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Wake In Fright

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  850 Ratings  ·  131 Reviews
Introduction by Peter Temple. Afterword by David Stratton.

Wake In Fright

May you dream of the Devil and wake in fright. - AN OLD CURSE

'In the town of Bundanyabba, a young schoolmaster discovers gambling, ruins himself financially, then plunges headlong toward his own distruction in many other ways, alcoholic, sexual and spiritual - and yet somehow throughout this five-day n
Paperback, 212 pages
Published June 1st 2009 by Text Publishing Melbourne Australia (first published 1961)
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Community Reviews

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Mar 20, 2013 Tfitoby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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
Apr 18, 2014 Melanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Doug H
Apr 18, 2015 Doug H rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This short novel blew my mind. Disturbing. Funny. Horrific. Hypnotic. Cinematic. Addictive. Reads like a David Lynch film written by the love child of Cormac McCarthy, J D Salinger and Patrick Hamilton. Oh my god, I can't even tell you!
Young, naive, clueless teacher John Grant travels from his remote school at Tiboonda to Bundanyabba (thinly disguised Broken Hill) for an overnight stay before he catches the plane to Sydney for the Christmas holidays. Arriving late at night, he searches for a meal and a cold drink in the stifling December heat. In the pub he gets dragged into the blokey male culture of the Yabba, which consists of drinking very large quantities of beer. From there, the intoxicated Grant is taken to a two-u
Jul 27, 2011 Greg rated it it was amazing
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 k
Feb 01, 2009 Brendan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 28, 2015 George rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 20th-century
Μόλις έμαθα ότι θα κυκλοφορούσε στα ελληνικά το βιβλίο αυτό από τις εκδόσεις Εξάρχεια, έπαθα την πλάκα μου. Μιλάμε για μεγάλη έκπληξη, αν λάβει κανείς υπόψιν ότι πρόκειται για ένα καλτ βιβλίο που γράφτηκε σχεδόν πενήντα πέντε χρόνια πριν και το οποίο ποτέ δεν έγινε best seller (απ'όσο ξέρω). Σ'αυτό το βιβλίο βασίζεται η ταινία Wake In Fright (aka The Outback), σε σκηνοθεσία Ted Kotcheff, ένα άγνωστο διαμάντι της Αυστραλίας. Λοιπόν, το βιβλίο με ξετρέλανε πραγματικά. Περίμενα να μου αρέσει, μιας ...more
Andrew Nette
Jul 10, 2012 Andrew Nette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Third Read (one day, off work, 4/3/16):

But no, perhaps it would not do to tell a story about his adventures in the west.

Yeah, yeah, Australia Australia Australia ... sure, that’s where it’s set. And it’s mostly men. So, masculinity. Yeah. And sometimes heterosexual men come into physical contact with each other (and look, if it’s a fight in a pub, I’ve been in those, out there, and I can tell you for sure that they were among the least erotic moments of my life, and it sure seemed the same for a
Shirley Marr
Jun 04, 2011 Shirley Marr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aussie-adult
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
Armin Hennig
Nov 16, 2016 Armin Hennig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Widerwillige vier Sterne für dieses Lost Weekend im Outback.
Saufereien bis zum Suizid sind nicht so meine Liga, weder im wirklichen Leben noch in der Literatur. In jüngeren Jahren habe ich aber mehr als einmal erfahren, an was für Leute man so alles gerät, wenn man ohne Geld in einer fremden Stadt strandet. Dabei hat der glücklose Zocker Grant mit seinen Bekanntschaften und Gastgebern sogar verhältnismäßigen Dusel, niemand will ihm was Böses, alle sind superfreundlich in Yabba, spendieren dem ba
If Summer of the Seventeenth Doll the movie was compromised beyond salvation by its attempts to Americanise it, Wake in Fright not only survived its international production team, but became, by all account a fine film which did justice to the book. I'm looking forward to finding a copy of it. Apparently the rights were first bought with Dirk Bogarde in mind as the star - perfect! Although that didn't happen, one of my favourite English actors played the role of the doctor when the movie finally ...more
Matthew Goodwin
Jul 19, 2013 Matthew Goodwin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Text Publishing
‘It might be fifty years since the novel appeared yet it retains its freshness, its narrative still compels, and its bleak vision still disquiets.…Cook can make us feel the heat, see the endless horizon, hear the sad singing on a little train as it traverses the monotonous plain.’
Peter Temple, from the Introduction

‘Wake in Fright deserves its status as a modern classic. Cook’s prose is masterful and the story is gripping from the first page to the last.’
M. J. Hyland

‘A classic novel which became
Jul 30, 2012 Nath rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 24, 2011 Sally rated it it was amazing
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
B the BookAddict
Jun 29, 2013 B the BookAddict rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
totally hypnotic. I was equally fascinated and repulsed but this book demanded to be read to the very end.
Jennifer Mills
May 02, 2012 Jennifer Mills rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The whole thing was just a morass of hopelessness"

Entirely delightful.
Kiko Libertino
May 18, 2013 Kiko Libertino rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incómodo, violento y sucio. Te dejará seco.
Feb 21, 2017 Kimbofo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kenneth Cook’s Wake in Fright, first published in 1961, is a true Australian classic.

Billed as the first outback horror story, it brims with menace and suspense. In the introduction to this new Text Classics edition, Australian crime writer Peter Temple says it “probably set Australian tourism back at least twenty years” for the picture of outback life depicted here is a hellish and frightening one.

It tells the story of a young school teacher who travels to a rough outback mining town called Bun
Andreas Magro
May 17, 2012 Andreas Magro rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 29, 2013 Holly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sean Kennedy
Apr 27, 2013 Sean Kennedy rated it really liked it
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
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
Aug 23, 2013 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Steven Paulsen
This was an interesting book, bleak, confronting and nightmarish. I think its primary strength is the depiction of the Australian outback and the people who live there. It captures the essence of the characters we meet and imbues many of them with believable menace. There is some well written taught prose here, but the book is not consistent and starts out stronger than it finishes. Having said that I can also see why it is considered an Australian classic and was for many years set as a classro ...more
Aug 06, 2011 Ochrasy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe I was a little overexcited by the fact that Coetzee had recommend it and was expecting more but I didn't enjoy it much and I found some parts really disgusting. It's not my favourite genre though, so maybe you shouldn't trust me much, but truth is I found it monotonous. Besides, it isn't frightening at all. However, you can't read this book without feeling the need for a cool beer (if you've read it you'd know what I mean). Definitely, I don't recommend it unless you don't have anything be ...more
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.
Daniel Jon Kershaw
Mate, this book here is mainly set in the Yabba. You gotta love the Yabba, mate. It's the best town in 'Straya." What do you mean you don't love it? Better than that crazy rat race in Sydney, eh. Drink with me. What? No one cares if you're hard up, no one goes dry in the Yabba, even if he is flat broke.


WHY IS THIS TITLED AS 'WAKE IN FRIGHT: FILMED AS THE OUTBACK?' It makes me ashamed to add it to my list, despite the fact is is a great novel.
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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...

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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.” 4 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” 2 likes
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