Author Interview: Ken Linnett on Rough Habit

Rough Habit
Author: Ken Linnett
Release Date: 1 May, 2020
Publisher: Slattery Media Group
RRP: $24.99 (PB)


Rough Habit An Unlikely Champion is a tale that captures the essence of horse racing – from dreaming to inspiration, to luck good and bad, to fortunes and reputations made. It’s the story not just of an unexpected champion horse, but of those who took him to greatness.


Rough Habit, The Unlikely Champion is Ken Linnett’s second book on champions of the Turf. His first, also published by the Slattery Media Group (2017), Tulloch, The extraordinary life and times of a true champion, won the 2018 Bill Whittaker award for, “the best book on horse racing in Australia/New Zealand” over a two year period. Linnett also wrote the 1999 biography of the broadcaster and cult figure, Tommy Lahiff (Game for anything, The Tommy Lahiff story, Allen & Unwin)


1. What was it that attracted you to write about Rough Habit?

I’d always liked champion NZ racehorses but there was something extra about Rough Habit. He was small, unassuming and sort of daggy looking, and right from the beginning he had to overcome scorn about his looks and doubts about the quality of his pedigree.

2. What was the research process like in developing the book?

It was easier this time because nearly all the people associated with “Roughie” were alive, loved the horse and were keen to share their memories. I did dozens of interviews and transcribed them all. I also did hundreds of hours of research. Then I had the puzzle of turning it into a narrative that fitted my contracted limit of between 25,000 and 30,000 words. I enjoyed it all.

3. What was it about Rough Habit that made him so loved in Queensland? Was it more than just a case of the crowd backing an underdog?

Rough Habit had a habit of turning up for a race like a scruffy extra in a film and then making the glamorous actors look ordinary. Queenslanders loved him for it. Also, he kept turning up and succeeding season after season. It also helped that his trainer John Wheeler was popular in Queensland. 

Picture: Barry Pascoe.

4. Were there any surprising facts you learned about Rough Habit while researching?

I was surprised to learn that when Roughie was young, he was so enthusiastic and competitive that John Wheeler feared he would waste energy early in races and fade towards the end, so he trained him to relax early in a race and save his best for the finish. That’s how he developed his habit of emerging late from a seemingly impossible position and winning with a paralysing sprint.

5. What was it like having your book released during COVID-19?

Not good! With my previous book, I had success with a series of public events. This time I planned several events but then had to drop them all. Luckily, the word is slowly getting out about the Rough Habit book. 

6. Can we expect another book from you on another champion racehorse?

I’m not sure. I’ve done two books about famous racehorses (the other was on Tulloch). Unless they’re about Winx, racing books are hard to sell these days. My consolation is that Rough Habit is a more interesting racehorse than Winx. 

Signed copies of Rough Habit are available to purchase in-store or through our website.
You can learn more about Ken through his website.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s