Book Review: Dark Side of the Moon

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Dark Side of the Moon, by Les Wood, tells the story of an attempted diamond heist by a group of incompetent crooks. They are well used to meting out violence and thereby fear amongst the druggies and downtrodden in Glasgow’s housing schemes. The professional hard men are, however, ill equipped to carry out the half baked instructions dreamed up by their leader, Boddice, which he believes will enable them to lift a huge diamond from its well guarded display. Boddice’s territories are in decline and he considers this audacious robbery his swansong. He promises riches to those who take part, and serious damage to any who will not do exactly as he says.

Prentice and Kyle are feared by those who must pay protection money to their boss. Although more used to punishing painfully they are not averse to killing on Boddice’s command. Prentice is getting tired of this way of life and is shaken when his actions affect an infant. He wants out but needs Boddice to allow him to walk away.

Boag is offered only occasional work by the racketeer. He is given any at all due to his dad’s willingness to serve time for the boss. Since his dad has been inside Boag has fallen on hard times and is living rough. He is pleased to be offered a chance to use his particular skills, to show the others capabilities they do not credit him with.

The Wilson Twins, Campbell and John, run an established and successful Tattoo Parlour. The money they earn is now a sideline since their business became a front for laundering Boddice’s ill gotten gains. They too have their strengths, but John’s do not appear to reach as far as his brain.

The self-satisfied and sadistic Leggett is barely tolerated by any in the group. When he starts cutting the drugs he is tasked with delivering, pocketing the profit thereby made for himself, Boddice takes action. As with many of his decisions, repercussions are not fully thought through.

Boddice’s idea of stealing the massive diamond comes to him when he hears it is to be the centrepiece of a jewellery event in the city. Each of his chosen crew members has a vital role to play in his cunning plan but he does not properly explain to them all that they may have to face. The team are not used to working as a team. Those who normally lead have been given lesser roles and simmer when they feel sidelined.

The motley bunch are not likeable but their characters are presented with a degree of sympathy that keeps the reader engaged. Their lack of guile adds to the humour even when what they are doing is so obviously grim. It is not just the downtrodden and intellectually challenged who are given wry treatment but also the wealthy and supposedly successful city greats. Their contempt for each other is both amusing and pitiable.

This is a light-hearted romp through the criminal underworld where the rule of law is largely ignored. There is no honour amongst these thieves. It says much for the quality of the writing that there was a degree of poignancy to where events ultimately lead.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Freight Books.

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Book Review: Walking the Lights

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Walking the Lights, by Deborah Andrews, takes the reader through a year in the life of recently graduated drama student Maddie McGuire. When the book opens Maddie is living in a squalid house share with her boyfriend, Mike. They exist on state benefits and short term loans, prioritising both legal and illegal drugs over food. They watch as others from their college course find work, unable to fathom how they will manage to make happen the big break they dream of.

Maddie harbours a deep resentment over her upbringing. She has vague, happy memories of her father who left the family home when she was young. She now wonders why he did not keep in touch, believing he cannot have cared. Her mother remarried and Maddie has always disliked her volatile stepfather. The feeling appears to be mutual.

Although now choosing to distance herself from her family, Maddie has a close circle of friends from her drama course who she can rely on. Amongst them is Jo. This young woman, unlike Maddie, is able and willing to seek out opportunities for work. She puts Maddie in touch with some of her contacts that her friend may find at least some casual employment from time to time. Maddie and Jo talk of putting on their own production, an adaptation of ‘The Tempest’, and Jo sets out to make it happen.

The story charts the progression of Maddie’s relationships with partners, family and friends. As each of the characters is developed the reader is offered scope to empathise, despite their flaws. I could not warm to Maddie though. Throughout the narrative she remained self centred and dependent. I wondered at her friends’ loyalty.

Maddie does not appear able to contemplate moving away from her home town of Glasgow. As an aspiring actress this struck me as odd. When she gets together with Alex and he ponders pursuing further education elsewhere she does not consider going with him. I wondered what tied her so tightly to a place which is presented as damp and drab, where the family she resents can demand attention and her career is in stasis. It is as if she is unwilling to grasp the life she claims to desire, waiting for others to provide.

The writing is abrupt in places, although the reader is offered vivid descriptions of the effects psychotic drugs have on the mind. Alex’s role is centralised and then sidelined. I was unclear as to why Maddie needed a friend to suggest she try to contact her father, why she did not think of this herself. I enjoyed the descriptive sections, it was the neediness and inertia Maddie portrayed that seemed at odds with her apparent talent and desire for more.┬áDespite my reservations I was moved by the denouement.

This is an enjoyable enough read but lacked coherency and depth. The perspective offered on young actors lives is interesting, but ultimately the whole left be unsatisfied.