Fear Is the Rider
Text Publishing, $19.99 pb, 196 pp, 9781925240856
There is something alluring about the publication of a lost or unknown literary manuscript. How will it fit into the author's body of work? Is it inferior to or better than the published work? Does it illuminate a hitherto unknown aspect of the author's thinking, or make you re-examine the known sequencing or themes? These questions were on my mind as I read Fear Is the Rider, a previously unpublished manuscript by Kenneth Cook, completed in the early 1980s and published for the first time by Text Publishing.
Cook is best known for his 1961 début novel, Wake In Fright (reissued by Text Publishing in 2001), a brutal depiction of drinking and masculinity in Australia's outback. On the strength of this work alone, Cook is regarded as one of the foremost exponents of the small but vibrant body of Australian 'gothic' literature, which, from the nineteenth century to the present, has focused on white Australia's alienated relationship with our harsher regions. Wake In Fright's popular status has much to do with Canadian director Ted Kotcheff's influential 1971 film of the same name.