"Can Con ever escape the sticky morass of gang violence and tragedy in his home town?"
October 2023 Book of the Month
Set in the author’s hometown of Coatbridge, this hard hitting, shockingly authentic and unforgettable novel will sadly be all too relevant to far too many other places where poverty, gang violence and substance abuse are rife. He is shining a light on overlooked and ignored communities and the metaphor of the title is poignantly apt for the young people who can see no way out and no future.
It opens with a funeral and ends with one, young lives brutally and needlessly cut short. Our narrator is Con, a young man who is no stranger to death, his mother took her own life, and his father has since retreated into a competitive bodybuilding obsession.
Friends are all he has left, but, while grieving for Biscuit, killed by a rival gang, he has no desire, despite constant goading, to perpetuate the grim cycle of retribution and revenge. Con, Wee-Z, Trig and Nails are all vividly created characters and the banter between them is fast, often funny, sometimes furious and always foul mouthed, but unmistakeably realistic. The book is labelled as unsuitable for younger readers and that is undeniable, but nevertheless this is a book which needs to be read and which should be a wakeup call to those with the power to do something about the future for young people and communities.
Although a tough read there is hope for redemption. Con discovers slam poetry, discovers there is something that maybe he can do, something that can help him break free, rekindling ambition and father son relationships. A hope that survives the guilt and despair of the grim conclusion. This is Conaghan at his brilliant, heartbreaking best. An absolute must-read.