A Cry in the Jungle Bar
"Big, bullish Dick Cullen, a light sleeper, former rugby star and present expert on the water buffalo, is lumbering through his tour of duty with a UN agency in Asia. Totally out of his depth among his small, deft, knowing colleagues, he lurches sweatily from bar to bar across varous tropical states of emergency. Only in the Nameless Nightclub does he realise it is just a matter of time before his nightmares become reality..."
"A milestone in Australian literature. It is often black farce, but from the first page there is a foreboding that makes the book a thriller of Greenesque power." - Financial Review
"Critics have likened him to both Graham greene and Patrick white. He is mor ehis own man." = The West Australian
"Shaped with precision, wit and tenderness. It is impressive both for the sharpness of its comedy and for its control of serious themes." The Age
"Supercharged with an indeterminate atmosphere of menace, intrigue and vice." - Courier-Mail
After their quarrels Cullen often hid the knives. Before making up a bed in his study he would grab up the carving knife, the bread knife, and, after a particularly savage row, the assortment of sharp cleavers and fruit knives as well, and secrete them in the freezer or under a pile of laundry in the washtub next to the housemaids' room.
After drinking, despite his size and strength, he feared nocturnal stabbing and slashing. He needed the security of knowing that attempts could not easily be made on his bare, vulnerable back as he slept. His spine especially anticipated an evil little bone-handled knife which the girls used to slice calamansi fruit and papayas. In their deft brown fingers it cut, pared and quartered while they hummed sentimental pop songs and day-dreamed of marriage to blond American millionaire country and western singers.
On such an occasion, breathing heavily in the heat, Cullen lay naked, thick freckled arms behind his head, sweating out the evening's liquor on the hard bunk. Blurrily, he focused on a house lizard above the bookshelves, trying to decide whether to turn on the air-conditioner. It would clatter and whir, muffling the tiptoe of approaching feet. On the other hand he'd never get to sleep in the stifling humidity: his throat and thighs streamed, his stale pungency hung in the air. Between decisions, overstimulated by brandy and argu ment, he wondered again why he was frightened of his wife.
From the Penguin paperback edition, 2001.
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Last modified: December 24, 2005.