fenceless asylum


Fenceless Asylum follows on from Rag Doll, a tale that found our protagonist, James Bergen happy in his rural environment with his hard-fought-for love, Nakita.  Sadly for James, but happily for the reader, his bucolic contentment is short-lived. Ghosts from the past rear their evil heads to collide with many of the endearingly flawed characters we’ve come to know from McKinnon’s previous books.

 This work of adventure fiction, ostensibly set in the scenic Coal River Valley in Tasmania, also ripples through stages of global proportions. The story aims to touch upon environmental and social issues that affect us all, here and now and potentially, in the future.

 Daniel McKinnon’s easy-to-read and flowing narrative and his ability to build suspense early on in the story, coupled with the earthy dialogue from the effortlessly relatable characters that is seamlessly strewn through the story, means McKinnon doesn’t miss a beat in the tale.  This is an adventure that encompasses espionage, violence and conspiracy—themes we know McKinnon is very comfortable with.


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ISBN: 978-1-922229-62-5  
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 318
Genre: Fiction
Cover: Clive Dalkins

Cover photo Miraco/

Author: Daniel McKinnon
Imprint: Poseidon
Publisher: Poseidon Books
Date Published:  2014
Language: English



This book is dedicated to …


This book is dedicated to friends old and new. The writer thanks the kindness and generosity of those who made him welcome in the Coal River Valley. In particular, thanks to the locals of the village of Campania, the local pub crew and to a pub dog named Dozer, in real life, who endlessly entertained me with his crazy antics.

I also want to dedicate this book to the fond memories of the Campania Tavern––a background prop to this story––that burnt to the ground before this story was finished.


And a special dedication to my late father, Norm, who passed away during the period of time I was writing this story.


With trembling hands and heavy heart I committed your earthly self unto the sea, a ritualistic gesture to set your spirit free. I will not forget your kindly nature, Dad … nor all the things you taught to me.


About the Author


The writer makes the point that Fenceless Asylum is a work of fiction for entertainment value only. While the names of some real places have been used, many of the surroundings or locations are fictitious. The names and characters of the story are also fictitious. Various characters of the story are a soup of many everyday personality quirks mixed into a single, fabricated entity by the writer.

References to governmental departments, projects and protocols and their actions taken within this book are also part of a fabricated milieu for the sake of the story.

The writer, having made a lifestyle change to live in a country setting in Tasmania, found himself in a gap year. With the necessary time taken to adjust to his new surroundings and with the basic renovation of his cottage completed, the writer devoured the time left––in between searching for paying work––to write. Some of those adjustments were part of getting to know the quirky goings-on of his new community. Observing many of those idiosyncratic incidents inspired the running story for this book. The title was inspired by the comments of several individuals within the community.

Despite the fact these big changes often carried the prickly feeling of being outside his comfort zone, the writer relished the opportunity it gave to conjure up and write more stories. This is the second story written by Daniel McKinnon after having making his big change. His personal view on life is that it is a smorgasbord of variety––all to be tasted and appreciated for what they are.

He found an abundance of new experiences and people within his new lifestyle in the Coal River Valley. The island of Tasmania, as a whole, has a vault full of past and present characters and incidents, many true and many not. Daniel has thought for a long time the structure and lack of common sense of our greater modern society has leaned on the side of lunacy. When local individuals made a similar reference to the simple activities in their quaint community, Daniel pondered the question of where the fence line actually stood, was there one?

It appeared to the writer that while some of these local people humorously berated some of their own eccentric behaviour, it was balanced with some wonderful traits. It was heart-warming for Daniel to see an isolated community of people who had grown up around each other, looking out for and caring about each other. This sometimes overflowed into other closed-community complications but the noble traits were there.

Conversely, in the larger world community arena, the often soulless and outright mindless undertakings of those taking leadership and decision-making roles had no noble motive behind their behaviour. No matter how sophisticated one made it all look or sound, no amount of bells and whistles could make lunacy look sane. The writer noted that the ‘sheep’, in droves, swallowed the trappings from the wrapping it all came in, nonetheless. The world itself was becoming a Fenceless Asylum.




James Bergen found himself alone again after Nakita left him for a more exciting life in New York City. Feeling that he needed the time and space to be on his own, James moved to a quiet country village in a new place. Happenings and connections from the past reconnect in relatively innocent ways. However, many things get misconstrued by a couple of local people in his newfound place of living and by those at higher levels in the bigger world beyond.

As James goes unsuspectingly about his daily life, there are a number of diverse personalities actively plotting his demise. The paranoia of government intelligence personnel could cost him his life. The misaligned greed of two local women leads them into a delusional game of espionage as they plot against him.

James, in the meantime, investigates some of the intrigue surrounding a mountain not far from where he lives. The mysteries of the mountain draw several players into the same field of play. Decisions are made on inference, guns are drawn, and destinies are changed. Without some kind of outside intervention, James’ destiny will change in a morbid way.

The contemplation of the repercussions associated with other decisions being made on a global scale makes James wonder if the destiny of mankind itself will change in a morbid way without some kind of intervention.

The main story begins on a day like any other day as James sits working on his computer…



Chapter One



The August of 1966 in southern Tasmania was wet, cold and windy. As a feeble ray of sunshine peaked through the early morning mist, a gusting wind sporadically rattled the rusting sheets of corrugated iron on the walls of the three-room cabin. An unlit wood stove bearing the branding ‘Crown’ carried dripping lines of greasy fat that had spilled over from the frying pan to escape further over the edge of the stovetop. A basic timber table with a cracked leg strapped with fencing wire to secure its stance was flanked by two chairs in an equal state of disrepair. A chipped, mint green enamel plate was overloaded with discarded lamb chop bones in the middle of the table. More lay on the floor from previous meals. A tin mug carried the sour smell and remnants of moonshine whiskey, unfinished from the previous night. The hut held a musky and rank odour.

The remains of what was once a lath and plaster separation wall partially divided the eating area from a bedroom of sorts. Beneath a thick grey army surplus blanket a tall wiry man found extra warmth from the somewhat overweight body of a short, plain-faced woman with curly ginger hair. His crusty soil-stained feet hung over the end of the lumpy horsehair mattress that lay skewhiff on the compacted earth floor. The woman’s pasty, pudgy face grimaced in recognition of the foul stench of his fart.

“Where’s Boy?” the middling woman enquired.

“Why? Shut up.”

“Noticed he ain’t on his chain was all.”

“Yeah he is. Outside, near woodpile.”


“Stealin’, stealin’ eggs. Caught him suckin’ on one when came in last night. Had t’ teach him lesson.”

“Ya whip him good?”

“Nuh. Don’t steal wit’ ya arse. Busted his fingers good tho’, li’l shit.”

The pudgy woman laughed and rolled over on top of him, fumbling with his manliness until she had it swallowed inside of her unkempt sex. She slopped herself up and down on it until she had relieved her bout of carnal tension. He pushed her off him and went to the makeshift bathroom in the only other room in the rank smelling shack. A rusty kerosene tin cut in half longways served as a washbasin. He tipped the contents from the tin bucket into it and then splashed his stubbled face with the freezing cold water before rolling a smoke. He pulled the tin, with the distinctive yellow lid festooned by the bright red branding strip, from the top of the meat safe. Barbs’ wiry hands unscrewed the metallic lid and he took out the citrus peel that he had put in the tin to keep the tobacco moist and proceeded to roll a smoke. Erinmore was a pipe tobacco but Barbs liked the rich sweet taste and the aroma in a cigarette.

Boy heard the old wooden door creak and huddled back against the randomly-stacked pile of drying wattle blocks. His hands were blue and swollen with bruising, his feet were blue from the cold. The torn and oversized sweatshirt had offered him little protection against the cold of the southern winter night, but it was something. He had no idea how old he was. In fact he had little idea of anything in these early years of his abused and deprived life. His eyes already showed a soulless glaze of hatred and mistrust as he watched his sperm donor walk across the frosted grass towards him. “Bit cold are ya, Boy? That’ll teach ya not ta steal tucker, ya little retard. This might warm ya up.”

From experience, although Boy didn’t understand what the word retard meant, he knew the utterance of it was usually followed by something unpleasant. Barbs pulled himself out of the broken zipper to his weathered cotton work pants and urinated over Boy, shaking the last drops over his face. With that he went to the timber shed behind the woodpile and retrieved his .410 shotgun and a handful of shells.

A mixed-breed mongrel, a collie-kelpie cross dog of sorts had killed the last of Barbs’ sheep the day before. He’d stolen the sheep in the first place anyway, but that wasn’t the point. Barbs knew who owned the dog and it was a twenty-minute walk up across a Scotch thistle-laden paddock to find the crossbreed and blow its brains out. If the owner tried to stop him, he’d blow his brains out too. The wallabies he shot to feed his own dog, Fang, looked like becoming his tea too for the next few months. Barbs headed off to shoot the neighbour’s dog.

Fang had left the rank remains of a wallaby leg to rot alongside the wattle blocks. Boy could smell it. The stench turned his stomach but his stomach was also screaming with hunger pains and it was food. Boy, sought it out. At the end of the rusty dog chain secured tight around his neck, he was barely in reach of the grisly offering. He pushed hard against the pressure of the chain as it bit mercilessly into his neck and he stretched his broken fingers towards it. He got one distorted finger upon it and recoiled with the pain, but he didn’t give up. Finally he inched the half-rotten leg back towards him, despite the pain in his hands and he gnawed at the stinking meat.

Fang hadn’t followed Barbs across the paddock as he cowered at the sound made by that strange stick that Barbs was carrying. He trotted back towards the humpy with a wallaby leg breakfast on his mind. As Fang turned the corner of the wood heap, he spotted his hidden treasure being consumed by the little human. Fang started a low growl. His lip retracted from his top row of sharp teeth. The hair on the back of his neck bristled erect. Boy looked up but kept gnawing at the smelly bone. His hands had been smashed with a rock just for eating a raw egg. He was cold, hungry and desperate, too desperate to lose this meal as disgusting as it was. So was Fang.

Fang had sent many competitors for his food running when needed. The small human would not need much persuading to give over the rancid prize. He ran in and clamped his teeth on the bone held in Boy’s aching hands, snarling a warning message to him as he did so. Boy had steadily been building a momentum of survival instincts over these years. There were little of life’s varied miseries that he hadn’t been exposed to. Fang snarled and pulled back on the bone, his face almost on that of the small human. Without hesitation Boy snapped his teeth down hard on Fang’s wet nose and bit hard. Fang yelped with pain and let go, running back to the far end of the woodpile.

Fang was also a survivor and not easily deterred. His black leather-like nose ran blood and throbbed with pain. He turned back towards Boy all the while flicking his head and snorting to rid his snout of the annoying trickles of blood. The meal was now a matter of second place, this little human had challenged him. He stared at Boy waiting for full eye contact before he sprung at him. Fang’s intent could be seen in his eyes and was what had sent many of his canine opponents running before a fight or at least into a mode of subservient respect. Either way he would tear this food thief to pieces.

Boy could sense Fang’s intentions and the meal was now second place in his mind as well. This might just be about survival, his little mind reasoned. He had had enough of coming off second best and having to cower before every creature’s bad temper. Amongst the blocks of drying firewood were also piles of smaller wood splits used to start the fire. His soulless eyes settled on one of these that had shattered down the angle of the grain to a point. There was a rut in the ground where he could mount the end of the stick but the stick was just out of reach. Even as he surveyed it he kept his peripheral vision on Fang. His snarling had changed to a deeper growl. Despite the damage to his neck and throat, Boy jerked against the chain, again and again. It was looped around an old fence post and joined by a twist of fencing wire like many things around the squalid-excuse-for-accommodation. Boy jerked against the restraint to the point of almost complete exhaustion and strangulation.

Watching Boy’s frenzy sent Fang into his own. Fang pushed back onto his hindquarters and leapt forward. In a black blur of fur he bounded into attack, with Boy’s throat solidly fixed as his target. At that very second the wire loop gave way between the chain links, the momentum sent Boy hurtling forward. In that split second he snatched the stick into his pain-drenched hands and snapped the thick end into the rut, raising the pointed end at Fang’s chest. As Fang came crashing down on Boy in full attack, the wood split passed between his rib cage, pierced through his lungs and poked out through the matted fur of his back. Fang whined and spluttered as the blood filled his lungs, his body and paws twitching in the throes of death.

Fang’s bared teeth had ripped a number of huge open gashes in Boy’s face in the process. There would be scars. Boy stood and watched the animal dying. He liked it. It fascinated him, he was mesmerised by the process of life leaving the living body. It fascinated him so much that he didn’t even hear the annoying voice of the one that claimed to have birthed him.

“What ya done now, ya evil shit of a kid? You killed the dog!”

Boy wasn’t listening. He was still absorbing the fascination of death. He remembered what they’d allow this dog to do to him for their own amusement; those big people who were the only other humans that he’d known. He didn’t like them. He didn’t like dogs. His head suddenly hurt. Warm blood dripped down his cold neck. The bottle exploded on impact against the side of his head.

“You wait ’til Barbs gets back. He’ll give you a lesson you won’t forget, you li’l retard!”

Boy took one last look at Fang and then took off through the lush, cold winter grass as fast as his legs would carry him.

“Yeah, run, ya li’l shit but we’ll come lookin’ for ya!”

Patches of unmelted frost burnt his bare feet in the shaded parts of the paddock. Thistle thorns mercilessly pierced into his skin as he brushed the spiky bushes. He just ran and kept running.

‘I wouldn’t worry,’ Boy said inside his mind. ‘You won’t have to come looking for me, I’ll be back. I’ll watch your face after you call me that word again. Smash my fingers, tell me rules, but you better know these here hands are devil’s tools.’ He definitely didn’t like this pair of bigger humans.


Several months later there would be other reasons for misery for many in the surrounding area. The air would be filled with smoke and tens of people would die in horrific bushfires, not that Boy would know of it as he was a loner and had little knowledge of the outside world, of technology or anything beyond his immediate surroundings. Human misery didn’t alarm him; he’d known enough of his own.

Barbs and the pudgy woman were never seen again.


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