This book is more than a sport biography.
Debut author Paul Amy write the tale of Fred Cook, who was one of the legend players of the Victorian Football Association (VFA) in the 1970s. Cook was a colourful character and had “fame at a pop star level” during his heyday.
But with all intriguing stories, Cook had his flaws and these caused him to have a stunning crash to earth from his lofty fame. He earned excellent money for the time, was the publican of a legendary Melbourne watering hole The Station Hotel and had a thriving media career.
But as Amy details, Cook fell into drug use (“…Up until then he’d relied on strong coffee (sweetened by five sugars and cigarettes to stay ‘up’…”) and was mixing with the dangerous Melbourne underworld, namely the fearsome and crazy Dennis Allen. Allen was a regular at Cook’s Station Hotel and was the person who first offered the legendary footballer amphetamines. (For overseas readers of this blog, Dennis Allen was a deadly drug dealer whose relatives were alleged to have orchestrated the slayings of two Victoria Policemen Steven Tynan and Damian Eyre in 1988. Allen, who died of heart disease in 1987, was part of the notorious Pettingill family – a crime clan headed by matriarch Kath. The hit Australian film Animal Kingdom drew inspiration for its central characters from the Pettingills and their crimes.
Cook did stints in jail and had a very chaotic romantic life – he estimates he has eight children from three or four mothers. (Cook struggles to remember details of his life due to his drug use.)
Amy is a fantastic storyteller. He worked closely with Fred Cook and his family, friends and associates to write this book. Amy is a sports journalist for Leader Community Newspapers in Melbourne and is one of the finest writers in Australia. (I disclose I work with Paul Amy and he is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and absolutely passionate about sports and journalism).
Even if you don ‘t care much for sport, Fabulous Fred is a gripping read. It is a fascinating social and sport history as well as the tragic tale of a man who had everything and lost it all.
This book has a lot of heart.
Fabulous Fred: The Strife and Times of Fred Cook is published by Melbourne Books.