Sometimes, a book comes along that grabs me from the start and leaves me struggling to put it down. The Roo is one such book.
I started reading it before going to bed, thinking I'd just read the first chapter before I went to sleep; and then read the rest over the next couple of days.
That didn't happen.
I was still reading at 2 am, and I had to force myself to put the book down and get some sleep. And even then, it was nudging my mind, demanding I creep out of bed and read the rest. Fortunately, I managed to ignore the call, and go to sleep. But as soon as I awoke, I grabbed the book and carried on reading. Less than twenty-four hours after it dropped through my post-box, I had read the entire book.
Before I enthuse too much, here's what it's all about.
Well, there's some mad fuckin' killer roo running (hopping) about the township of Morgan Creek, killing folks in ridiculously bloody fashion. Just look at the cover art. You shouldn't need to know any more than that.
The foreword explains everything you need to know, but I'll abridge it here; to explain how the book came to be.
To sum things up, a rather muscular kangaroo had been terrorising a town in the South Downs region of Queensland. The news report on this hench, yet bad-tempered, marsupial lead to author Kealan Patrick Burke, designing a book cover; based on the report. From then on, a group of authors started discussing how it would make a great story, and things just escalated from there.
A few characters based on the names of people who were part of that original conversation about the book are in there too. It adds even more to the story when someone whose name you recognise gets their head pulled off by a maniacal kangaroo.
At its simplest, The Roo follows a basic creature feature formula. Random people die at the hands/feet of the roo, and then we get to join the townsfolk as they start to notice that some of their mates are disappearing. Then it's more roo based mayhem, then back to the townsfolk until it all culminates in suitably gory fashion.
What makes this familiar layout work is the writing. The characters are fully fleshed out, and even though we get little glimpses into their lives, what we see establishes not only the people but the town as well. You get a sense of the community of Morgan Creek. In this brief time we spend with them Baxter's writing conveys a sense of authentic life in an Australian township, amongst all the craziness. Something else that makes the story stand-out; is the ocker dialogue being used. The text is Australian to the core, and it works wonderfully. As a Brit, quite a few Australian terms are known to me, as we use the same slang at times. However, there are a few choice moments that I wasn't familiar with that had me in stitches. For those not used to Australian slang, don't worry. There's a handy glossary (which I admittedly read first) at the back of the book. This insightful addition introduced me to a phrase that I'd never encountered before, which translates as, "We're not here to waste time." Only the slang term for it is, "We're not here to fuck spiders."
No matter what happens, I'm using that at some point.
Other choice phrases that had me laughing include a moment with a bloke trying to get a shag by telling a girl that, 'he heard she, bangs like a dunny door in a gale.'
It's these moments of dialogue that add to the charm (or lack of depending on your outlook) of the denizens of Morgan Creek.
I had a great time reading The Roo, and it will be a title that I will be returning to again, and again. It's funny as fuck, and bloody as Hell.
On top of all the humour and blood, though, there’s also something else woven into the narrative. Baxter mentions in his afterword, about the issues of domestic violence in parts of Australia, because as much as this is a story about a demonic kangaroo, there is a message in there too. Don’t worry, it doesn’t beat you over the head with it, but it is there. The roo isn’t just a creature feature, it’s also a tale about community and about looking out for one another.
Even the cunts.
All that's needed now is for this to be made into a movie. Hopefully, one that stars John Jarratt.
I’m going to be looking at getting more of Alan Baxter’s work. I enjoyed The Roo so much; I’m currently looking at his website alanbaxteronline.com and realising that as my birthday is coming up, I need to start dropping hints to my family about getting me a signed copy of one of his other titles.
You can also find Alan Baxter's Goodreads page here