MadMaxnovelBy TERRY KAYE (Circus Books; 1979)

It’s been said that George Miller, the co-writer and director of MAD MAX, was so impressed with this novelization of the film that he hired its writer Terry Hayes (credited as “Terry Kaye”) to co-script MAD MAX 2/THE ROAD WARRIOR.  This book is indeed impressive—especially given that MAD MAX wasn’t exactly a film you’d call complex or multi-faceted—although it will never be mistaken for a “real” novel.

The setting, which is better worked out here than in the movie, is a near-future Australia (not the post-apocalyptic milieu for which Mad Max has become known) terrorized by bands of rowdy bikers.  Tasked with keeping order on the roads is an elite contingent of highway patrol cops known as The Breaker Squad.  Among them is the twentyish “Mad” Max, who can apparently “drive himself—and his car—harder and tougher than any cop the Chief had ever known.”  Max proves this early on in the film/novel by adroitly taking down a psychopathic biker known as Nightrider.

This pisses off Nightrider’s superior, a freak named Toecutter, to no end.  He becomes determined to kill Max and his fellow Breakers, with the first victim being Max’s philandering, cycle-loving pal Jim the Goose, followed by Max’s wife Jessie and infant son Sprog.  A grief-stricken Max hits the revenge trail, killing off Toecutter and his goons via an extended bout of car fu, courtesy of a souped-up automobile provided by his superiors, and unleashes a final macabre bit of aggression upon Johnny the Boy, a Toecutter underling responsible for killing Goose.

This book is readable, first and foremost, with Hayes relating this action-intensive account in a fast and suitably economic manner.  The novel is also far sleazier than the flick, as is evident in an extended passage detailing the sexual manhandling of a woman in a roadside café, and in the lovingly described death of Goose: “Jim screamed his lungs out just as the flames reached him.  The next breath he took was almost pure fire.  It ripped through his lips, down his throat and ended forever any chance of his breathing again.”

Yes, the book’s descriptions are solid, although they never come close to matching the hyperbolic back cover blub promising that “MAD MAX will make you stab for the brake until the very last page…Your blood will turn to ice and your eyes will squirm with horror…MAD MAX will career(?) you into a metallic volcano…Stephen King and Hunter S. Thompson eat your hearts out!”