We Go Around In The Night And Are Consumed By Fire, by Jules Grant, tells the story of an all female gang of drug dealers in Manchester. In getting to know these women the reader gains an understanding of their lives and why they live as they do. To those of us born into privilege, by which I mean a life that offers the possibility of shelter, sustenance and safety within the law, this is a rare opportunity to gain some empathy for those who are often regarded as the dregs of society.
Donna has had a tough upbringing. She lost her mother to drugs and her father to prison, suffering a short period in care before escaping to the streets to fend for herself. She now leads the Bronte Close Gang alongside her second in command, Carla. Donna is god-mother to Carla’s ten year old daughter, Aurora, a child who considers herself streetwise and who her mother is trying to protect.
Both Donna and Carla are gay. They prefer the members of their gang to be likewise inclined as it removes the danger and complications of interference from the men they must deal with on the streets, who treat their women as property.
Donna has built up a business dealing drugs in the city’s clubs, successfully hiding her nefarious income by laundering it through a cleaning company. The Brontes have a quid pro quo relationship with the all male gangs who work the surrounding turf. When Carla falls for one of the gang member’s woman, just as a police operation takes out the top tier of the major players in their scene, she endangers her associate’s lives. Donna realises that she no longer knows who amongst the men she can trust to assist.
The Brontes are not the only all female gang. When Carla is shot the women agree to combine resources and set up a sting operation to flush out the men they believe are to blame. Complications arise when Aurora goes AWOL. Donna believes that the greatest danger to the girl is if she falls into the hands of Social Services, having suffered this fate herself.
The author succeeds in showing how law abiding citizens look to these women. They despise the southern students who pass through Manchester to attend the university. They cannot comprehend what most would consider normal, family life as this is beyond anything they have experienced. These women fight to survive, accepting the danger as necessary if they are to live autonomously.
The story is raw and unflinching in its depiction of life in the underbelly. By telling the story from Donna and Aurora’s points of view they are presented as humane in their skewed world where choice is limited to fight or go down. Their hardness is a veneer, carefully cultivated to enable them to survive.
The story demands sympathy for those who most would deride. Such people would mock this sympathy and the lack of understanding obvious in any solutions proposed. This alone makes the book challenging to read because their are no easy answers to a situation generations in the making.
A fast moving thriller that lays bare a way of life that will continue to exist unless a cure can be found for the underlying causes. It is depressingly clear that within a society which prefers to punish, this is unlikely to occur.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Myriad Editions.