The Gulp, Alan Baxter

I used to read a lot more horror when I was young, but fell out of the habit (except for Stephen King titles) some time in my late twenties. I was in the mood for something dark and quirky after my recent hospital stay, however, so I dived into Alan Baxter’s The Gulp.

It’s an arrangement of five linked stories, all set in the fictional south coast town of Gulpepper, a white settlement that grew up on one of the few places Native Australian tribes refused to tread.

There are some very Stephen King vibes here. Specifically that particular sub-genre of story - the lost town - that the King seems to specialise in.

I’m only two stories in so far, but that’s enough for me to recommend the collection to anyone whose tastes lean this way. It’s a slightly weird experience, reading a type of story I’m so used to imagining in the old master’s New England, but told here with a very broad, nasal Australian accent. The transplant works, however, and I can easily imagine it as a limited run series on Stan or Netflix.

The town of Gulpepper is rather brilliantly realised, and anyone who’s done any road trips around this part of the world will recognise both the architecture and characters. The collection starts, quite cunningly, with a couple of outsiders, truck drivers making a delivery to Woolies (Woolies!) and finding themselves trapped in town overnight.

It does not go well, as you’d imagine.

As soon as the creepiness starts, it mounts and mounts like a screechy fucking violin at the back of your head. It’s unsettling enough that I can generally do only half an hour or so at a time. But that’s more than enough to get lost in the Gulp.

THE GULP. Alan Baxter.