Kicking in Danger
Black Pepper, $16.95 pb, 177 pp
A kidnapping forms the centrepiece of Alan Wearne’s Kicking in Danger, an Australian Rules mystery bearing the imprimatur of such diverse luminaries as Ron Barassi and Peter Craven. The only other football mystery I know about is Death in the Back Pocket, which failed to kick a goal, but thankfully Wearne’s tilt is much more successful. He is better known for his epic verse novel The Nightmarkets, but with this book he has shown his true colours, which are red and black. A true Bomberholic, he boasts an impressive store of club lore and trivia. In fact, sometimes the book seems to be merely an excuse for him to flaunt his knowledge and obvious love of the game.
The protagonist in Kicking in Danger is super-sleuth to the sporting world, Damien Chubb, who was a ruckman for Essendon in the 1960s and 1970s, before the advent of Simon Madden, but the thing he is remembered most for is tangling – unwisely – with Big Nick in the 1968 Grand Final. I was there, but must have missed it. Now, however, Collingwood superstar Johnny Moomba is missing, and with the Grand Final a week away Chubb has to find him fast. Moomba is so good he makes Gary Ablett look like a bush hack: mega-goalkicker, hot favourite for the Brownlow and high-profile Aboriginal activist – and he plays for Collingwood, which is a nice ironic touch.