Make no mistake, Dudley gets into it.
We've heard that not all book clubs actually talk about books. Tough Guy Book Club could easily fall into that category. We're the book club that meets in a pub after all - we're happy with that and not about to change it. But it turns out despite the abundance of beer, we're not just responsible but shockingly literary. At least, so we're told by wives and romantic partners whose book clubs routinely pound four bottles of wine and mention the book in passing... by title... if at all.
Up in Dudley NSW - or down in Dudley NSW if you live in Newcastle - there's a new chapter of TGBC. Dudley isn't much of a town, more of a suburb, with a bit of beach and a couple of pubs and not much else. Luckily it was already home to a bunch of goons who were doing their homework and showing up to the Newcastle chapter every month ready to tear the book a proverbial new one.
"We were up to 11 or 12 goons in Newcastle," says Simon Moore, president of the Dudley chapter, "And there were just too many conversations, too many people talking. Eventually I banged on the table and said 'Look, we need to bring this together or split'."
Another rule of TGBC - never have a good idea. Or if you do, never say it out loud, because then you'll have to pull your finger out and actually fucking do it.
Still, the split has been nothing but good so far. The first book Dudley got its teeth into was All Systems Red by Martha Wells. Simon hated it. But other people liked it - it even won our annual favourite book poll for 2022 - and Simon wanted someone to tell him why.
"I've always been a bit anti book club," says Simon, "Because I don't like being told what to read... [but this was] an opportunity to make some friends and try something new, and I got into the mindset of just saying yes to stuff."
Every chapter of TGBC is different. Some of them are out barbecuing or playing guitars or building shit every weekend. For Dudley it's all about the book - really getting into the guts, doing thoughtful analysis and asking big questions about works of fiction and their own lives. Dad stuff, deaths in the family. They used Isabel Allende A Long Petal of The Sea to figure out that four of them were turning 50 in the same year! They're so good at this that they end each meeting by going around the table to check if anyone's opinion has changed based on what they've heard.
Then they all sit back and take a deep breath and think, wow. We chewed that motherfucker up and spat it out again. This is the power of a book club.
"I've been in Australia 11 years," says Simon, who's originally from Portsmouth, "I met my [Australian] wife, we got married quickly, the kids came along quickly. I changed jobs, changed careers, changed everything... there comes a time in your life where you think 'Who am I? What have I got going on?'. And being the president of a chapter is something about me now. I'm that guy. I orchestrate this conversation and people get something out of it. And I get a huge feeling of satisfaction from that."
You really do. Come down and be that guy. Dudley would love to have you.