So it is for Jason Dean, a hitman, in defiance of his father he learns to appreciate fine literature and classical music. He learns to box from a young age and has ensured that he can contend with the brutal world he now inhabits. A story that pulls no punches.
Ian lives in Harold Hill, Essex, with his girlfriend, Karen. He has three children, two guinea pigs and a dog. Ian is the author of forty short stories and two novels, Abide With Me (2012) and April Skies 2016.
This book will no doubt lose readers from the start due to its uncompromising use of `bad' language. I hope they will not be deterred from reading what is a very moving story. It sets the scene for a man who is an enforcer, a hit man, for a gang boss. He is tough, not afraid of violence, but almost has a `secret life' in that he is fond of literature and loves Shostakovich. He has a surprisingly cultured outlook for a thug. He is also obsessively concerned with buying his daughter Sophie a birthday present.
This is a moving account of a man on the brink of desperation. If you can take the style of language you will be moved beyond belief by the content. I found it a totally gripping read.
This was recommended by my online reading circle, otherwise I would never have heard of it. I am so glad I grabbed the download, as this was a truly great reading experience, much better than anything else I have read this year, in fact. I read and finished this novella in the early hours of this morning, could not stop reading........it just blew me away. Such a change to read a book where an authentic voice merges with, I don't know, stream-of-consciousness? It was like stepping into the head of a Mike Leigh character. Fantastic.
Jason Dean is going to have his worst day ever. First, he has to collect some debts. Then he has to kill a man.
This is one of the best stories I've ever read. There, I've said it. And I'm not taking it back. I'll explain why...
We wake up very early one morning with Jason, he's in bed with his wife who loathes him but we've no idea why. He tells us he's going to have a very bad day, in fact Jason must have one of the longest faces in literature. He's truly unhappy. Whilst having some food and a coffee in perhaps the worst café in the world Jason reveals he's got to collect some cash for a local hard man, Micky Archer, then kill a guy.
Jason goes to see Micky to find out the names of who has to pay. In an incredible scene, the two hard men argue about Wagner and Shostakovich of all things. It transpires that Jason, despite living on one of the worse estates in the country (which Ayris deftly paints, a perfect backdrop) is extremely well read (although not well schooled which comes over in the narration).
Jason proceeds on his debt appropriation mission with mixed success, including witnessing a suicide. Whilst walking around this hellhole dealing with the locals, the hard man treats us to insights on the classical music he listens to, the books and poetry he's read, and how they make him feel. Like Sylvia Plath and the parallels she draws to Jason's life. It's totally at odds with the person we're reading about, adds real dimension to Jason's character, and throws his surroundings into stark contrast. He doesn't want to be who he is, but Jason feels he has no choice. He doesn't want to murder a man, but he must. Another brilliantly written scene.
Throughout the story, Jason is also thinking about his daughter, Sophie. Towards the end of the book he reveals why he has such a heavy heart in a truly emotional, heart-wrenching scene. I really wish I could tell you more, but I don't want to spoil the surprise. It completely caught me out and brought everything to a well thought out conclusion.
The characters, besides Jason, are excellent. I particularly like Micky. Finally Jason's monologue and the dialogue are both excellent, for example the classical music argument:
I know he's only kiddin, cos we been mates for years. But it don't make it no f'ing easier sittin here in his comfortable three bedroomed semi, drinkin tea out of a china cup and listenin to him bangin on about f'ing Wagner, whilst at the same time he's beratin the f'ing genius of Shostakovich...
`Nietzsche was right,' I says, quiet, sort of under me breath.
Micky's eyes start to bulge. He puts his tea down.
'What did you say?' he says, leanin forward, squeezing his eyebrows together.
The pair then proceed to fight over Nietzsche's interpretation of Wagner - this incredibly rough, violent pair arguing over classical music and philosophy having discussed debt collection and murder.
And back to the beginning. This is a superbly written novella. I can't find a fault anywhere with it. One of the best stories I've read. Ever.
Gritty and yet full of contrast. Not for the feint-hearted, or easily offended. A story which starts in a dark place and then continues to become even blacker. Taking the reader into a world not everyone would want to go, but for some, they have had no choice. As a reader you will indemnify eventually with the lead character, but only if you have ever been to a similar place. For those who haven't, be grateful and become a wiser individual for having glimpsed the very depths of the abyss without having had to have the full experience.
Well written and hard hitting, just like the character around whom the story is built.
I'd give this 6* if I could..... or possibly seven...
It's short, ugly and beautifully written, and will stay with me for a very long time....