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Wake in Fright: Filmed as The Outback
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Wake in Fright: Filmed as The Outback

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  425 ratings  ·  81 reviews
The Film Ink series presents the novels that inspired the work of some of the most celebrated directors of our time. While each novel is first and foremost a classic in its own right, these books offer the dedicated cinephile a richer understanding of the most illustrious films of American and European cinema. Wake In Fright was first published in 1961 and the film version...more
Paperback, 174 pages
Published August 1st 2002 by Prion (first published 1961)
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Community Reviews

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Tfitoby
“In the remote towns of the west there are few of the amenities of civilization; there is no sewerage, there are no hospitals, rarely a doctor; the food is dreary and flavourless from long carrying, the water is bad; electricity is for the few who can afford their own plant, roads are mostly non-existent; there are no theatres, no picture shows and few dance halls; and the people are saved from stark insanity by the one strong principle of progress that is ingrained for a thousand miles east, no...more
Melanie
Gripping page turner about a rather annoying schoolteacher broke and burning up in an outback town.

The construction of this nightmare is sudden and brutal, as-is the decline of our protagonist.

The storytelling is hypnotic, more frightening for what it holds back than lets on.

Happy to recommend this dark gritty Aussie classic.
Brendan
got sent this one cos the publishers want me to do some puff about it that may end up on the re-release cover which i was hell stoked about as people will think im totes literary for being quoted on a book. so i gotta think of something pithy to say. feel free to throw me some suggestions. i need big, unfamiliar words. right now i got this:
a real menacing bastard of a book. lean and terrifying. im never going for a holiday to broken hill or wherever it was meant to be. kenneth cole has construc...more
Shirley Marr
I read this in two sittings. I went into it 'blind' without reading the blurb or any reviews which might give me an inkling about the content. The story started out harmless enough - school teacher John Grant can't wait to get out of his small town day-job and back to Sydney - but there was something about the writing which made me certain something horrible was going to happen. I physically trembled while reading this. Not because of the violence, but because I couldn't imagine this story havin...more
Andrew Nette
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.

But 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...more
Greg
Wake In Fright

I had imagined Kafka wakes up one morning and finds himself transported to the Australian outback in this novel by Kenneth Cook. How would Kafka handle the change from his gloomy overcast world to the heat and blazing sunlight of this outback isolation Hell?
"Sweat, dust and beer... there's nothing else out here mate!"

It is not Hell at all to the characters who inhabit this place, it is heaven. The space, the light, the freedom to be yourself. No one judges anyone.

One of the main ke...more
Jennifer Mills
"The whole thing was just a morass of hopelessness"

Entirely delightful.
Kiko Libertino
Incómodo, violento y sucio. Te dejará seco.
Sean Kennedy
This is an Australian tale that is far more scarier than Wolf Creek.

Most urban Australians have a natural fear of the Outback. It is an unforgiving place, and we know of its dangers as soon as we learn to speak. We also learn to distrust most country people, as it takes a certain person to be able to survive there. You have to harden up. Likewise, in turn, country people think of city people as weak. These may be stereotypes, but in all stereotypes there is a nugget of truth.

So what happens when...more
Holly
This is one of the best books I have ever read. I have to confess I did watch the film first (as a case study at university) and was completely horrified at its content. However, I've always been intrigued by harsh, brutal portrayals of life and Australia and (with the help of my uncle's morbid obsession with the film) I found myself buying the original novel at a second-hand store whilst on holidays. Two pages in and I was hooked.

Cook's writing is fantastic! In particular his ocker, casual, con...more
Matthew Goodwin
It's difficult to pin down exactly why Kenneth Cook's novel is so creepy, but there is a definite element of menace that runs through every element of the novel. The outback characters' motives are benign and innocent on the surface, but somehow Cook makes them all the more ominous for these very reasons. Perhaps it's because our protagonist, John Grant, himself a rather unlikable antihero, distrusts them all. He is repulsed by them, constantly describing them as awful, troll-like creatures with...more
Andrés Prieto-Spool
In English:

1961. We are in the presence of a classic from the Australian literature. Forgotten by the big editors and the hungry agents of successes. But this book, too opposite what some have told me to, has not become old, not a bit. The thing is that each time we moved around like animals to those giant corrals named big cities: Metropolises. But I was lucky to get away from these corrals.

After having lived all my youth existence in two big Latin American cities, I have retired to the Mexican...more
Nath
A nightmarish odyssey through the Australian outback viewed through the eyes of a cultured schoolteacher. The journey is almost post-apocalyptic, involving shambling denizens of the desert, sirens of dubious moral fortitude and beer. So, so much beer.

Most Australians will find common ground when reading about the drunken debauches, and many of the characters are echoed in the tamer boozing establishments of suburbia. To glimpse this riualised practice through fresh eyes really makes it stark how...more
Julie
As the narrative unravels, so does his life
Wake in fright and live the nightmare!


This is a compelling and disturbing read. It is realistic, all too easy to imagine. The harshness of the setting is a contrast to the naivete of the main character.

The narrative is as lean and sparse as the bleak landscape. The hero seems abandoned and surrounded by rough characters, inferred violence and imagined horrors. As you read you wait for the next turn-for-the-worst that his life is going to take, and the...more
Sally
I bought this on a whim because I wanted to see the movie. I put it off for a few months because I thought I wasn't going to like it. I realised my error about two pages in. What a brilliant book - I read it in two sittings, I couldn't put it down. Such clear, emotive writing - so human, so heartfelt. Even though the protagonist knowingly brings everything that happens to him upon himself you feel so sorry for him - he is such a likeable, real person. What happens to him could happen to anyone....more
Ericpegnam Pegnam
I found an old copy of this book on Alibris. I'd heard about it as a movie that came out in the 70's called Outback. Its famous as a film that disappeared after its initial release until a single master copy was found, I think in Pittsburgh, with a note reading "discard" on it. I found the book captivating from the start, horrifying but funny, if you're in a rough mood. Whose worse off in this one? The hero who recognizes that he is trapped in an everyday hell or his amiable "captors" who don't....more
Nikk
Wake in Fright being one of my favourite films, I was surprised at how faithful it is to the book. It is always unusual reading a film-adapted book and conjuring up the images of the film with the more meticulous conceptual material of the books. The book's underlying philosophy is seldom until the very last pages, but I think they have enough strength to allow the reader to recall past passages of the story and justify their presence.

...and yes, the film depicts ALL scenes in the book!
Peter
we had to see the film at high school in about 1975, and i was horrified. it was like sitting inside someone else's nightmare. i didn't like it (late maturer me), but i never forgot it.
then i read the book a couple of years ago. from memory the film is very true to the book. from early on the arms of dread wrap themselves tightly around your chest and drag you sweating through and around bundanyabba. and they don't let go.
brilliant.
Diego González
Sublime novela corta sobre el Outback en los años 60. Una galería de personajes a cada cual más brutal y desquiciado, todos ellos sin salirse de lo considerado normal en el calcinado desierto central australiano. Médicos sin licencia, mineros que se juegan o se beben el sueldo, rudos curritos que se divierten despanzurrando canguros a escopetazos, camioneros que tolerarán cualquier desaire excepto que no te tomes una cerveza con ellos y por supuesto, el calor, el polvo y bares en mitad de la nad...more
Jeremy
Great read: thick on atmosphere and powerful in tone when needed. Had to read before I saw the re-released version of the film which was being talked-up recently.

It is Australian while being thickly universal. The kind of story that slowly gets under your skin while you're not thinking about it.
LJ Peters
A one thing leads to another tale through the bleak interior of both the psyche of the central character, and that of Australia's central western desert towns. A claustrophobic narrative of entrapment and powerlessness, which explores both the sensations & anaesthesia of addiction; the horrors of a patchwork memory. Intimate and compelling; it is written in plain, readily comprehendible language. The main character John Grant is on a journey to Sydney, and is dreaming longingly of the sea. I...more
Bette BookAddict
totally hypnotic. I was equally fascinated and repulsed but this book demanded to be read to the very end.
Tom Duff
Wake in Fright
Kenneth Cook

I was tipped to this Australian literary classic and decided to pick it up at the library. Wake in Fright by Kenneth Cook was written back in 1961, and it portrays one man's bleak and frightening experience when he wanders into Bundanyabba, a town in the desolate outback. What should be an overnight stay on his way to Sydney becomes a nightmare from which he never fully recovers.

Cook does an excellent job in painting the despair of the main character, John Grant, when h...more
Booklovinglady
What an amazing and incredibly 'real' fictional story. I fully agree with the term 'an Australian modern classic'. For a review in Dutch, see message 24 of the Netherlands & Flanders group Spring Challenge 2014.

John Grant is born and bred in Sydney and his only reason for teaching in a small Outback town is paying off his college debt. He can't wait to spend six weeks in Sydney during his summer holidays but when he reaches Bundanyabba to catch his flight to Sydney the next morning, things g...more
Ben Eldridge
The bleak and barren Australian outback is the ostensible setting for the nightmarish journey of Wake in Fright... the novel is actually concerned with the darkness of the human psyche in a kind of location-free abyss. Filled with intensely unlikeable characters, all in an almost universal in a state of alcoholic delirium, this is fairly savage take on both what an environment can do to people, and what people to can do to an environment (the ugliness and despair presented as being an integral p...more
Peter Dickerson
This is a great great book.

This book is being read by Trevor Chappell on ABC Radio Overnights. I read the book as an iBook. Unfortunately the movie is not available on iTunes. I love classic Australian books and Wake in Fright sits well as one of these. I read some great comments about the book and the movie.

While one is reading the book one can feel John Grant's anguish, despair and pain. This book could only be set in outback Australia, anywhere else it would be some sort of invented horror...more
Darren Gore
Back in 2009, I saw a film that immediately became one of my favourite Australian movies ever - the 1971 classic 'Wake In Fright' (released overseas as 'Outback'). A grim and unflinching look at life in outback Australia, 'Wake In Fright' is still a very powerful and even shocking film today.

Recently, I read the 1961 novel of the same name by Kenneth Cook that 'Wake In Fright' was adapted from, and 50 years later it also retains a lot of power.

'Wake In Fright' tells the brief and brutal story of...more
Rebecca
I picked this Text Classics edition up in my local bookstore for two reasons:
- it's great cover (5 1/2 pint glasses of beer on a yellow background)
- I'd seen a news story about the film of this book being virtually lost and recovered

So, I purchased this book and it languished on my bedside table until yesterday, when I scrabbled around looking for a book to read on the beach.

Perfect timing.

I was sucked in by the first sentence:
He sat at his desk, wearily watching the children file out of the ro...more
Teresa
I started to read because of a new movie rerelease with interesting reviews and the fact that my husband who is not a reader read it as part of his university studies and saw the film 25 years ago which left a lasting impression. I like to read the book first.

Now just finished it and need to record my impressions before they fade.

Words are chosen so carefully in this short 204 page book and I hesitate as I try to choose also carefully since Kenneth Cook created a masterwork and my thoughts may c...more
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Born 1929, died 1987. Kenneth Cook was a prolific Australian journalist, film director, screenwriter, TV personality and novelist. He is best known for his novel Wake in Fright, which became a modern classic and is still in print, and for his Killer Koala trilogy.
More about Kenneth Cook...
Le Koala tueur et autres histoires du bush La Vengeance du wombat et autres histoires du bush Play Little Victims L'Ivresse du kangourou et autres histoires du bush El canguro alcohólico

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“In the remote towns of the west there are few of the amenities of civilization; there is no sewerage, there are no hospitals, rarely a doctor; the food is dreary and flavourless from long carrying, the water is bad; electricity is for the few who can afford their own plant, roads are mostly non-existent; there are no theatres, no picture shows and few dance halls; and the people are saved from stark insanity by the one strong principle of progress that is ingrained for a thousand miles east, north, south and west of the Dead Heart - the beer is always cold.” 2 likes
“When you travel by road in the west you travel with a cohort of dust which streams up from your tyres and rolls away in a disintegrating funnel, defining the currents of air your vehicle sets in motion … And the heat is unthinkable, no matter how widely the windows are open, and the sweat streams off your body and into your socks, and if there are a number of people in the car their body stenches mingle disagreeably” 1 likes
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