It’s not often I finish one book from an author and delve straight into another ( the last time I did so was with Jonathan Mayberry’s wonderful Rot & Ruin books)’ but as I enjoyed Des’s Novella “STRAIGHT” so much, don’t mind risking being labelled a fanboy when the writing is this good, and had time on my hands I went in with hungry eyes (not the Patrck Swayze sort). .
Now I’m not suggesting that McAnulty is anywhere near as accomplished as Mayberry, but in formulating flawed, weak very human characters whom he allows to grow, fail and shine throughout the book, Des shares some of Mayberry’s skill.
Presenting us with complex (in other words true to life) characters whom we like, dislike, love, hate and pity; Des skillfully peels away at his characters, exposing unsuspected depths in each one. He gives each characters motives without judgement, merely explanation and leaves it to the reader to decide on the characters’ worth.
Stubbsy is a fine example. Part Begbie, part Juice Terry, part Sam from Quantum Leap and the most complex character in the book. It’s ultimate hero for me, and I’m hoping for some early tales of the big man in future.
Des writes in the Scottish tongue (first person), in the style of Welsh I suppose, but switched between a very Scottish narrative and a more toned down version as suits the characters’ mental state at the time of the narrative. I’ve never been a fan of this in books and much prefer when writers keep the accented or colloquial phrases to the dialogue rather than narrative, but it never did Irvine any harm and it doesn’t detract from Des’s excellent story either. Merely a personal preference on my part. I think that Des is still experimenting with his preferred narrative and look forward to seeing how his work evolves in the next book.
Des’s book is reflective of the culture it is set in (North Lanarkshire) in that it’s rough, coarse In places, unpolished, unpretentious and beautiful in its heart and soul. It seems that Des loves and loathes his native county and presents it’s ugliness and beauty in equally engaging doses.
I loved this book. A little polishing of its charming rough edges from an editor would quickly make a very good book into a potentially great book.
I’d recommend this book to anyone with a heart and a soul, this fine story will enrich both further.