Benjamin Grant Mitchell is a writer from Melbourne and the author of The Last Great Day, his debut novel inspired by his childhood in a corrupt ‘End Time’ sect.
Mitchell was born in a cottage in Sale, England, to Australian parents who were members of an American doomsday cult; his mother a former farmgirl from Toowoomba, and his father a newly ordained minister: both naive to the abuse and corruption of their chosen religion. In this birth setting Mitchell begins a story of a family’s journey to freedom: from Manchester to Melbourne, via the Nullarbor Plain, Manly Beach, Toowoomba and cult headquarters in Los Angeles.
Discussing what led to his writing what he describes as an ‘autobiographical novel’, Mitchell is candid about the inspiration behind The Last Great Day. “It wasn’t until we left the cult, on the eve of my tenth birthday, when I started to understand it wasn’t everybody else who was weird, and it was actually me and my family who had had the somewhat unique experience.
In my twenties, I began to reflect more on how my baby twin brothers and Aunty all died unnecessarily—due to the cult’s ban on seeking medical assistance—and it occurred to me some of those early experiences might provide the makings of a pretty good story.”
Besides Mitchell’s childhood spent believing the end of the world was coming in 1975 (when he would have been six), he has had other ‘unique’ experiences too. Mitchell is likely the only son of a cult minister to star on Neighbours (playing Cameron Hudson in the nineties), and definitely the only cult survivor to record songs for his critically acclaimed album, The Stars Can See, at The Beatles’ producer, Sir George Martin’s London studios.
“Acting was fun and performing helped me come out of my cult-induced shell, while writing music taught me how to be economical with words. Having written my first novel though, I think I’m hooked on a medium that allows for more depth of meaning—and perhaps a greater subtlety of humour. The Last Great Day has its fair share of tragedy, but it’s not all doom and gloom. I think it’s safe to say—without spoiling my story— in the end the world doesn’t end.”
Benjamin Grant Mitchell is appearing at the Melbourne Writers Festival 2011—on Saturday 3rd September at 4pm—to officially launch The Last Great Day. To request a review copy, or to arrange an interview with the author, please contct me using the details below.
The year is 1969. Henry Conroy is a minister in an American doomsday cult based in England. Becoming a father for the first time, Henry moves his family home to Australia where his wife Elizabeth is reunited with her parents and pregnant, sickly sister. When as a result of their beliefs the family suffer a series of avoidable tragedies, Henry begins to question the true character of his leader. Elizabeth, however, driven by grief and guilt holds ever tight to her faith and, even after a harrowing encounter with the man she and her husband once so revered, refuses to face the shocking truth. Disheartened by failed prophecies and impelled by disturbing rumours of sexual abuse, a defiant Henry relocates his family to church headquarters in California, where he faces an agonizing choice between continuing to live a lie and the possibility of losing his family forever.
The Last Great Day
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To request a review copy or an interview with the author please contact me using the details below
By Benjamin Grant Mitchell
Founder Herbert W Armstrong predicted Armageddon for 1975
• Armstrong enforced extra commandments such as forbidding the celebration of birthdays, Easter and Christmas
• The cult was co-founded by renowned comic and Mad Magazine artist, Basil Wolverton
•The cult sued Steven Spielberg and George Lucas over ‘stealing’ the idea for Raiders of the Lost Ark
• World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer was a member of the cult
•‘Rolfe’ from The Sound of Music was a member of the cult
• Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Luciano Pavarotti performed at cult headquarters in LA
• Armstrong metwith Prince Charles and Margaret Thatcher
• Thanks to private donations (members were expected to donate up to 30% of their income) Armstrong bought a ‘Gulfstream II’ private jet
• At the height of the Church’s popularity, Armstrong was wealthier than the top three TV evangelists of the time combined
• 60 Minutes exposed the cult on US television in 1979.
Some facts about The WorldWide Church of God
Nell O’Bryan – Book Publicist