Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Breakers by Doug Johnstone. It’s a captivating fast-paced thriller that has the brusque authentic feel of life and not of fiction.
Doug Johnstone is an author, journalist and musician based in Edinburgh. He’s had nine novels published, most recently Fault Lines. His previous novel, The Jump, was a finalist for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. Several of his other novels have been award winners and bestsellers, and he’s had short stories published in numerous anthologies and literary magazines.
His work has been praised by the likes of Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Irvine Welsh. Several of his novels have been optioned for film and television. Doug is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow. He’s worked as an RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University, taught creative writing at Strathclyde University and William Purves Funeral Directors.
He mentors and assesses manuscripts for The Literary Consultancy and regularly tutors at Moniack Mhor writing retreat. Doug has released seven albums in various bands, and is drummer, vocalist and occasional guitarist for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He also reviews books for The Big Issue magazine, is player-manager for Scotland Writers Football Club and has a PhD in nuclear physics.
About the book
Seventeen-year-old Tyler lives in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas. Whilst trying to care for his little sister and his drug-addicted mother, he’s also coerced into robbing rich people’s homes by his bullying older siblings.
One night whilst on a job, his brother Barry stabs a homeowner and leaves her for dead. And that ’s just the beginning of their nightmare, because they soon discover the woman is the wife of Edinburgh’s biggest crime lord, Deke Holt.
With the police and the Holts closing in, and his shattered family in terrible danger, Tyler is running out of options, until he meets posh girl Flick in another stranger ’s house. Could she be his salvation? Or will he end up dragging her down with him?
As far as I am concerned this is Johnstone’s best book yet. Absolutely, without a doubt, hits the nail on the head, and he has just uncovered his own literary deposit of gold.
This story takes place predominantly in one of the most deprived areas of Edinburgh. Seventeen-year-old Tyler is forced to take part in break-ins and robberies with his two half-siblings. His brother Barry is violent, abusive and high the majority of the time. The only reason Tyler participates is because he will do anything to keep his younger sister Bean safe, and out of the the grasp of social services.
There is no support coming his way, as he navigates being both mother and father to Bean. Taking her to school, feeding and dressing her, and making sure she sleeps at night. His, their mother, the drug and alcohol addict can’t even take care of herself let alone any of her children.
This story follows Tyler after a simple enter-grab-scarper turns into a deadly nightmare, when they pick the wrong house and people to steal from. Barry goes too far and Tyler finds himself stuck in a nightmare in the midst of his own personal daily one.
I came away from this read thinking about the overall feel of it and a possible comparison to be able to describe it to other readers. I’m not sure these pop culture references will make sense to non-Brits, but perhaps a few will get where I am going with this.
There are Brit films that achieve a certain status of fame, because they hit and portray the reality of life in such an authentic way that the audience connects and never forgets, hence achieving cult status at some point. Think Trainspotting, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and even Rita, Sue and Bob Too.
Each of those capture a certain element of life on the front-line of economic depravity and or the criminal Brit gangster world, which Johnstone brings together in this story in a perfect collusion of truth meets fiction.
It’s urban crime with a strong message about socio-economic deprivation and its impact on our young people and children. It’s a captivating fast-paced thriller, urban crime that has the brusque authentic feel of life and not of fiction.