This is the remarkable story of a boy with a finely honed sense of justice who became a Lancaster bomber pilot in the Second World War, then a card-carrying Communist and eventually a Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria.
In recalling his youth, Marks looks critically at Melbourne Grammar, which he attended between 1931 and 1940. He tells of his passion for horses and offers glimpses of colourful characters including the punter Eric Connolly, the bookmaker Sol Green and the legendary star of the 1920s and '30s Victorian Bar, Sir Eugene Gorman.
Marks' character is displayed in the vivid and humble way he writes of his experiences as a bomber pilot. He also evokes the volatile political atmosphere of post-war Melbourne University. Moved by his experience of war, the apparent threat of a third World War and his Marxist reading, he joined the University Labour Club in 1948 and embraced the ideals of communism. He then returned to Europe to judge for himself the Eastern European regimes. There he was shocked to discover the gap between ideological theory and practice, and realised that communism was fraught with corruption, cruelty and dissent.
In recounting his rise from fledgling barrister to Judge of the Supreme Court, Marks reveals many fascinating aspects of the Victorian Bar. In 1995 he was appointed to conduct the Royal Commission into the use of executive power by Carmen Lawrence's Western Australian government. For the first time, In Off the Red reveals all the issues; the attempts by lawyers to close down the inquiry, the meaning and effect of parliamentary privilege, and the flaws that handicap the inquisitorial process. Marks suggests that our civil and criminal justice systems are failing to meet the needs of modern society and puts forward ideas for reform.
In Off the Red is an endearingly honest account of a life lived by principle, with passion and without fear.