Compelling. Heartbreaking. Injustice.
  • The Man Who Wasn't There
  • Download Cover

The Man Who Wasn't There

Dan Box


A true story about lies, murder and the Territory

‘Sorry, mate, but that’s the message.’ Zak says to grow some balls and defend him.
You’ve got to remember he is still a young bloke, stuck in Darwin prison where it’s always hot, the food is slop and they get rats in the wet season.
It’s not enough just to help him get out; Zak wants people to accept his innocence and that he was wrongfully convicted.
‘I don’t know what you want to do with that,’ he tells me.
Zak Grieve grew up in an outback town, at the crossroads between right and wrong, white and black, punishment and forgiving. Convicted of a brutal killing despite even the judge saying he wasn’t there when it happened, he spent years writing letters describing his hopes and dreams, his role in what happened, and how when the real world came down on him with a tonne of punishment, he wasn’t ready.
This is a book about growing up, about dying and about writing. In the end, it is only Zak’s imagination, given life in the novels he also writes inside prison, that hold the key to his survival.
In the grand tradition of Helen Garner’s Joe Cinque’s Consolation and Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man, this is a gripping story of injustice in the Deep North of Australia.

About the Author

Dan Box is a Walkley Award-winning journalist and bestselling author. He has previously worked for The Australian, the BBC and London's The Sunday Times. He has won awards in both the UK and Australia, including for investigative reporting, feature writing and true crime writing.



‘deeply powerful and beautiful.’  Trent Dalton, bestselling author of Boy Swallows Universe


‘a riveting story well told.’ – Sydney Morning Herald


When crime journalist and Walkley winner Dan Box embarked upon this book about a young Indigenous man who claims he was wrongly convicted of murder in the Northern Territory, he admits he was motivated by the lure of another top journalism award. And with that admission, Box signals this is not your ordinary true crime page-turner (although the pages do turn easily). Box himself becomes a character in a complicated, self-aware story about family tragedy, an unlikely friendship, a media ecosystem that can do as much harm as good, and a justice system he comes to see as tragically flawed.’  The Guardian


‘Much more than a whodunnit, the book considers the injustices of the justice system, particularly for Indigenous people, as well as the friendship Box and Grieve forge.’ – The West Australian





Pub Date
October 2023




Injustice. Social inequality. True crime.