Rural Liberties- OUT JUNE 1st, 2017

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Neal Drinnan’s 6th novel has been 6 years in the coming but it’s worth the wait!

‘Drinnan’s writing seems so effortlessly sparkling and delicious that we are in danger of overlooking what an elegant master of prose he is. This book is witty, naughty and a real pleasure to read but it also has steely purpose. There’s a real bite here, and a sense of a talented writer at the top of his form.’ Christos Tsiolkas

‘Loved it! Loved the setting, the schlocky reality TV show, the orgies and the cast of thousands. A true skill is at work here. People will love this!’ Belinda Castles

‘Neal Drinnan’s wicked novel is a masterful mashup of TV pop culture, small town gossip, straight-boy sexual savagery, adult-relationship confusion-and, charmingly, a lonely queer lad’s hormonal lusts. Its satire is both seductive and perceptive, a delectable combination.’ Richard Labonte

Rural Liberties: Synopsis

Welcome to Moralla, Tidy Town – two years running!

Rebecca Moore, the most beautiful, talented girl in town is dead and there’s nothing tidy about it. It seems everyone in this sleepy hollow is breaking bad and something has to be done. Why was she on the Princes Highway at four am? What could lure her there and how will the town cope with the series of events set in motion by her shocking departure?

When Rural Liberties, a maverick, moral foundation sets up unconventional sexual retreats on Moralla’s fringes and TV’s longest running reality show recruits the town’s number two beauty, the stage is set for one of the most diabolical and outrageous moral coups ever.

If what happens in Moralla stays in Moralla then what will the new arrivals bring and what will they leave behind? Rebecca is watching from the wings as the moral compass goes haywire and a bold new era of debauchery and enlightenment is set to begin.

Rural Liberties is a fiery cocktail of  innocence, gender, corruption and lust in the homeliest of places; small town Australia.

Released in June 2017 by Signal 8 Press and Typhoon Media.

Stock is available from Ingrams, Lightening Source

RRP: USA $19.99 Australia:29.99 Canada $24.99 UK £14.99

Available from: Amazon, Book Depository, Booktopia

FIRST CHAPTER:

THE TOWN

Moralla, New South Wales, Australia

Population: 3500

Located 350 km south of Sydney,

550 km northeast of Melbourne:

Princes Highway

Somewhere on the way to someplace else

Moralla: jewel of the Sapphire Coast and Tidy Town two years running. She became something of a boomtown in the 1980s for her quality domestic dairy produce. Like other regional towns, Bodella and Bega, with their respectively named cheeses, Moralla was once almost a household name. Price wars in the nineties and noughties favoured Bega and Bodalla, their infrastructures more dynamic and their workers more adaptable. When larger supermarkets and food chains no longer required Moralla’s product, the town began to suffer. Television commercials for Bega cheese had worked their way into the national psyche; who could forget Better Buy Bega? Who would remember Tell ’er Moralla?

The cheese factory closed down after expensive but abortive attempts at savvy marketing; now the town’s only real landmark, a huge buttery-yellow wedge of Swiss cheese sat abandoned outside the boarded-up souvenir shop and Cheese World Museum.

Back in the day, people would stop off. Drivers took notice of the Stop Revive Survive signs. Children dashed gleefully from cars to climb the Mighty Cheese, but paint is peeling off it in pizza-sized sheets these days, the cheap particle board rotten to the core. Warning signs make clear it’s no longer a safe place to play. Gone is the miniature railway; gone too is the bird sanctuary that closed after too much interest from the RSPCA and too little from the general public.

Other towns along the coast are thriving with retirees and their superannuation payouts, but Moralla is fourteen kilometres from the beach. The cashed-up Canberrans have bought in Narooma, Turos Head, Bermagui, and Bateman’s Bay, where marinas, restaurants, and seafood co-ops thrive and Hillsong churches offer bright, lucrative futures with Christ. In these bustling locales, leagues clubs and RSLs are turning into small towns of their own from the steadily dripping fat off the poker machines. Moralla has a river for fishing and rich green dairy pastures, but aside from the sawmill and the two pubs, there wasn’t much doing there in the spring of 2009. Not much at all until now.

THE GIRL: SEPTEMBER 2009

The night air had a bite to it like a dog. She felt its teeth through her damp panties. It was far too early in spring for Rebecca Moore to be running through scrub at four a.m., especially in her attire. But colder still were the sentiments and condemnations she dreaded from the town’s heart. From its loose lips, its careless whispers.

Rebecca herself was actually feeling hot: red-hot and raw with shame. Drunk and stupid. Far more drunk than she ought to have been, given what she’d had to drink. Perhaps it was the joint, perhaps something else?

‘Run Rebecca run’ nagged a pantomime voice in her head as branch after branch snapped beneath the crashing of her trainers. A sleeping pill? Why else would her legs feel so heavy, so remote, like another girl’s? She had no idea where she was as she tripped and gasped. Somewhere between the Colchester farm and the closed-down bird sanctuary. Not far from the Princes Highway. Good as naked against the pouring rain.

As she slowed down, her indiscretions caught up. How could she have done it? How could any girl have been so stupid? She wanted distance between their savagery and her sins. She wanted to undo all that had been done. He’d believed she had real talent—she’d seen how he looked at her in that dress. ‘You make Scarlett Johansson look like a frump.’ She doubted that, but he’d been pushing her to try out for Aussie Diva all year, even before she had sex with him. ‘You’ll meet all those showbiz types and you’ll be too good for us,’ he’d half joked. She’d done lots of eisteddfods, two School Spectaculars. Now she was in for the big time. She’d even been to Bateman’s Bay to buy the dress. Two hundred and fifty bucks of her own money.

They’d all be sitting there now smoking, joking lewdly about what happened. Waiting for her to come back in. ‘I have to go piss,’ she’d slurred, angry that the toilet didn’t work and confused by how events had turned. He really was the only one she’d wanted, and that’s how all this started. That’s why she’d gone back after the other girls went home. ‘Climb out your window if you have to. I’ll pick you up at two a.m.,’ he’d whispered urgently. She hadn’t had to. Her mum was at work. Stupid mistake after stupid mistake. The smell of that bedroom, of old Ma Colchester’s floral bedding, musty after months of not being changed.

Just him, she’d imagined. The two of them in that rambling old house’s bedroom with no electricity. The others outside, drinking and laughing by the fire in the lounge. Just them. Doing it as they had in those dreamy weeks before, in his bungalow or the car by the beach. But she’d been betrayed, caught in a moment of weakness. Now, bile gathered in the back of her throat as she heaved up a bittersweet mouthful of Jim Beam and Coke. She knew there’d been more than bourbon in it. They’d gotten her stoned and she hadn’t stopped them. Any of them. Six of them? Was it possible she’d lost count? She’d thought to feel carefree. She’d dared think it sexy or forbidden, almost liberating, but she knew now she’d been foiled. It marked the end of her life in that town.‘Slut,’ she mumbled to herself. ‘SLUT!’

Two minutes was all it would take in a town like Moralla for every guy to know what she’d done, then every girl, and imagine if she’d gotten pregnant! The thought nearly stopped her heart right there on the spot. Abortions, single motherhood, and ‘Who do you reckon the father is?’, followed by boozy laughter in the bar. There’d be no Aussie Diva then. How could Moralla’s most admired girl become such a whore? Her looks, or voice, wouldn’t save her this time, not from this. She felt all of them now: the wet, wild oats of six nineteen-year-olds dampening her pants as she stumbled through scrub. The driving rain poured off her face. ‘You’re so sweet,’ she remembered hearing, but who’d said it? She couldn’t say. In the darkness, in her state, she couldn’t have told one from the other. Just hot boozy breath and grunting. Boys.

Rebecca wasn’t going to sing an Adele song or some Beyoncé track like the other contestants probably would. She was doing an old Melissa Manchester hit her mother had on a CD. She’d been practising for months and it was only two weeks until auditions. If she could make it onto Diva and get beyond the stifling oppressiveness of this stupid town, none of this would matter. Those boys could sit in the pub, watch her on TV, and say they’d fucked her as they drooled into their seventh beer. They could say what they liked once she was singing to one hundred thousand people on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. Yes! Then they could say what they liked.

The trees and scrub finally gave way to a bend on the highway. She was at the turn-off… this was good! She could walk back to town from here—no more than a kilometre, she figured, but her bag was still in the car. She was dizzy and felt so, so heavy. How could a girl who barely ate weigh so much? She thought about her song again, ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud.’ She sang it out into the rainy silence of the night but whatever they’d given her had left her voice flat. Like so many girls, Rebecca Moore didn’t want parades just passing her by.

Suddenly there was a roar in the distance, a vast illumination on the horizon. It cheered her for a moment: red lights, blue lights, huge white ones. It seemed perhaps, the circus really was coming to town. The lights came closer, glowed brighter. The circus blared its elephant trumpet at her. She’d painted on a smile and taken up with some clown. Now there was only light everywhere around her, if she were in a football stadium, singing at halftime. She was dancing without a net upon the wire. The horn blasted again and again and the frantic hissing of breaks sounded like applause. The applause she’d waited seventeen years to hear. I know a lot about her ‘cause you see/ that baby is an awful lot like me. At that moment light enveloped Rebecca Moore and a ghostly apparition fixed her to the spot. Frozen. She could move neither forward nor back.

If Rebecca had paid attention in science, which she hadn’t, she would have known a 400-tonne road train doing 120 kilometres per hour and a driver with a belly full of ephedrine can’t possibly come to a complete stop in less than 300 metres. All Rebecca remembered in that final moment were the words to her song, ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud.’ And she didn’t cry out. She kept it all inside.