Thursday, 10 November 2016

Book Review - Fear is the rider by Kenneth Cook

Fear is the rider by Kenneth Cook, foreword by Douglas Kennedy

Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2016          ISBN 9781925240856

Some time ago I reviewed Kenneth Cook's Wake in fright, which I was spurred to read after hearing news of an until-then undiscovered manuscript found in Cook's papers. The manuscript has been published this year under the title Fear is the rider, and if fear is your thing, this book will be worth an hour or two of your time.

This fast-paced thriller was originally developed as a film script by Cook and his children, and then novelized by Cook toward the end of his life. The story is simple: man (Shaw) travelling the outback runs into pretty girl (Katie) travelling in the outback, follows her in the hopes of beginning a romance, only to have her running at his car out of the scrub after being attacked by "the man". The rest of the story is a classic chase tale, with both Shaw and Katie trying to flee the relentless malice of this unknown killer. The characterization is thin, but the action is non-stop, a mash-up of films both old and new: Cook obviously inspired by Duel, and there are touches of Wolfe Creek in this story as well. What gives an added frisson of fear is the fact that there has been more than one occasion when travellers in remote Australia have been brutalised and murdered by mad killers.

Apart from a short and relatively under-done attempt to portray "the man" as some sort of mythological creature that has haunted the area for thousands of years, there is nothing to this story apart from the suspense and horror of the chase and fight to the death. It is definitely not up to the level of sophistication of Wake in fright, and clearly sits at the pulp fiction end of the spectrum - I could see this being turned into a very good film.

Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell

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