A Tragic, Remarkable and Absolutely Mesmerising Australian Tale: Read a Review of The Devil’s Grip by Neal Drinnan

A Tragic, Remarkable and Absolutely Mesmerising Australian Tale: Read a Review of The Devil’s Grip by Neal Drinnan

Seven shots ring out in the silence of Victoria’s rolling Barrabool Hills. As the final recoil echoes through the paddocks, a revered sheep-breeding dynasty comes to a bloody and inglorious end. Darcy Wettenhall, his 23-year-old son Guy and his 81-year-old cousin Janet were dead. No one could have anticipated the orgy of violence that wiped out three generations of the Wettenhall family, much less the lurid scandals about Darcy Wettenhall, the man behind the world famous Stanbury sheep stud, that would emerge from the aftermath.

Almost 30-years later, Bob Perry, Darcy Wettenhall’s secret lover for a decade prior to his murder, tells his story to author Neal Drinnan, who does an excellent job unravelling the web of secrets and lies that led to this bizarre and seemingly motiveless murder spree. And with Wettenhall’s story, Bob Perry’s telling of it, and Drinnan’s own reflections, he shines a light on being a gay man in rural Australia. This excellent book is as much a contemporary warning as a historical true crime tale.

Darcy Wettenhall is a fascinating character. A sad childhood included time in and out of care where he was most likely abused. As a man he struggled with his sexuality, hiding it, and marrying and having a son. From the bucolic majesty, privilege and snobbery of the Western District’s prized pastoral lands and dynasties to the bleak, loveless underworld of orphanages, rodeo stables and homeless shelters, The Devil’s Grip is a courageous and thought-provoking meditation on the fragility of reputation, the folly of deception and the power of shame. Darcy’s struggles took place decades ago, with the murders occurring in 1992. And yet the themes in this book are current and incredibly important.

There are so many layers to this book. From farming and sheep studs to the murder mystery, to the voice of both Bob Perry and author Neal Drinnan, The Devil’s Grip is a remarkable and somewhat unusual read, crossing genres, compelling you to turn the pages to the very end. Exceptionally written, it propels you into this tale and whisks you forward with polished prose and a gripping story. Not normally the type of book I’d read, I’m so glad I did and will be recommending this to friends.

The Devil’s grip is an expression to describe a genetic defect in sheep. This flaw in the sheep’s spine can effectively ruin a prizewinning breeding line forever. It’s an excellent metaphor. For all Darcy Wettenhall’s flaw’s, being gay wasn’t one – and yet it was the one he feared would destroy his line. And with his brutal murder, at the hands of a troubled lover, it did.

The Devil’s Grip is a tragic, remarkable and absolutely mesmerising Australian tale. Highly recommended.

Buy a copy of The Devil’s Grip here.

About the author:

Neal Drinnan was born in Melbourne. He has worked in publishing and journalism for many years. He is the author of six novels, Glove PuppetPussy’s Bow,Quill, the Lambda award-winning Izzy and Eve, Rare Bird of Truth and Rural Liberties, as well as a travel guide, The Rough Guide to Gay and Lesbian Australia. The Devil’s Grip is his first work of narrative non fiction. He owns an independent bookshop called Cow Lick in Colac, Victoria.

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                      Publisher details

                      The Devil's Grip
                      Author
                      Neal Drinnan
                      Publisher
                      Simon and Schuster
                      Released
                      01 September, 2019

                      Synopsis

                      Seven shots ring out in the silence of Victoria’s rolling Barrabool Hills. As the final recoil echoes through the paddocks, a revered sheep-breeding dynasty comes to a bloody and inglorious end.No one could have anticipated the orgy of violence that wiped out three generations of the Wettenhall family, much less the lurid scandals about Darcy Wettenhall, the man behind the world famous Stanbury sheep stud, that would emerge from the aftermath.Almost three decades later, the web of secrets and lies that led to this bizarre and seemingly motiveless murder spree are unravelled with the help of Bob Perry, Darcy Wettenhall’s secret lover for a decade prior to his murder.From the bucolic majesty, privilege and snobbery of the Western District’s prized pastoral lands and dynasties to the bleak, loveless underworld of orphanages, rodeo stables and homeless shelters, The Devil’s Grip is a courageous and thought-provoking meditation on the fragility of reputation, the folly of deception and the power of shame.Praise for The Devil’s GripA remarkable piece of work. It is a strange, unusual and beautiful book with an incredibly unique setting. I don't think I've read anything quite like it. It is compulsive reading. True crime. Memoir. History. How do you live a life honestly and with dignity? It's difficult to categorise because it traverses so many genres. But it WORKS.’  Matthew Condon, author of the Three Crooked Kings trilogy‘On its face this is the story of a family steeped in the pursuit of the perfect ram, but beneath the surface lies a riveting and ribald tale of lust, loss, manipulation, unbridled ambition and ultimately murder.’  Mark Tedeschi AM QC and author of EugeniaKidnapped and Murder at Myall Creek‘An unforgettable, courageous and deeply tragic local story which manages to become a universal tale’  Gregory Day, author of Archipelago of Souls and A Sand Archive‘It’s got it all: sex, domestic violence, ‘the land’ – such an important concept resonating in the Australian mind – land-holders and property, privilege, prejudice, skulduggery and murder!’  David Bradford, author of The Gunners’ Doctor andTell Me I’m Okay
                      Neal Drinnan
                      About the author

                      Neal Drinnan

                      Neal Drinnan was born in Melbourne. He has worked in publishing and journalism for many years. He is the author of six novels, Glove PuppetPussy’s Bow, Quill, the Lambda award-winning Izzy and Eve, Rare Bird of Truth and Rural Liberties, as well as a travel guide, The Rough Guide to Gay and Lesbian Australia. The Devil’s Grip is his first work of narrative non fiction. He owns an independent bookshop called Cow Lick in Colac, Victoria.

                      Books by Neal Drinnan

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                      1. Judith Alsop says:

                        I read The Devils Grip also knowing some of the family I was surprised to read Darcy had so many problems a hardworking man always pleasant It is a great book but I think you laid too much blame on the whole family and didnt get enough of the other side of them it was obvious his upbringing made him what he was he wasn’t wanted by anyone. The son was the one who paid the highest price you did show how a family can fall to pieces when the truth is hidden I dont think being gay had anything to do with the killings nobody would have cared.