by Mercedes Webb-Pullman
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book of 30 droll pieces recounting the author’s days as a bookie’s clerical assistant on Sydney racetracks – gallops, trots and dogs.
The author states quite honestly in her entertaining Introduction, that she has, “taken full advantage of poetic licence in descriptions of historical, and hysterical, events.” So there are elements of hyperbole throughout, always adding to the sometimes abrasive humour that permeates each and every tale, although Webb-Pullman does go slightly un-PC in one story, namely The wong Wong, where The Boss spurts out, “…don’t wing the wrong Wong” and the author concludes with, “Seems Robert is the right Wong after all.”
The anecdotes are very easy to read, because of the author’s relaxed and sometimes caustic descriptions of the myriad colourful personages who occupied the various echelons of the ‘racing fraternity’ – including policemen, politicians and trainers – and the often convoluted escapades that ensued when everyone was out to make a fast dollar. You will often laugh out loud and then swiftly turn to the next tale – many of which feature Webb-Pullman’s then husband, the aptly named Mr. Nasty. Indeed, it is well possible to speed through the collection in one session, such is the ribald entertainment contained within.
More, the author is not reluctant to spill out home truths about her marriage, about the agents of the law chasing her, about criminal activities of all breeds – such as drug-running; about sexist males; about the sheer greed of so many of the protagonists and antagonists. Yes, there is some measure of exaggeration concerning the attributes of these actors and their activities, but this never obfuscates the gritty real world of racing, back in the 1970s and 1980s.
I hesitate to call most of these anecdotes, poems, for they are not, nor are they prose poems, given that the first half dozen pieces do have the lilt and imagery of ‘traditional’ poetry. Here such brilliant metaphorical depiction such as, “He shoots me a horrified look from his black hole-in-the-end-of-a-gun-barrel eyes,” (from A thousand cockroaches deep) do indicate Webb-Pullman the poet at play. Later, and more pervasively, however, the tales become brisk stories with vivid vistas of their own – as they delve further into detailing narrative, character and plot, all with an economical metre. The author feeds on short sharp sentences. Doesn’t waste words.
Finally, I have to mention the capture of the especial racetrack-speak of the entire band of brothers (rarely sisters) caught up in ‘the sickness’; that is the overwhelming compulsion to bet at the expense of relationships, possessions, sanity and physical health, in some sort of adrenalin-fuelled existential heightening of the senses. Webb-Pullman has won bigtime in this field, for her pithy raconteur style embellishes every page. Take her visceral depiction and description of her own wedding to the misogynistic Mr. Nasty –
“Honeymoon starts tomorrow – how can I go to the States for six weeks with this prick?”
Take a tip from an old punter: Track Tales is a sure bet; a winner. You can’t lose, eh.
Author: Mercedes Webb-Pullman
Publisher: Truth Serum Press - https://truthserumpress.net/
Available: paperback, eBooks in the following formats through various platforms (ePub, iBookstore, Kobobooks, Barnes & Noble NOOKbook, Amazon Kindle)