There’s another article on the Wolf Creek prequel novels out today, appearing in Fairfax newspapers. I gave the interview for this a few weeks ago, so it’s nice to see it come out just in time for the launch next week. It’s an insightful take on Mick Taylor and his relationship to the landscape too, I feel. It also has a bit on my experience writing the novel, which I’ll be going into more detail about in interviews to come.

‘The Word on Wolf Creek’

by Jane Sullivan, The Age/ Sydney Morning Herald

January 25, 2014

He’s kind of Slim Dusty, he’s kind of Bob Hawke, he’s kind of Crocodile Dundee. He’s a loveable larrikin, as Aussie an outback character as they come. He’s also a serial killer given to wearing human skin.

We’re talking about Mick Taylor, demonic anti-hero of the iconic Australian horror film Wolf Creek, owner of the second most famous set of movie sideburns after Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. The legend is back next month in Wolf Creek 2. And now you can read about him in two appropriately bullet-holed and blood-spattered Wolf Creek paperbacks, Origin and Desolation Game.

These are not novelisations of the films, but fully-fledged prequels that show us in detail how Mick developed from a frightened little boy into a monster – or as his creator Greg McLean calls him, ”the apex predator of his domain”. Like any self-respecting psychopath, from Hannibal Lecter to Freddie of the Friday the Thirteenth films, Mick deserves his own back story.

McLean, who directed and co-wrote the two Wolf Creek films, always intended his character to rampage through other media. He outlined a series of books and worked with a graphic designer to create mock-ups of how they might look. ”You really have to have it fully created in your mind before someone else can recognise that vision and share it,” he says.

It took time to find a publisher, but in the end Penguin took up Australia’s first horror franchise. McLean wrote the novels with two award-winning horror writers: his script collaborator Aaron Sterns (Origin) and Brett McBean (Desolation Game). If all goes to plan and the first two titles sell well, there will be four more books in the series.

The collaborations worked, McLean says, because his two quite different co-writers had a clear idea of the story and character, but also had enormous freedom to create. ”It was a learning experience all round … I think we all grew as writers.”

Sterns says McLean initially provided him with just four lines on what the first book would be: ”A 20-year-old Mick Taylor is wandering the desert when a serial killer sees his potential and trains him to take out the other serial killers prowling the outback”. From there, he had free rein to imagine his story. His research included a visit to Aramac, home town of John Jarratt, the actor who plays Mick; and a cattle station in Queensland, complete with a ”chilling” butchery shed.

There’s no faulting Sterns’ ambition. He saw Origin as ”an opportunity to write the great Australian Gothic novel on a potentially big stage”. A difficult thing to pull off with fans’ expectations and a four-month deadline, but he has given it a red-hot go.

What is so appealing about the horrific Mick Taylor? ”He’s truthful,” McLean says. He’s ”a totally, unashamedly Australian character steeped in the language and ways of the outback”. But we have seen his dark side in real murderers such as Ivan Milat and Bradley Murdoch. ”We’re fascinated and deeply afraid of them.”

I reckon another drawcard of both the books and films is the Red Centre itself, which has attracted writers and creators from Patrick White onwards. As Sterns says, it’s a landscape that can drive the vulnerable mad.

It’s huge, empty, romantic, terrifying. Maybe it’s the kind of place that demands sacrifice.

But is the book industry ready for Mick? Sterns says one bookstore chain is selling the novels under paranormal and another under crime, because there’s no dedicated horror section any more. They will just have to catch up.


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