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Killer Croc!

Novel by Grahame Webb (Australia) 1980.

There are a few horror novels written by non-writers with first hand experience of their subjects. Usually this means that they are well worth reading, but unfortunately are their respective authors' only book. Grahame Webb is a prime example: an Australian zoologist, he worked on saltwater crocodiles with Aborigines in Arnhem Land where this novel is set. It is a pity that this is his only novel.

In the Australian outback at a settlement called Maningrida, an Aboriginal boatman called Oondabund is piloting John Besser on a fishing trip, when they encounter a huge crocodile. Oondabund realises it is Numunwari, a sacred animal to the Aborigines, and refuses to help Besser kill it. Besser attacks it anyway and, just escaping with his life, returns the same night with two friends who aren't as lucky. The loss of life means Numunwari must be hunted to the death, but it disappears, turning up later in Darwin harbour. Leading the hunt is Steve Harris (not the horror novelist) goes along with Oondabund who refuses to let it be killed, but Besser is still on the trail and public pressure is mounting against Numunwari.

One of the best of the reptilian menace novels, this scores bonus points for its use of Aboriginal culture and religion, a fascinating subject not often encountered. The author knows his stuff and it shows, and in what is his first and only novel, he shows that he can also write a good tense yarn. It is surprising that most crocodile horror novels don't play up the gore aspect, and this is no exception, regardless of the lurid title. It is basically an extension of Webb's personal philosophy, that crocodiles are feared mainly through public misunderstanding, and he makes a good case. Recommended.

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