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The Devil's Grip

A true story of shame, sheep and shotguns

Neal Drinnan



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01 September 2019
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- When Neal Drinnan moves to Colac and opens a bookshop, he meets Bob Perry, who moves from being a good customer to being a good friend. And then one day Drinnan learns that Perry was the secret lover of a man who, along with his aunt and his son, was murdered at a nearby property. Darcy Wettenhall was a champion Corriedale sheep breeder; his family were internationally renowned for their sheep, and the triple murder was especially brutal. Darcy was especially good at appearances - he knew ways to make his sheep look impressive in the show ring, but he also knew the ways that made him personally look like what he was not… 

In a culture that had no tolerance for homosexuality, pretence and disguise were important. Drinnan tells the story that Perry tells him, but he weaves it with aspects of his own life as a gay man, showing how intolerance, shame and notions of masculinity created a toxic - and ultimately tragic - situation. This is a book about more than the murders, showing a side of rural life that is quite universal. Lindy Jones


Seven shots ring out in the silence of Victoria's rolling Barrabool Hills. As the final recoil echoes through the paddocks, a revered sheep-breeding dynasty comes to a bloody and inglorious end.

No one could have anticipated the orgy of violence that wiped out three generations of the Wettenhall family, much less the lurid scandals about Darcy Wettenhall, the man behind the world famous Stanbury sheep stud, that would emerge from the aftermath.

Almost three decades later, the web of secrets and lies that led to this bizarre and seemingly motiveless murder spree are unravelled with the help of Bob Perry, Darcy Wettenhall's secret lover for a decade prior to his murder.

From the bucolic majesty, privilege and snobbery of the Western District's prized pastoral lands and dynasties to the bleak, loveless underworld of orphanages, rodeo stables and homeless shelters, The Devil's Grip is a courageous and thought-provoking meditation on the fragility of reputation, the folly of deception and the power of shame.

`A remarkable piece of work. It is a strange, unusual and beautiful book with an incredibly unique setting. I don't think I've read anything quite like it. It is compulsive reading. True crime. Memoir. History. How do you live a life honestly and with dignity? It's difficult to categorise because it traverses so many genres. But it WORKS.' Matthew Condon, author of the Three Crooked Kings trilogy

`On its face this is the story of a family steeped in the pursuit of the perfect ram, but beneath the surface lies a riveting and ribald tale of lust, loss, manipulation, unbridled ambition and ultimately murder.' Mark Tedeschi AM QC and author of Eugenia, Kidnapped and Murder at Myall Creek

`An unforgettable, courageous and deeply tragic local story which manages to become a universal tale' Gregory Day, author of Archipelago of Souls and A Sand Archive

`It's got it all: sex, domestic violence, `the land' - such an important concept resonating in the Australian mind - land-holders and property, privilege, prejudice, skulduggery and murder!' David Bradford, author of The Gunners' Doctor and Tell Me I'm Okay

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By:   Neal Drinnan
Imprint:   SIMON451
Country of Publication:   Australia
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm, 
ISBN:   9781760851187
ISBN 10:   1760851183
Publication Date:   01 September 2019
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

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