by Paul Ferris Reg McKay
Category: Fiction / Crime
295 pages; ISBN: 1-84018-601-1
Rating: 5/10 (Ratings explained)
Who better to depict the viciousness, immorality and corruption of the Glasgow underworld of the late 80s than one of the city’s most famous villains? Paul Ferris has been a central figure in the Glasgow crime scene for many years. This book was published in a “window of opportunity” which opened after he was released from jail on parole earlier this year and which banged shut when he was re-incarcerated following a duel with another hoodlum. It is this kind of violent altercation that lends the novel its gritty realism.
He paints a picture of a city where crooked businessman use bribery and blackmail to procure Council contracts, and some policemen are as evil as the “teams” they are tasked to control.
Set in 1989, a moneylender is shot and killed. The victim’s brother, Andy Grimes, and his beautiful associate, Maggie Small, control a large part of Glasgow’s less salubrious activities, including protection rackets and a dodgy building firm.
The murderer is believed to be the elusive Addie, a mysterious vigilante, and Grimes, aided and abetted by a corrupt police inspector, wants his revenge. The problem is nobody knows who Addie is, what he looks like, or if he even exists.
Although Scottish literati were not impressed on its release, I think the novel moves at a satisfying pace, while at the same time giving us fully-rounded characters you love to hate (some of them a bit predictable if you’ve watched modern crime dramas, some of them not so). You are forced to empathise with prostitutes and simple-minded hatchet men, who have found themselves in a situation from which they can’t now escape, since the price of freedom is always too great. The motivation behind the actions of the criminal fraternity turns out to be more than plain greed – it’s also about control, imposing fear and loyalty in small-time crooks, prostitutes and hit men, and “getting your own way”.
The book is not for the faint-hearted, since it contains graphical violence, sexual abuse, paedophilia and torture, but then, if you read the blurb on the back cover, you’re not likely to be expecting pink lollipops and bunny rabbits. Despite the occasional flash of black humour, the authors pull no punches, nor make any effort to skirt around the edges of the issues. This is full-on crime drama, and as far away from Agatha Christie as Hans Christian Andersen is to Clive Barker.
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