Tag Archives: Wake in Fright

Book review: Wake in Fright

Rural noir is big at the moment, if the interest in US writers like Donald Ray Pollock, Cormac McCarthy and Daniel Woodrell, is anything to go by.

While it is not be as well known, Kenneth Cook’s 1961 novel Wake in Fight is as good as anything that’s come out of the southern US, a searing story of masculinity, drinking and violence in regional Australia that still packs a punch today.

Fear of being trapped in the outback, as we call the vast expanse of harsh terrain that makes up the majority of Australia, is still semi hard-wired into the psyche of most city dwelling Australians. So, imagine how terrifying the prospect was in the sixties, when our interior was so much more remote and alien.

John Grant is a mild mannered teacher working in a tiny speck of a town called Tiboonda. Its isolation and distance from the coast has obliterated nearly all aspects of civilisation, except the ability of the local pub to keep the beer cold. As Grant puts it: “In the winter you wished for the summer, in the summer you wished for the winter, and all the time you wished to blazes you were a thousand miles from Tiboonda.”

Grant has six weeks leave ahead of him and 140 pounds in his pocket.… Read more

My top crime reads of 2012

What’s the end of a year without a best of post?

Recently, I was asked by UK site Crime Fiction Lover to list my top crime reads for 2012. They would only let me pick five, but obviously I’ve read a lot more books worthy of mention than that. Here’s the long list.

He Died with his Eyes Open, Derek Raymond

A police procedural like no other, it starts, like so many other crime novels, with the discovery of a body. The unnamed cop (the story’s narrator) who catches the case is a tough talking sergeant from the Department of Unexplained Deaths, also known as A14, at the Factory police station. There’s no apparent motive and all the cop has to go on are a series of old cassette tapes in the dead man’s property that contain the deeply unhappy ramblings of a deeply unhappy man. Most police procedurals deal with crime from the point of view of the police. What’s unusual about this book is that the cop concerned is more like his victim.

Raymond was the pen name of English writer Robert William Arthur Cook, who eschewed his upper middle class family for a life of odd jobs, bohemian travel and frequent brushes with the law. Although he wrote for years, success eluded until with the publication of He Died with His Eyes Open in 1984, the first of five Factory books.… Read more