Cover of Kicking in Danger
Kicking in Danger
Alan Wearne

Wearne’s comic concoction of corporate box power games and Koori Lesbian Kollectives give new meaning to the Aussie Rules tradition of flying high
Ian McFarlane, The Canberra Times

the footy novel
Ron Barassi

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Book Description

What kind of time warp is this? Collingwood has made the Grand Final. Their ace full forward is missing. Yes, Johnny Moomba, odds on for the Brownlow, Rhodes Scholar and Aboriginal land rights activist has been kidnapped! From Sydenham to Dingley, from Kew to Rowville, murky forces are at work. Through this mayhem ambles Damien Chubb, ex-Bomber ruckman, private eye to the sporting world, laconic centre of calm in a Melbourne gone even more berserk than usual. It's heading towards the last Saturday in September. Anything can happen. It does.

Alan Wearne is one of the great masters of what can be done with the Australian vernacular. This is an alternative history of Australian Rules, rendered rich and strange by one of the great connoisseurs of suburban Melbourne. Damien Chubb and Johnny Moomba are great acquisitions to the rogues' gallery of football myth. The ghosts of everyone from John Elliot to Dermott Brereton flit through this comic extravaganza which provides us with every possible archetype you could poke a stick at: a rich brew of sporting Australia as it is and as comic nostalgia can refashion it.
Peter Craven

Filled with unique takes not only on football but life in general, seeing things from both sides of the fence. Alan Wearne has given us The Great Australian Rules Novel.
James 'Charlie' Manson

The footy novel.
Ron Barassi

Damien Chubb is the Philip Marlowe of the forward pocket.

Shane Maloney

ISBN 1876044209
Published 1997
177 pgs
Cover illustration by Rob Dickins (
Kicking in Danger book sample

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1   Hawthorn Boogie Rap CD Launch Day
2   Happy Hour at the Lord Tennyson
3   Preliminary Final Day
4   HDJFL Grand Final Day
5   Brownlow Medal Day
6   Bloodbath Anniversary Day
7   Magpie Moomba Magic Days
8   Parade Day
9   Grand Final Eve
10 Grand Final Day

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A Welcome Addition
Alan Wearne: Kicking in Danger
Robert Pascoe (academic)
Overland, No. 150, Autumn 1998

Colleagues, including the editor of the illustrious Overland, are wont to complain that reading The Winter Game, my social history of Australian football, is rather like being stuck in one of those endless pub conversations which goes on and on, without any pause which might allow an interruption, another voice offering a verbal route out of the all-enveloping, ceaseless and neverending, never-tiring discourse on the Great Australian Game which for most months of the year threatens to engulf and suffocate everyone living in Melbourne: this novel would have the same effect on the ‘unbelievers’, those, like the journalist writing in the American magazine Fortune who is quoted as saying recently that Melbourne would have featured much higher on his list of desirable cities in which to live were it not for the endless talk of football (and which school you had attended when growing up), but for those of us who do believe, and are passionate, and never stop yarning and spinning tales of footballers, and their alleged deeds, and misdeeds, this novel is a welcome addition to the not-very-long shelf of fictional works which take that endless conversation from the pubs and hairdressing salons to the printed page...

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Crime Fiction
Out Of Bounds
Kicking In Danger
J.R. Carroll
Australian Book Review, No. 197, December 1997/January 1998

A kidnapping forms the centrepiece of Alan Wearne’s Kicking in Danger, an Australian Rules mystery bearing the imprimatur of such diverse luminaries as Ron Barassi and Peter Craven. The only other football mystery I know about is Death in the Back Pocket, which failed to kick a goal, but thankfully Wcarne’s tilt is much more successful. He is better known for his epic verse novel The Nightmarkets, but with this book he has shown his true colours, which are red and black. A true Bomberholic, he boasts an impressive store of club lore and trivia. In fact, sometimes the book seems to be merely an excuse for him to flaunt his knowledge and obvious love, of the game.

The protagonist in Kicking in Danger is super-sleuth to the sporting world, Damien Chubb, who was a ruckman for Essendon in the sixties and seventies, before the advent of Simon Madden, but the thing he is remembered most for is tangling - unwisely - with Big Nick in the ’68 Grand Final. I was there, but must have missed it. Now, however, Collingwood superstar Johnny Moomba is missing, and with the Grand Final a week away Chubb has to find him fast. Moomba is so good he makes Gary Ablett look like a bush hack: mega-goalkicker, hot favourite for the Brownlow and high-profile Aboriginal activist - and he plays for Collingwood, which is a nice ironic touch.

While Melbourne prepares itself for that last frenetic Saturday in September, Chubb uses all his old football contacts to track down his man. The question, of course, is not if he will find him in time, but does Moomba want to be found? Is his disappearance a stunt, or perhaps a political statement? Wearne makes full use of this idea as Chubb weaves a passage through the pack, unearthing a whole host of wonderfully eccentric types, some of whom even non-football followers may recognise: J.J. Hobson, head-kicking president of Carlton, and a beer baron; Danny Gallagher, a Harley-riding rap singer and media star with blond tips who used to wear number 23 for Hawthorn - and so on. All that’s missing is Eddie McGuire. It’s a lot of fun, a hoot in fact, and the finale, involving the occupation of the MCG on Grand Final Eve, is way over the top. My only complaint about Kicking in Danger is that Wearne has not been well-served by his publisher in the editorial department - the book is absolutely full of mistakes.

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Kicking in Danger
Tim Thorne
Famous Reporter, No. 16, December 1997

Black Pepper has rapidly emerged as perhaps Australia’s most vigorous small press publisher of poetry, presenting, to deserved acclaim, the work of poets such as Louis de Paor and Emma Lew, but what has been less remarked upon has been its growing fiction list.

This volume is the press’s eighth venture into fiction and while it makes no claim to be serious ‘high literature’, it is great fun to read and should sell well, especially in those parts of Australia where Australian Rules football is a dominant feature of the culture. The timing of its release, in the weeks leading up to the AFL finals, will no doubt help sales.

Alan Wearne belongs to that group of writers and other intellectuals, mostly based in Melbourne and mostly (but by no means exclusively) male, for whom Aussie Rules is more than a casual interest and slightly less than a religion. To his credit, he is not. unlike what appears to be a majority of that group, a Carlton supporter.

Indeed, the hero of this novel. Damicn Chubb, Australia’s (the world’s?) first private eye specialising in sports, is a former Essendon ruckman of somewhat minor repute, who has named his son Alex Bluey Barry (after the famous half-back line of ’62). Every Victorian club, however, gets a mention and is apportioned at least one character who is either a supporter, a former player or an official. It should be pointed out that the phrase ‘Victorian club’ is a crucial one, and that these clubs include South Melbourne and Fitzroy.

The significance of this, for those who do not follow the indigenous game, is that, although Kicking in Danger is set in the early 1990s, there is no mention of the AFL’s interstate teams, and the expansion which began with the Swans migrating to Sydney a decade earlier is only mooted in the book as a rumour too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Wearne wears his heart on his sleeve as a footy fan of the nostalgic persuasion, a traditionalist who is set against the economic rationalism which is turning the game into just another arm of the media moguls’ entertainment empires, but he doesn’t preach about this. Instead, he chooses to construct a hybrid world of fantasy and reality which the reader can take as given and within which his cast of characters can be humanly real, rather that the cyphers on corporate notepads that their ‘real-life’ counterparts too after are.

While there are some characters based quite firmly on living people, and while real footballers, past and present, are mentioned, what Wearne has quite cleverly done is distil the essence of each club’s image into one or two characters. Thus former Geelong player Alistair Arbuthnol is an urbane, tweedy, old-wealth anachronism from the Western Districts, whereas Lenny Hell, the wise, kind-hearted, softly spoken, modest publican of a modest pub, used lo play for Fitzroy.

There is plenty, too, of the world outside football. Crucial to the novel’s plot are the Koori Lesbian Kollective, computerised astrology, a particularly nasty bunch of racist, anti-football skinheads, and CNN. For all its elements of farce, and for all that it should appeal to those whose only contact with literature is reading the Footy Record, this book does not avoid issues of political, economic, even philosophical significance. And for all that the world of footy is a macho domain, it is women who emerge as the stronger sex, and it is a woman who, in one of the book’s funniest scenes, turns the Brownlow Medal award ceremony into a massive land rights demonstration.

I have-a minor quibble with the number of misprints and misspellings. The consistent use of ‘loose’ for ‘lose’, ‘Princess Park’ for ‘Princes Park’ (which may, on second thoughts, have been an intentional dig at Carlton). some fairly haphazard scattering of commas, and most heinous of all to a Tasmanian reader, ‘Daryl’ instead of Darryl Baldock, perhaps betray an unfortunate haste in production. But these are outweighed by some great one-liners, such as ‘Football has an entire academic underclass’. ‘There are no Pie [Collingwood. for the uninitiated] supporters, there are only Pie fanatics’, and the advice given to Chubb at one stage to ‘just sit here, beating-up your memories for Truth or Playboy or Meanjin.’

Alan Wearne has established a reputation as a major Australian poet and his verse novel The Nightmarkets is a tour de force. Kicking in Danger probably won’t even make it on to the interchange bench of the Ozlit canon, but then literature is like football in that you can have a great time watching the minor leagues.

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Book Review
A novel idea to satisfy the football fanatic
Kicking In Danger: A Damien Chubb Mystery
Di Lloyd
The Canberra Times, 30 November 1997

Well, it had to happen. We have had the player biographies, the historical accounts and the world’s best football yarns, and now we have the Australian football novel.

The plot of Kicking in Danger centres around one week - grand final week in the Australian Football League.

But this is no ordinary grand final week, after all grand finalist Collingwood has had its star player, Brownlow medallist, Rhodes scholar and Aboriginal land rights activist Johnny Moomba kidnapped.

The Magpies call in former Essendon footballer and now private eye Damien Chubb to solve the mystery.

As the mystery unravels you are introduced to an array of characters, from J.J. Hobson, the Carlton president - who bears an uncanny resemblance to John Elliott - to Maurie Moon the forgotten South Melbourne star who played in the blood-bath grand final of 1945, to the Koori Lesbian Kollective - and you need to read about them for yourselves to understand the importance of that group.

While the book is essentially a fictional tale, it illustrates the very real passion associated with Australian football.

The rivalry between the clubs, the passion of the supporters, the common bond between all football people when it comes to the game they love, and - as any Victorian would understand - the sacredness of the MCG, not only to football, but to Melbourne as well. In fact, the MCG is central to some of the more memorable moments of the book.

For example, at one stage it looks like the MCG is not going to be available for grand final day and Chubb asks his son Alex for a solution.

Alex’s reply: ‘Simple Dad, play it at Waverley.’

Chubb takes up the story:

Those surrounding him were chilled and, like an ice age, the enormity of his statement rippled out to engulf the room.

From the mouth of a relative babe: heresy! Oedipus has been blinded, Valhalla has fallen. Liz, Liz, a demon had entered our child, and turned him into some heinous prophet!

All adults, seeing such a terrifying future recoiled, some I swear swooned. This, we all thought, comes from too many Mega Slime Lime Slurpees.

Kicking In Danger is best suited to the football fanatic, the one so passionate about the sport that they can laugh at it but still respect it.

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Kicking in Danger
Alan Wearne
Richard Harling (bookseller)
Herald Sun, 20 November 1997

Finally, a new book for AFL fans. Kicking in Danger is a new departure for Australian crime novels and, it must be said, for Australian sports writing.

It is a crime novel about footy, set in a weird time-warped Melbourne, where Collingwood has made the grand final, and... well, the plot really is too complex to explain and probably only AFL fans will really appreciate it.

But if you like crime novels and love footy, then this might be the book for you.

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Top Shelf
Crime fiction
Kicking In Danger
Michelle Griffin
The Age, 19 October 1997

This crime caper is really just a romp through a fantasy league, where the original 12 teams still exist, the national game is just a cloud on the horizon, and the president of the Carlton Football Club is a loveable old rogue. Damien Chubb, sport’s private eye, is smart, funny and used to play for Essendon. Wearne has a lot of fun with all the footy archetypes, including an astrology mad North fan, a rap-singing Hawthorn superstar and the man Chubb must find before the Grand Final: Johnny Moomba, Collingwood full forward, Aboriginal land rights activist, Rhodes scholar and Brownlow favourite. The plot goes off the rails but it’s a lot of fun. Sustenance over summer.

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Ian McFarlane
The Canberra Times, 12 October 1997

And now for something completely different: Kicking in Danger, by Alan Wearne, has Johnny Moomba, Aboriginal land-rights activist and star full-forward for Collingwood, disappearing during finals fever. Has someone played the man without the ball? Damien Chubb, ex-Bombers ruckman and private eye, investigates, and before anyone can say ‘stacks on the mill’ (a sadly defunct Aussie rules expression for an all-in brawl) the fun is thickening like MCG mud. Wearne’s comic concoction of corporate box power games and Koori Lesbian Kollectives give new meaning to the Aussie Rules tradition of flying high. Fast footy fun.

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Kicking In Danger
Michael Sharkey (editor)
The Weekend Australian, 4-5 October 1997

Like [John] Birmingham’s [The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco] cast of disparate desperates, Wearne’s dramatis personae reflect a certain metropolitan melange. But where Birmingham scours Brisbane’s bottom-feeding social strata, Wearne embraces the social classes that make up Melbourne’s tribes who live for football.

And where Birmingham hardly explores the possibility that any class outside the urban lumpen-fringe dwellers could have a life worth examining, Wearne’s narrator shows a gift for looking appreciatively into the minds of a beer baron, a Jewish football team manager, the licensee of a Fitzroy pub, a serially divorced ex-Grammarian gentleman girl-chaser and Koori lesbians. Wearne’s book displays a sympathy for the muesli mix that constitutes Australian (or Victorian) society, which goes beyond Birmingham’s talented depiction of one-dimensional grotesques.

Chubb’s girlfriend is the straight daughter of a megalomaniac beer baron; Moomba’s girlfriend Dr Daisy Jackson is an Aboriginal academic whose articulacy is superior to any male’s in the novel; Johnny Moomba is, by his own admission, ‘the most calculating prick in town’. Wearne knocks the stereotypes around quite a bit in the earlier stages of his novel, although he has such fun with such irresistible targets as the International Socialists and the supremacist wackos that it’s understandable any effort to maintain the illusion of realism gets tossed to glory in the end. New Age lesbianism and Aboriginal mysticism come together to provide a happy ending that lets down the novel’s tone a treat.

The resolution of Kicking in Danger is weaker than Birmingham’s inner-Brisbane grunge Gotterdammerung. But if you can hop, step and jump over the typographical minefield, you might hope that Wearne, who made his name with The Nightmarkets, a book-length poem, will produce more book-length prose.

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Fun and frolics in footy crime

Kicking in Danger, The Footy Novel
John Collins (publisher)
The Courier-Mail, 27 September 1997

Strange title, or is it a prophetic one? In the ancient version of the game, no matter how bloody-minded the affray, kicking in danger just wasn’t on. It wasn’t footy and that was that. So perhaps the ancient Alan Wearne is trying to tell us something about the future. Perhaps! But we are talking Melbourne; the town where the game is said to have begun on that strip of paddock beside the Yarra. The strip that now encloses the G, the holy of holies: the stadium that pretends in summer to be a cricket ground and at other times has played host to pop stars, opera tenors and that first Australian Olympic Games.

In a sense, it is the G that is the hero of this rather clever entertainment where Wearne, the poet, the dyed-in-the-wool Melburnian and obsessive football enthusiast, leaves you in no doubt that his bizarre, fun-packed events list is somehow a deadly serious affair. But come 2000, the timetable, like the game, is about to change because big power outside his Melbourne has caused the date of the grand final to be changed to fit in with the Sydney Olympics! Wearne could not have known this when he passed the final proofs to. Black Pepper. Perhaps that will be the scenario for a second Damien Chubb footy mystery.

Wearne, a word master, gives the action both barrels. Perhaps he can’t help getting just a little precious about the Brunswick end of town but at the same time, his hatred of Carlton is palpable. He can make fun of Collingwood and their supporters:

Let’s face it: wide open democratic, can’t-say-no tradition-smothered Collingwood are such a credulous organisation. There are no Pie supporters, there are only Pie fanatics: their eyes have galaxies of stars shining in them and they spell out naivety. They are the least objective of Australians: the Queensland National Party is a paragon of rational discourse in comparison.

However, Carlton might be suspiciously close to Brunswick but it is still home to the silvertails. Carlton, the real power centre, comes in for some very special treatment. The cartoon character of J.J. Hobson, the Carlton Club president, is a none too subtle image of a very famous club president. There is sour grapes here but then Carlton once had the unseemly habit of beating Essendon and besides, even in tribal days, prime minister Robert Menzies was the No. l ticket-holder.

The nostalgia is strong and there’s no doubting Wearne’s longstanding fascination with the game. But he does fear change. He does manage to include the interchange but only in a character cast list. And he does include some of the recent well-known names but he has his central character, private eye and ex-Essendon player, Damien Chubb, react with shock when his son hears the news that the G may not be available for the grand final.

‘Forget the G, Dad. The game’s going national.’ That is too much for Wearne, the patriot, to accept because he’s old school. His league still has only 12 teams and the Sydney Swans and the Brisbane Bears (let alone Lions!) just haven’t happened. Tribal Melbourne is over but not for Wearne! I suspect he thinks the code’s heyday is decades old, and yet he obviously likes the present day razzamatazz. He enjoys the North Melbourne Grand Final breakfast, the Grand City Parade and the whiffs of money and power that have always been present but now have a new dimension of flavour - Footy Rules, OK!

He accepts this and so sets out to entertain by inventing a plan of action - not too difficult in a Grand Final Week - and a cast of characters that beggars description although if you are a dedicated follower, you’ll enjoy sifting through the subtle and not so subtle disguises. In this sense, it reminds me a little of Power Without Glory, where no edition was complete without the key to real names. Remember when John West (Wren) was King of Carringbush?

But for the sake of the artifice, Wearne doesn’t just cling to the past because his footy hero is Johnny Moomba, a Koori full forward - a modern version of Farmer, Coleman, Winmar and Ablett rolled into one but with the added Wearnian touch of being a Rhodes Scholar! - and it is his kidnapping just before grand final day that begins .the adventures of Chubb, the private eye and his many footy mates of both sexes. It is a romp: a frolic into an imagined past/present where even the literary magazine attached to Melbourne University, historic Meanjin, gets a guernsey. It is an exercise in good fun, heavy vernacular and lots of leg pulling. But there are barbs, because the game is serious business in Melbourne and it is. probably (dare one say it?) in spite of its origins, becoming similarly so in the fleshpots of the north.

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Barass and I
Literature and football can come together - just ask the great Barassi
Mary Lord
The Melbourne Weekly, 16-22 September 1997

At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, I have to confess that I equate springtime with the end of the footy season and the domination of the media by large ocker blokes and their tiresome, crude jokes. It’s the thought of the slow approach of the cricket season that sustains me through those dreary winter weekends.

On the other hand, the summer must be dreadful for hardline footy fans, which is probably why they have that mini-competition in late summer before the real thing begins. That’s probably also the reason why publishers bring out footy books towards the end of season - punters need crutches to sustain them through the footy drought. Though I must say it’s hard to imagine a fervent fan settling down for a good read in the off-season, I guess if they’re desperate enough anything’s possible.

According to that champion of champions, Ron Barassi, Kicking in Danger, hot off the presses, is ‘the footy novel’. He’s probably right. Almost certainly right. OK, he’s definitely right. I, who even standing on uppy-toe don’t quite reach his knees, wouldn’t want to argue with him. Though mild-mannered enough off the field, he is intimidatingly large and I, frankly, am a coward.

Alan Wearne, the author of Kicking in Danger, is a highly acclaimed poet and best known for writing the prize-winning verse novel Nightmarkets. He may well have written the Australian rules novel. Not being an aficionado I am not really in a position to judge. I’d say that Wearne knows the footballers’ lingo, and genuine fans familiar with the jargon will really enjoy his book.

I met the great Barassi on a memorable occasion a few thousand years ago. I was dining in a restaurant with colleagues from academia and in came Barassi who recognised one of my friends and came over to say hello. His friend, an historian of popular culture, introduced us with explanatory notes which, I suppose, were intended to justify his mixing in such stodgy company. He explained me to Barassi with an apologetic look, saying, ‘She’s literary’. I thought this sounded faintly insulting but I let it go.

Barassi raised one eyebrow, then he also let it go. Or at least I thought he did. We invited him to join us but, seeing we were almost through our meal, he graciously declined but suggested we join him and his companion for a drink when we’d finished. I doubt he really meant it; it seems unlikely that he’d enjoy being on display for his fans when he was out for a quiet dinner with a friend. He was merely being polite.

But the blokes in our party insisted the great man would be deeply hurt if we failed to take up his invitation, which, of course, we did; the men in our party mentally rehearsing the tales they’d tell their students tomorrow about what they said to Barassi and what Barassi said to them.

At Barassi’s table I stayed fairly quiet (for me) while the others bubbled and squawked like demented school-boys, each one showing off for the great man. After a few minutes of this, he turned to me and barked: ‘I thought you were supposed to be literary!’ The others cringed. I took a slow, deep breath. ‘Good gracious, Ron,’ I said, with the confiding smile of one expert to another, ‘you don’t play football at the table, do you?’

The great man digested that thoughtfully and after a brief pause offered the laconic response, ‘Fair enough, darl.’ The tension in the air subsided, everyone visibly relaxed and ‘Darl’ went down in history as a woman with nerves of steel. It was a character-building experience and not one I’d care to repeat. I abandoned the academic life not long after, though there’s probably no connection. So, I definitely agree with Barassi’s judgement of Kicking in Danger.

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Pitch battles
Kicking in Danger: The Footy Novel
Garrie Hutchinson (editor)
The Age, 30 August 1997

Talking about footy life imitating footy art: Alan Wearne’s footy fantasy features, at its climax, the MCG being taken over by a right-wing band of thugs on grand final eve. These neo-Nazis had previously kidnapped the greatest footballer in the land, the problematic Aboriginal star Johnny Moomba - a combination of Krakouer, Lewis, Winmar, Long, Rioli - and Coleman.

He was released, almost accidentally, by the sports private eye Damien Chubb, a former Essendon player who had tried unsuccessfully to fix up Big Nick in the 1968 grand final. The sacred site of the ’G was to be liberated by the collected forces of players not involved in the big game, who, in the hours before the attacking thrust, assembled at Victoria Park. There they were addressed by none other than the less-than-successful coach of Desert Storm, General Schwarzkopf. In art, the boys (and girls - a potent force in this novel is the Lesbian Koori Kollective) succeed beyond football’s wildest dreams; in life, the general failed to get Collingwood over the line against Carlton. Ah, well. The grand final is between Collingwood and Melbourne, itself a fantasy, and Wearne does not reveal the result. Probably a draw. In Wearne’s league, there are still 12 Victorian teams and, at the end of the book, South stay at South as a direct result of Chubb’s success - it’s enough to make you weep in memory of those palmy Saturday afternoons when the local tribes did meet at the Lake Oval, at Windy Hill, or even Brunswick Street.

Ardent fans of footy will have a chuckle over the conceits, as well as recognising the affectionate disguises of selected football personalities, such as a certain Carlton president, and many other Melbourne and football types and places.

I must declare an interest: years ago, I used to go to Carlton Essendon clashes at Princes Park with the author, thereby, perhaps inspiring his unreasoning hatred of the Mighty Blues. I was also one of a number of people who read an early draft of this novel and offered partisan advice - some of which has been acted upon. The story, as published, is an improvement on what I read then, but I still have some reservations.

The storyline, even as fantasy, is both a bit obvious and hard to follow through the occasional thickets of long, under-punctuated sentences. And, while I love the idea of an alternative reality in football Melbourne and like the clash of anachronisms that ensue, it isn’t an idea that is followed through in the detail of place, description and character.

Wearne isn’t overly interested in character - he is kicking around types and stereotypes with the result that when the jokes don’t quite work and there is little to involve the reader. On the other hand, he isn’t attempting crime fiction in the classical style of time, place and character as in Shane Maloney’s retro-Melbourne thrillers. Wearne’s bonk is a kind of regional roman a clef in which the key to enjoying the story is a thorough knowledge of the importance of football in Melbourne culture - otherwise, not even The Footy Show will help you.

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Literary luminaries explore life’s little vices
The Bulletin, 12 August 1997

Life imitating art again? No one, according to Melbourne gossips, could have been more surprised than author Alan Wearne to read last month in the local daily that General Norman Schwarzkopf, Stormin’ Norman of Gulf War fame, is addressing the Collingwood AFL team before its clash with Carlton at the MCG. Wearne, in his new novel, Kicking in Danger, just published by Black Pepper, already has the tactically brilliant Schwarzkopf doing just that before the grand final. However, he also has kidnappers running off with the star Collingwood full forward, and the Magpies hiring private eye Damien Chubb to track them down... Might be advisable say the wags, to keep the Rocca brothers under wraps!

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Higher Education
Peter Craven
The Weekend Australian, 1997

That writer of political verse epics, Alan Wearne, has an extract from his long work in progress, which intertwines a set of stories, a trick we associate with Chaucer in verse and Boccaccio in prose. Prose is Wearne’s elected medium in his new book, Kicking in Danger, which comes with the words of the great Ron Barassi quoted on the front cover: ‘The footy novel’.

Wearne is best known for his first novel The Nightmarkets, a story of politics and the shadow it casts on everyday life, which was compared by Jack Hibberd to both James Joyce and C. J. Dennis. Kicking in Danger is from the other end of Bourke Street, a comic thriller about Australian Rules which involves, among other things, a not-entirely-lovable black Collingwood star called Johnny Moomba. The Koori lesbian feminist collective call him Johnny Hardword because that’s what he puts on people. The story involves a kidnapping and it has as its detective a former footballer called Damien Chubb.

Wearne’s world of Australian Rules is one in which the VFL has never transmuted into the AFL and where football history has developed in a counter-factual universe, though it also includes portraits of some not unfamiliar characters who have splendoured or made miserable the game. Famous brewers and the like.

When The Nightmarkets appeared more than a decade ago, Mungo McCallum, the political journalist, said he thought it would become a cult book. It will be interesting to see if this fate overtakes Wearne’s attempt at pulp fiction.

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Wearne biography
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