Saturday, April 21, 2012

King of the Badgers by Philip Henscher published by 4th Estate

Hanmouth, Devon is an English village where the town’s inhabitants are happily living their daily lives.  In the interests of civic safety they have agreed to install CCTV.  As the story unfolds we also see their lives from the inside and all is not what it always appears to be. Why is Sylvie making collages out of penises cut from magazines? Why is the Brigadier’s wife always so chipper?  What makes the new couple in town think they will fit in? Will their son enjoy his visit and who is his new friend?  Do Miranda and Kenyon know each other, let alone their crazy daughter, Heidi?  And why do the people on the neighbouring council estate have to call their suburb Hanmouth, when it quite obviously really isn’t?  And pervading the novel throughout is Mr John Calvin’s insistence that Neighbourhood Watch keeps authorising more cameras. A mix of motivations and intentions all slowly build to create a quirky picture of what really is going on.
The biggest surprise to me was the in your face gay sex party that is hosted for the Bears by local cheese shop owner, Sam and his boy friend Harry or “Lord what a waste”.  It does circumspectly take place behind the tightly closed curtains.  Throughout the novel one character remains distinctly unknown.  She is young China, a girl from the other Hanmouth who disappears and even the CCTV footage doesn’t seem able to help. 
This is a slow moving, beautifully written novel.  Enjoy it for its language and what it does and doesn’t tell you.  Its journey may be more enjoyable for you than its destination.

Good as Dead by Mark Billingham published by Little Brown

Billingham is one of the big names in crime fiction. His cops are human and focussed on doing their jobs well.  In this story a visit to a convenience store by a police woman quickly becomes a crisis as the store owner pulls a gun and takes Helen and another customer hostage.  Mr Akhtar’s son was taken into custody a year ago and the investigations have determined his death 8 weeks ago was suicide.  This resolution is not acceptable to this father.  In his heart it does not ring true with the son he knew. 

The response by the police gets complicated when Mr Akhtar insists that DI Thorne must investigate what really happened.  Time is against him as the hostage situation gets more and more tense.  Slowly but surely Thorne digs through the known facts trying to unearth the truth of what happened in the youth institution that young Amin was held in.  What lead up to the crime he went down for?  Was he really guilty?  Why was he in the area and the big question is why and how did he actually die?  A key part of this story is young Amin’s sexuality.  His parent’s knowledge or lack of knowledge of his life typifies most families.  The depraved lives lead by the adults in the world he is growing up in have not made his life an easy one.

The plot develops steadily.  Thorne has been in previous Billingham novels; however familiarity with previous books is unnecessary to enjoy this one.  There are plenty of twists and personal connections to flesh out this novel and they all add together to make it a very enjoyable read.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Disadvantage Line by Ron Davis published on Kindle books at

When I met Ron Davis the other day, he told me that he had always wanted to find the time to see if he could really write.  Life had kept him rather busy, but he had found time to do a writing course.  He has since then taken the opportunity afforded by the internet and self published his book Disadvantage Line online.  And can he write?  Yes.  Ron has written the book he knew he had in him.  He has not allowed himself to be hindered by any genre limitations.  This at times one handed read is a well crafted thriller with a love story about rugby player Ryan and our nation’s favourite game at its heart.

Ryan takes us into the heart of his world when we meet him at his first game as an All Black.  During the first game at the big new Christchurch rugby stadium in 2014 he realizes he knows the Lions player kicking the conversion in a way that he doesn’t want to share with any of his team mates.  Ryan then takes us back a few years to when he first realised he had a chance at serious rugby and also when he realised he could get turned on by guys more than girls.  His urges then lead us into a story of sport and lust as this young guy copes with a life of turmoil.   Ryan’s strict father has kicked him out and he is living with his best mate Ethan, whose family is both Maori and devoutly Christian.  Ryan’s team plays rugby in both New Zealand and the United Kingdom, while he lives with his secret desires.  The action does flow well and the plot is well developed.  I mostly enjoyed sharing Ryan’s world.

This book has a strong teen/ young adult protagonist.  In many ways this could have been a book that qualified as helpful reading for a young guy figuring out his sexuality.  However I personally have misgivings about some of the morally repugnant violence in the book, that lacks serious consequences.  This readership group should be offered some guidance if reading this book.

Davis says he will look at other e-publication outlets, so if you don’t like Kindle other formats may soon be available.  If you want to contact Ron you can search “disadvantage line” on Facebook. I was pleased to see that on his facebook page “Ryan” shows some regret for his actions.