It was quite silent in the scrub. No breeze stirred the leaves and no bird moved, except for the kite hawks wheeling silently, eternally, high in the hot air.
She smelt her attacker before she saw him.
A heavy stench hit her with such force that she started with shock. It was a smell she’d never encountered before. Not man, not animal, something like carrion, but alive. It seemed to envelop and suffocate her, then became tangible as two arms wrapped around her body and began tearing at her clothing.
A young man driving from Sydney to Adelaide for work decides to take a short detour into the desert. He turns his hatchback on to a notoriously dangerous track that bisects uninhabited stone-covered flats. Out there, under the baking sun, people can die within hours.
He’s not far along the road when a distraught young woman stumbles from the scrub and flags him down. A journalist from Sydney, she has just escaped the clutches of an inexplicable, terrifying creature.
Now this desert-dwelling creature has her jeep. Her axe. And her scent…
From the author of the classic novel Wake In Fright comes a chillingly brilliant short novel that’s part Wolf Creek and part Duel. Fear Is the Rider is a nail-biting chase into the outback, towards the devil lurking at its centre.
Wake In Fright was made into an internationally acclaimed film. Fear Is the Rider is a previously unpublished manuscript from the 1980s that was recently rediscovered among Kenneth Cook’s papers.
‘This lost Ozploitation gem is pure horror adrenaline, as characters and reader alike are hunted by a relentless golem—the nightmare outback monster we’ve always feared.’
‘[A] short but powerful novel, Cook takes the reader on an action-packed, tension-filled ride…Definitely a page-turner.’
‘The moment to moment effect of reading Fear is the Rider is one of gasping attentiveness to the urgent needs of the present…There is special, pulpy kind of genius to the kind of book that almost swipes ahead for us, like a concert pianist’s assistant.’
‘Another great retro thriller. Treat it like going to a movie, because it will only take you a couple of hours to power through it…It’s just pure adrenaline and survival.’
‘A suspense packed ride until the final page.’
‘You can read Fear Is the Rider in one sitting; this is a story that takes you by the throat and doesn’t let go till the end…Few have written better about the unknowable Australian landscape than Kenneth Cook did.‘
‘A macabre, tense thriller…Fear Is the Rider takes the time to make each scene work properly, to show the characters vacillating between a wary calm and outright panic, to maintain a strong control over the suspense.’
‘Possibly the scariest, most spine-chilling and nerve-wracking book I’ve read. Ever…It’s incredibly filmic—think Wolf Creek meets Mad Max—and so visceral I could feel my heart rising up in my throat as I turned the pages.’
‘A schlocky, old-school thriller in the best possible way…A kind of literary Mad Max, a master class in Ozploitation, or simply as a short, sharp burst of literary adrenaline, Fear is the Rider is a hell of a lot of fun.’
‘With each scene imagined in photographic reality, Cook’s descriptions and settings transport the reader back to classic Ozploitation chase movies from the ‘80s, and it’s a thrilling, chilling ride.’
‘The manic rhythm of Cook’s prose gives the phrase “page turner” a new meaning–this is a book that practically reads itself…A stylish, pared-back piece of literary Ozploitation.’
‘Fear is the Rider is a straight out chase and predatory thriller that’s pulse-racing in its action-heavy narrative.’
‘This novel is short but densely packed with thrills, and graphically evokes the Outback in its vast emptiness and its threats to human life. A small masterpiece.’
‘Fast and precise thriller’