Wednesday 6 July 2016




A previously unpublished thriller novella from the iconic Australian author of Wake in Fright (Text Classics, 2013) that will have readers hooked from page one.

It was quite silent in the scrub. No breeze stirred the leaves and no bird moved, except for the kite hawks wheeling silently, eternally, high in the hot air.

She smelled her attacker before she saw him.

A heavy stench hit her with such force that she started with shock. It was a smell she'd never encountered before. Not man, not animal, something like carrion, but alive. It seemed to envelop and suffocate her, then became tangible as two arms wrapped around her body and began tearing at her clothing.

A young man driving from Sydney to Adelaide for work decides to take a short detour into the desert. He turns his hatchback on to a notoriously dangerous track that bisects uninhabited stone-covered flats. Out there, under the baking sun, people can die within hours.

He's not far along the road when a distraught young woman stumbles from the scrub and flags him down. A journalist from Sydney, she has just escaped the clutches of an inexplicable, terrifying creature.

Now this desert-dwelling creature has her jeep. Her axe. And her scent…

From the author of the classic novel Wake In Fright (Text Classics, 2013) comes a chillingly brilliant short novel that's part Wolf Creek (AFFC, 2005) and part Duel (Universal, 1971). Fear is the Rider is a nail-biting chase into the outback, towards the devil lurking at its centre.

Fantastic, breath-taking, edge of the seat stuff.

Man meets girl in Aussie bar, they have a chat. She’s off into the outback taking photographs at an out of the way Aboriginal landmark. He’s off to Adelaide, but not due there for a week or so. A leisurely detour might be in order – who knows he might catch up with her again.

Off he goes in his little Honda, taking note of the signpost….NO DRINKING WATER OR PETROL FOR THE NEXT 600 KILOMETRES.

Before long, our aforementioned girl stumbles from the brush in front of him…..ripped blouse and hysterical.

Having narrowly avoided being raped and murdered by a foul-smelling Neanderthal, who has car-jacked her Land Cruiser….. Mr Stinky is now after a two-fer.

I was reminded of the film Duel (mentioned above) – kind of crossed with Deliverance. As our pair of urbanites attempt to flee the inhospitable outback, stymied and pursued every step of the way, by a cunning adversary, much better equipped and more at home in the punishing environment and a lot less restrained by the normal standards of civilised behaviour.  

A white knuckle ride – all the way!

Harsh setting - I spat dust as I read it.

A small cast of characters – our sympathies firmly siding with our two hunted townies.

Simple but effective plot. Stand and fight and probably die, or run and probably die – if our madman doesn’t kill you the terrain will. Let go of your manners and you may have a small chance of survival.

4.5 from 5

Kenneth Cook (deceased 1929 - 1987) was/is one of Australia’s great neglected writers. There’s a fantastic piece on him and his books here.

Wake in Fright sits on the Kindle ready for a read sometime.

Fear is the Rider is published this August by Text Publishing. Thanks to Emily over there for the review copy.

Read in June, 2016


  1. This sounds pretty damn' fine. I confess I'm ignorant of Cook's work, and really ought to chase some of it up.

    1. I only heard of him last year when WAKE IN FRIGHT came on my radar. The linked essay highlights that his output is a bit uneven, but there's a few there I wouldn't mind reading.

  2. I really like the Outback setting for this one, Col. And it sounds like a power-packed story, too. Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Sounds like an interesting author, Col. I checked out Wake in Fright, and it is a horror story per Amazon's description. Are other of his books being released also?

    1. I did check with the publisher (in Australia) and there aren't any plans to re-issue any more of his books, which is a shame. I had a list of a couple I wanted to check out, but I've misplaced it. I'm not sure if second hand copies of his books are easily found and how affordable they would be, especially factoring in that if I do find some they are likely to be located Down Under.

  4. "I spat dust as I read it." - that line cracked me up. I like that the story is set in Australia....I think I have one Kenneth Cook book somewhere in my virtual library. The name sounds familiar ...-K.

    1. Keishon, I hope your memory is correct, I'll be curious to see how you go with Kenneth Cook (plus what it is you have)!

    2. It's Wake in Fright" bought about a year ago.

  5. Glad you found it so much to your (dust-filled) taste, but maybe not for me. Btw, I AM getting into Lou Berney...

    1. Ok Moira no bother. I'll bite - what Berney are you reading?

    2. Is it Long and Faraway Gone...? Would definitely read another by him.

    3. Yes - that's the one of his I haven't read. He must be due something else out soon.