work, having started her career as a press secretary in the Hawke government.
So it is notable that someone with so much right to be world-weary and jaded is as gobsmacked as the rest of us by the absence of balance by so many journalists, by the reliance on one or two highly compromised sources, by the ritual overlooking of the substantial and far more consequential legislative achievements of the minority government that Gillard led and, most of all, by the corrosive influence of polls in the news process.
"Journalists who habitually play statistics to promote the case that a government or its leader is terminal when there are months, even years, before an election are engaging in fraudulent misrepresentation," Walsh writes. "Paul Keating was a goner six months out from the 1993 election, the polls predicted; Beazley was supposed to be a winner in 2001; Mark Latham looked like he could get there in 2004, according to the polls eight months out; and in 2010 Labor's lead seemed healthy."Despite the clear evidence that polls distort the political process in unhealthy ways, it seems the dying media's demand for the fix of the instant sensation and the voracity of the appetite of the news machine demands the beating up of every survey. And when your employer pays for the number crunching, you had better get in there and make a story out of it.
While there are legitimate complaints to make about the strategic nous of the Gillard office, a picture emerges through this book of a press corps that has lost all perspective, that is more focused on writing for each other and the other insiders in their limited orbit than for the general public.
"The press gallery can be a beast that feeds on itself," Walsh writes. "Gallery journalists are shackled to their desks. Their company is each other; their sounding boards are each other; their judgements about the political angle of the day are formed out of exchanges with each other. But the competition is fierce for the headline story - to be the agenda-setting pundit or to be the first to report a whisper."And, of course, all this is happening as resources dwindle and the competition for eyeballs from alternative information sources increases. It's no surprise then, to anyone with a degree of distance from Canberra, that so much of what is written is, to use Ms Gillard's apt description, "crap".
In the preamble to the book, Walsh says she does not intend it to be a defence of Gillard, although it certainly reads that way. Perhaps, her passion can be seen as an attempt to restore some much needed balance to the partisan junk we have seen. The author, like most people who have seen him up close, clearly despises Rudd - depicting him as self-deluding sociopath and egomaniac.
Looking at social media, there is still much bitterness in the community about the media treatment of Gillard and corresponding revulsion at Rudd's mealy-mouthed hypocrisy in calling for an end to the politics of negativity. And it's hard to argue with that assessment of things.
My own view - and it is just my mere unschooled opinion - is that there is nothing inconsistent about on the one hand being appalled at the sexist treatment of Gillard, recognising her great character and significant policy achievements and arguing on the other that she was a poor communicator, tactically inept or least very badly advised.
Likewise, there is nothing inconsistent in recognising on the one hand that Rudd is an egomaniac, a control freak and an over-promiser, while on the other accepting that he at least has social democratic instincts and seems better able to communicate and cut through with the many people parking their votes with Abbott. He may come undone, but he at least for now appears to have wrong-footed a man that many of us dread far more than his own egomania.
But anyway, to quote JG one last time, we are now moving forward.
POSTSCRIPT: Lest we forget, a compilation by John Jay Smith of some of the sexist, loathsome language directed against the former prime minister by mostly stupid, ignorant old men (and the odd supposed feminist) over the past three years.
'The Stalking of Julia Gillard: How the media and Team Rudd contrived to bring down the Prime Minister' - Kerry Anne Walsh, Allen and Unwin