Kenneth Cook’s 1961 novel Wake in Fright is a lean, mean, memorable tale of suspense and human fallibility. And while its early tension eventually tapers to a fairly pedestrian conclusion, there’s no denying its compulsive page-turnability.
Cook’s novel recounts John Grant’s journey into a living nightmare in the small outback town of Bundanyabba. It’s typically noir, with every choice he makes being the wrong one, every single decision leading to horrendous consequences. It is a seductive tale of one man’s descent into hell and an unflinching examination of what it means to lose control.
Wake in Fright is a story of high tension, which dissipates as its momentum sputters towards its conclusion when Grant is allowed time to mellow and meditate on the decisions that bring him to a particular moment. Reflection is all well and good — necessary, even — but in this instance, it curtails everything that so riveting about the novel’s beginning. Rather than being nuanced, or massaged into the well-oiled plot, it’s bluntly spelled out.
That said, Wake in Fright is a novel you’ll smash through in a few hours, utterly enthralled by this everyman’s downfall. Cook reminds us how susceptible we are to our base desires, and how destructive they can be if we let them lead us.
Format: Paperback (199mm x 129mm x 15mm)
Imprint: The Text Publishing Company
Publisher: Text Publishing Co
Publish Date: 26-Apr-2012
Country of Publication: Australia