During the last eighteen months or so, I’ve accumulated over half-a-dozen reviews of books I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I’d like to share those reviews here on McRenegades. The books are authored by George Polley, Robert Cowan (a hat-trick of them!), S R Crockett, Robert Davidson and Sara Clark. And I’d recommend all of them in a heartbeat!
Viva (1970s) Mexico!
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the author presents a rose-tinted picture of the city. He doesn’t. As well as the good, he writes about the bad and sometimes the downright ugly. But what comes shining through the whole collection is his love of the city, her history and especially her people, with their warmth, their vivacity and their indomitable spirit even after hundreds of years of subjugation.
Now when I think of Mexico City, I’ll not just be hearing Long John Baldry sing again; I’ll be remembering Gerardo Pulido, Felipe Correa, Cesar Salinas, Pedro Gomez and the many other unforgettable characters who populate The City Has Many Faces. Thank you, George Polley, for sharing your memories.
Not long after I began to read The Search for Ethan, that song with its irreverent interruption kept running in my head. But instead of asking “Who the feck is Alice?”, I wanted to know “Who the feck is Ethan?” Now don’t get me wrong – at the same time I was enjoying the writing with its portrayals of good and evil in the grittiness of working-class West of Scotland. The characters, their environment and their exploits were all very real. But I still wanted to know about Ethan. Who was he? When would he make an appearance?
If you read the book and find yourself asking the same questions, my advice is to be patient. Ethan does appear in a blindingly wonderful denouement, one I won’t forget in a hurry. Take my word for it – it’ll be well worth the wait. It goes without saying, of course, that this debut novel by fellow-Scot Robert Cowan is also well worth the read.
But it gets worse. Cowan also narrates the parallel story of a newly formed band, whose lead singer and driving force not only wants the band to emulate The Smiths, but also insists on being called Morrissey. Now that really is sick!
Seriously, though, go download Daydreams and Devils and prepare to be entertained.
That Way Madness Lies
Jack Laurence’s descent into madness is rapid, unrelenting and complete. So complete, in fact, that this reader was left wondering whether the ending actually happened or was a product of Jack’s febrile, twisted mind. Now that is quite an accomplishment by the author, as is my admission that the book is not a comfortable read. Well done, Mr Cowan!
A Scots Game of Thrones
And if all of that isn’t enough, there’s the writing – the beautiful descriptive writing of Samuel Rutherford Crockett, one of the best novelists ever produced by Scotland, but sadly much-neglected these days. I’m off now to read Maid Margaret, his sequel to this wonderful novel.
No More Heroes
The quality that struck me first is the author’s attention to detail. Davidson is not a lazy writer. It’s clear from the outset of the novel that he has researched his material thoroughly. So when he describes the people who set out for the Yukon, the way they speak, the clothes they wear, the equipment they carry and the landscape they must conquer, you know that you’re reading the real McCoy.
Equally authentic are the author’s descriptions of the way of life back then. It’s harsh, it’s brutal, it’s uncompromising – and Davidson doesn’t hold back telling us that.
Another factor that more than contributed to holding the interest of this particular reader is the intricate weaving of the disparate lives of the three main protagonists; it’s nothing short of masterly, in my opinion.
Above all, though, I celebrate the novel’s absence of clean-cut, clean-shaven heroes. Davidson gives us real people, real characters, with all their weaknesses and vices plain for all to see. There were no heroes in that cruel, ruthless time and place.
I’ll close my brief review with an observation for the author. I think there’s plenty of scope for a sequel to The Yukon Illusion. I’d love to read one, Mr Davidson.
Straight Outta Tweeland
By a combination of accident and impulse, Alex is suddenly thrust into an alien and unfriendly oik-world, where he spends a rain-soaked day alone. His progress throughout that single day is often embarrassing, sometimes hilarious and ultimately poignant. Believe me, there’s never a dull moment in this beautifully written account of the great class divide gone mad. But don’t take my word for it. Go grab Summer’s Lease. You won’t have read anything like it before. And it’ll stay with you, I promise.