In the early years of the 20th century, an awareness was growing among European Australians of an unexpected threat, one that seemed the very embodiment of the dark, ominous power of the Australian bush. To the Indigenous people of the Guugu Yimithirr nation, it was nguman; to the whites it was the taipan, an eight foot, lightning fast venomous snake whose bite meant certain death.
Venom is an examination of European settlers' troubled and often antagonistic relationship with the land, seen through the lens of the desperate scramble for an antivenom, and highlighted by the story of George Rosendale, a taipan bite victim of the Guugu Yimithirr nation.
Brendan Murray is a writer whose short stories have twice received National Literary Awards from the Fellowship of Australian Writers. Brendan was joint winner of the 2017 Ned Kelly Award for Best True Crime for The Drowned Man.
"It was said to be a giant, red-eyed, copper-coloured serpent that could lash out with the ferocity of a crocodile. Until the Wikmunkan people of the Cape York Peninsula lead naturalist Donald Thomson to a living speciman in 1933, the reptile was thought to be a myth. Thomson published a scientific paper about the discovery of the taipan but, as Brendan James Murray points out, it was hardly a discovery, more a "translation into white mythology of what Wikmunkan people and others had always understood". This dual perspective makes Venom much more than a tense, vividly written human drama about the race to make an antivenom for one of the most deadly snakes in the world. Through the remarkable survival story of Indigenous boy George Rosendale, Murray subtly traces the venom unleashed by European settlers themselves."
– Sydney Morning Herald
"By one of Australia's best and brightest young authors, this is a gripping tale of heroism and tragedy, offering the glimmering possibility of reconciliation."
– Creative Spirits
"The way Murray writes history instantly brings to mind contemporaries such as Peter Fitzsimons, Grantlee Kieza, and Julia Baird. Not only has he picked an admittedly unusual entry point into Australian social and history; he has done so with a novelist's flair. These days, the best kind of history writing engages the reader's intellectual curiosity as well as their yearning for story and narrative. It's the subject matter – venom and poisonous snakes and Australia's indigenous and colonial history – that draws the reader in."
– Better Reading
"Packed with research and simply stunning writing [...] Combining thoughtful writing with almost thriller-like pacing, and packed with extensive and excellent research, the book also reveals a surprisingly emotional side, as driven science meets very human grief."
– The AU Review