On St Valentine's Day 1900, three schoolgirls and a teacher from an exclusive English-style boarding school go missing at the mysterious Hanging Rock in central Victoria. One of the girls is found alive a week later, but the others are never seen again. As morale within the school begins to disintegrate, the headmistress's increasingly incoherent anger is turned towards one student, leading to tragic consequences. Although the police suspect Michael Fitzhubert, a young English aristocrat, and his manservant Albert, who were in the area at the time the girls disappeared, the mystery is never solved. As Paul Byrnes (Australian Screen) notes, the suggested scenarios range from the 'banal and explicable (a crime of passion) to deeply mystical (a crime of nature).'[Source: Australian Screen]
Wake in Fright is the harrowing story of a young schoolteacher, John Grant, who leaves his isolated outback school to go on holidays to Sydney (and civilization). Things start to go horribly wrong, however, when stays overnight in a rough outback mining town called Bundanyabba. After a drink fuelled night, in which he loses all his momey, Grant finds himself both broke and stuck in the town with means of escape. He subsequently descends into a cycle of hangovers, fumbling sexual encounters, and increasing self-loathing as he becomes more and more immersed in the grotesque and surreal nightmare that is 'the Yabba.'
'Miss Hester Harper, middle-aged and eccentric, brings Katherine into her emotionally impoverished life. Together they sew, cook gourmet dishes for two, run the farm, make music and throw dirty dishes down the well. One night, driving along the deserted track that leads to the farm, they run into a mysterious creature. They heave the body from the roo bar and dump it into the farm's deep well. But the voice of the injured intruder will not be stilled and, most disturbing of all, the closer Katherine is drawn to the edge of the well, the farther away she gets from Hester.' (From the publisher's website.)
Inspired in part by some unsolved murders in the Australian outback, and by the gruesome backpacker murders committed by Ivan Milat in NSW during the late 1980s/early 1990s, Wolf Creek tells the story of three young backpackers, Ben Mitchell, an Australian, and Liz Hunter and Kristy Earl, both English. Although the girls don't know Ben all that well, he and Liz fancy each other. After buying a car in Broome, situated in the far north coast of Western Australia, the trio head east with the intention of driving across the top end to Cairns (Queensland). At the end of their first day in the desert, their car breaks down at a deserted tourist site - the large crater of a meteorite. Later that night a truck arrives, driven by a real outback character, Mick Taylor. He tows them to his isolated camp at an abandoned mine site, promising to fix their car. All three tourists fall asleep after Mick drugs them. When Liz wakes up, she is bound and gagged and her friends are missing and the nightmare begins.
'This anthology collects the best examples of Australian gothic short stories from colonial times. Demonic bird cries, grisly corpses, ghostly women and psychotic station-owners populate a colonial landscape which is the stuff of nightmares.
'In stories by Marcus Clarke, Mary Fortune and Henry Lawson, the colonial homestead is wracked by haunted images of murder and revenge. Settlers are disoriented and traumatised as they stumble into forbidden places and explorers disappear, only to return as ghostly figures with terrible tales to tell. These compelling stories are the dark underside to the usual story of colonial progress, promise and nation-building, and reveal just how vivid the gothic imagination is at the heart of Australian fiction.' (Publication summary)
'Part road movie, part memoir, part murder mystery, Seven Versions of an Australian Badland embarks on an enthralling journey through time, into the realms of myth and magic, narcissism and genocide.' (Back cover)
'Scarcely out of print since the early 1870s, For the Term of His Natural Life has provided successive generations with a vivid account of a brutal phase of colonial life. The main focus of this great convict novel is the complex interaction between those in power and those who suffer, made meaningful because of its hero's struggle against his wrongful imprisonment. Elements of romance, incidents of family life and passages of scenic description both relieve and give emphasis to the tragedy that forms its heart.' (Publication summary : Penguin Books 2009)