Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Swear Down - Russ Litten

A two attempt book.
First attempt broken by a review that said a man from Hull should not attempt the lingo of a boy from a sink
estate in the East End. Example "wasn't like tiefing out of cars"
But then if authors never attempted to step outside of themselves for fiction we'd have an awful lot of books about middle-aged men from Hull.
So, second attempt. This one partly inspired by an imminent attendance at the Arts Club in Mayfair by the author which I was lucky enough to go to. (organised by Litro)
This time I managed to get completely into the speech.
The book is based on a young boy trying very hard to get away from his environment, working, saving and avoiding gang trouble, drugs, knives and fighting. He meets up with an older man from Hull who seems never to have saved a penny in his life, using it for gambling, drinking and the occasional spliff.
Sometimes he may buy food.
They've both given a statement to the police that they are guilty of murder. The same murder.
Someone has to decide which one of them is the guilty one, so enter Detective Ndekwe.
Ndekwe is the straightest of straight cops much to the irritation of his colleagues who are impatient with his pernicketiness (is that a word?). As far as they're concerned they have two people in front of them, one of whom is a young black boy and therefore he is the guilty one.
Through the book are the statements of the two,long and waffly from the older man who, of course, has a life story to tell...and does.
The innocent nature of the young boy comes across well despite his forays into gang culture when he was a little bit younger, as does the protective nature of the old sot.
Despite the crime featured it's not a run of the mill crime fiction, it has much more dependence on the relationship between the two and this adds magnificently to the tale.
It's an excellent read with an unexpected twist written by a man who has spent a while teaching creative writing in prisons.
At the Arts Club Russ Litten was an entertainment, rather than the bland monotone reading that you occasionally get from authors he threw himself into it and acted out the part brilliantly. I'd be surprised if anybody there who hadn't read the book didn't go away wanting to.
A quick question about his previous book "Scream if you want to go faster" established that it was very different from this one so it looks like he's an author who will keep us entertained with diversity rather than churning out factory crime fiction. I hope so.

Publisher - Tindal Street Press

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