Cold Beer in the Australian Outback, 1961

Illustration: outback heat.

We’re increasingly convinced that if you pick up most popular novels published between about 1945 and 1970 and start flipping the pages you’ll soon stumble upon an extended passage about beer and/or pubs.

Ken­neth Cook’s 1961 nov­el Wake in Fright gets straight down to busi­ness: with­in the first 10 pages the pro­tag­o­nist, Grant, hits the hotel bar in the des­o­late out­back set­tle­ment where he teach­es.

Schooner, Char­lie,” he said to the hotel-keep­er, who emerged from his dark back room wear­ing, for some rea­son, a waist­coat over his drenched shirt.

Char­lie pulled the beer.

In the remote towns of the west there are few of the ameni­ties of civ­i­liza­tion; there is no sew­er­age, there are no hos­pi­tals, rarely a doc­tor; the food is drea­ry and flavour­less from long car­ry­ing, the water is bad; elec­tric­i­ty is for the few who can afford their own plant, roads are most­ly non-exis­tent; there are no the­atres, no pic­ture shows and few dance halls; and the peo­ple are saved from stark insan­i­ty by the one strong prin­ci­ple of progress that is ingrained for a thou­sand miles, east, north, south and west of the Dead Heart – the beer is always cold.

The teacher let his fin­gers curl around the bead­ed glass, quelling the lit­tle spurt of bit­ter­ness that rose when he saw the size of the head of froth on the beer, because, after all, it didn’t mat­ter, and this poor dev­il of a hotel-keep­er had to stay here and he was going east.

He drank quick­ly at first, swamp­ing the dry­ness in his throat in a flood of beer; and then, when the glass was half emp­ty, he drank slow­ly, let­ting the cold alco­hol relax his body.

Wake in Fright has been adapt­ed for the screen twice, most­ly recent­ly in 2017, and the most recent edi­tion from Text Clas­sics is a TV tie-in. Our edi­tion is a Pen­guin paper­back from 1967 and cost £2.50.

3 thoughts on “Cold Beer in the Australian Outback, 1961”

  1. I’ve just start­ed read­ing a 1946 book,“Holy Dis­or­ders” by Edmund Crispin. There is a descrip­tion of the Whale and Cof­fin, its rooms, land­lord, cus­tomers and drinks. There could be a hole in the tickerati mar­ket for a blog about fic­tion­al pubs and real pubs in fic­tion.

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