The devil’s grip is an expression used to describe a genetic defect in sheep, considered to be a flaw on the show circuit.
Neal Drinnan has fleeced the term for the title of his compelling investigation and inquiry into toxic masculinity and mass murder.
On the surface, THE DEVIL’S GRIP is an examination of the events of Wednesday March 18, 1992, at Stanbury sheep stud, Ceres, when a revered sheep breeding dynasty came to a bloody and inglorious end in an orgy of violence wiped out three generations of the Wettenhall family.
While the triple murder forms the backdrop, Drinnan delves deep into the sheep-dip of secrets, lies and denials that infested the lives and fostered the deaths of the players in this epic tragedy.
Kindness is classless but it is said that manners come with breeding and might just as easily be a prelude to treachery as to altruism. Darcy Wettenhall had a chip on his shoulder the size of Uluru, feeling the brunt of being the runt. He was hell bent on raising himself up and positioning himself in the pivotal. The pursuit of pedigree and privilege and property paved the way to instil and install his own prejudice.
“Feminists and snags can say what they like but in the western district when the farmer wants a wife she needs to be a looker or a cooker preferably both. The workers need to fed and well fed at that and in traditional set ups a farmer marries a woman who will bear his heirs and spares and see to all the catering required. End of story.”
Darcy dated and mated with a woman that produced an heir, but that was as far as his heterosexual duty took him. Breeding completed, he was free to furtively go in search of mutton dressed up as ram, and she was cold shouldered out of the picture.
Drinnan posits that misogyny is endemic in homosexuals, the simmering hatred between men and women is never far from the surface. Perhaps its as much about envy as disdain.
With the help of Bob Perry, Darcy Wettenhall’s secret lover for a decade before the murders, Drinnan combines true crime and memoir weaving personal and intimate insights into a narrative that will silence naysayers that truth is stranger than fiction.
On Darcy’s dark personality, Drinnan writes “I understand how a homosexual man who learns early that he has no place in his family or the world and has experienced deep visceral sexual brutality might choose to own brutality than die at its hand.”
Similarly, “The Wettenhall murderer Wayne Walton simply possessed the distilled pathology of twenty four years of poverty, violence, sexual stigma, class inequality, ignorance and blind injustice – a heady concoction of venom and woe.”
The elephants in the room far outnumber the sheep in THE DEVIL’S GRIP, and the second half of the book is as much about reflection as response.
The author hath borne himself beyond the promise of his page, doing, in the figure of a lamb, the feats of a lion.
THE DEVIL’S GRIP by Neal Drinnan is published by Simon & Schuster