Although Runner is a work of fiction, Robert Newton based several of the novel's characters on real historical figures, including the notorious Australian crime boss and gangster Squizzy Taylor.
Born in 1888, Taylor grew up in a working-class Melbourne suburb of Richmond. Though his first name was Joseph, Taylor earned the nickname Squizzy because of the way his eyelid drooped. After many incidents of pick-pocketing in his youth, Taylor went on to be tried and acquitted for several murders in his twenties. After a joint jewelry heist went sour in 1918, tensions between Taylor and rival Fitzroy gang leader Snowy Cutmore led to eruptions of violence in the streets of Richmond and Fitzroy. Local newspapers covered extensively the bloody retaliations, striking fear into the citizens of both towns.
After the fighting died down, Taylor went into hiding. However, Taylor's feud with Cutmore seemed to resurface in 1927, when Squizzy Taylor and Snowy Cutmore engaged in a gunfight that left both men dead. However, the exact cause of the men's deaths are unknown, and theories abound as to what actually happened. The case is considered unsolved, and it is believed that a third unknown person was present during the gunfight.