Des McAnulty has produced a rare treat with his Novella “Straight”. Scottish authors tend to fall into some pretty distinct categories. Either Irvine Welsh wannabe types or pseudo Brookmyre-ists with none of the wit, or talent of either. Not so in Des’s case.
Des manages to blend some entertaining and genuinely keen observational humour, in the mould of an early Billy Connelly sketch (full of inventive and insightful knowledge and love of his local people), with some relevant, modern and touching social issues. That he pulls this off without descending into rant or preach mode is to his credit and wouldn’t have happened at the hands of a lesser writer. This skill with “I’ll laugh even though I shouldn’t humour” and too-honest description and understanding of people’s behaviour and motives from a rookie writer can be seen in the books of John Niven, perhaps my all-time favourite Scottish writer.Des takes human weakness, pride, love, joy, failure and triumph and creates an alternative world that is at once darkly humorous, exciting, frightening, to be pitied and envied and is also utterly believable.
His characters are well defined and allowed to develop, but unhindered by a plodding back-story which can be too frequently employed by other writers to fill pages with superfluous information.