Bowling Ball by Escobar Walker – Review

Disappointing use of obvious talent

I wanted to like this book, I really did. Escobar Walker is a very, very good writer with a massive talent for observation and for conveying those characteristic traits of people that make them so individual and entertaining. This is the kind of skill that has given people like Billy Connolly a long career and makes for a potentially great writer. Unfortunately Walker isn’t making the best of his considerable writing skill or his capacity for characterisation and cutting humour.

For me, Bowling Ball was one long exercise in relaying as many Scottish clichés as possible in 90,000 words. All the main characters speak with one voice, in that they’re almost indiscernible from each other, blending in to one long narrative throughout the book. To identify each character Walker uses the phrase “my cousin’s flatmate”, or a version of it dozens of times throughout, which is, I suppose, a clumsy way of letting the reader know which character is narrating but becomes annoying as the book progresses. Much simpler to give each character a distinct personality and voice or even stick the character name at the chapter heading.

Every character encountered was either a Frances Begbie (violent Neanderthal) derivative or a victim. None of the characters developed at all during their stories, and if being completely honest, the book didn’t really have a definite plot. This isn’t always a huge problem (see Trainspotting) if the characters have an interesting journey, but the characters Walker has created aren’t allowed any growth and are very much trapped and stunted by the stereotypical values, attitudes and traits that Escobar has saddled them with. Really, the image of Scots as a nation of violent, drunken, drugged up wife-beaters and hoors has been done to death and I was hoping for something a little more intelligent from a writer as good as Escobar. In many ways the image presented in Bowling Ball of the people in its pages reads like it was written by someone who has a trace of knowledge of the area and its people and has just taken all the most spiteful and reprehensible actions and characteristics to drive forward a very wearing and very negative, but often very funny story. This showed in the inconsistencies in the characters regional dialect, often mixing Edinburgh-isms which Glasgow patter. For me this was lazy and added to the obviousness of the plot and characters of the book.

I was incredibly frustrated reading this book because the writer could be an exceptional talent, but must plot an engaging story and populate it with believable and engaging characters who are allowed to behave badly, show moments of humanity in amongst the filth and most importantly to grow as the story progresses.

I will read the next book in the series, because Escobar has me invested in where these people will go despite making them predictable and dull; his writing is that good. Bowling Ball is a debut novel and is entertaining at points, I’ve certainly read debut novels that haven’t been anywhere near as good as Bowling Ball. The writer will have developed considerably in the process of writing it and with that in mind I’d love to see Walker stretch his legs and push himself to construct a story that displays how talented he really is and will follow his writing career and his development in future.

Bowling Ball is available Here.


The Smelly Kid in Class

The Smelly Kid in Class


I’m not really sure where this one came from; a long-forgotten memory dredged up from….wherever. I sat down with the need to write something, not really knowing what would come. This is the result.


The Kid is in the playground and has noticed “that smell” again. For the last few days it has been a constant, especially at school. It’s a sort of old person’s home smell. He’s been in those homes a lot, Auntie Betty has lived in a few of them and he visits regularly. She always smells of Murray Mints, but the home smells like this smell he is being followed by. The Kid finds himself a quiet corner, away from the other kids, most of whom are being Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader in epic Playground battles. A thought has occurred to the Kid. He smells his armpits, breath, and wafts up his hand from his crotch….It’s him; the smell’s coming from him.


The Kid is 10 years old, and is in primary 5 at a school that’s fairly new to him. It’s the 4th primary school he’s been to and he’s perfected the Lanarkshire “New Boy” routine. Wait for someone to hit you (doesn’t take long) kick the shit out of them (hopefully), and then get a few days peace until the next one comes along. Lather, rinse, repeat until it settles down and you make some friends.

He’s made plenty of friends at this school. The Kid’s funny, clever (though he thinks he’s stupid) and making friends comes easy to him. Truth be told, he’d be happy to stay at school 24 hours a day. At least the rules are clear at school. He’s tired, as always, but he’s become used to pushing through that particular fog, he has to, he’s far too busy to be tired.

The Kid knows why he’s smelly, as soon as he realised he stank, he also knew why. The Kid shares a room with his baby sister. The baby wakes up and needs fed, changed and nursed back to sleep at least twice a night. This is The Kid’s job. Mum and Step-dad don’t like to be disturbed at night as they need their sleep, so it’s fallen to the kid. His older sister used to do it but she left and lives with his Dad now. She used to get the Kid up for school in the morning, give him clean clothes, wash and feed him, then do the same for herself. He misses her. Not for this daily stuff, but because she loves him more than anyone else does, and he doesn’t know when or if he will see her again. He doesn’t have time or quite know how to do all those things for himself; that’s why he’s dirty and smelly, but he’s learning and with today’s realisation, that’s going to change.

The Kid decides that every evening he’ll shower. He knows he will get grief for using hot water, but he’s willing to take it. He’s going to get up a bit earlier (just after the baby’s last early morning feed), get washed, dressed, make something to eat and get out to school on time. The Kid knows that his clothes are a big part of the problem and resolves to wash all his clothes in one go, secretly, on a Saturday afternoon. It’s the perfect time as he’s always home alone from mid-day until around 6pm.


Enough, he decides.


The Kid washes, he launders, he cooks, and he cleans, babysits, changes nappies, makes and administers bottles of formula, and slowly, slowly becomes an adult.


Every smelly kid has a story. Take the time to learn it.

Mark Wilson


June 1st 20114780108

Head Boy by Mark Wilson Excerpt

The following excerpt is from Chapter 10 of Head Boy by Mark Wilson Copyright to M.Wilson2013

Head Boy is available as a paperback and on kindle on Amazon US and UK



Chapter 10

A Useless Five-Percent-er


Stevie removed his leather bomber jacket and threw it onto the ram-raid post to his left. Bloody warm tonight.

Having to wrestle two deadbeats out of Angel’s hadn’t helped him in staying cool either.

“Haw, Monkey,” he bellowed.

One of Stevie’s co-workers, a temp who had been hired from Rock Steady for the night, looked up at him. When temps appeared to provide an extra pair of hands on busy nights, Stevie didn’t bother to learn their names, but gave them nicknames based on their face or mannerisms. In the last few months, he’d worked with Mongers, Budgie, Nicki Minaj, Posh Spice and Django. Tonight’s guy was a bit simian-looking so had been christened, Monkey. Around an hour into his shift, Monkey had given up trying to tell Stevie his name, figuring that it was less trouble to simply answer to his new moniker.

“Aye?” Monkey asked.

“I’m going to stretch my legs and have a cig. You take over here Monkey-Boy.”

Stevie loped off, lighting a Marlborough as he went. Hearing his colleague huffing, he tossed over his shoulder. “I’ll bring ye a nice banana back.”

Monkey jabbed his middle finger at Stevie’s back as he left.


Half an hour later, Stevie was in a dark corner on the perimeter of the Tunnock’s factory. Leaning back against the brick, Stevie inhaled deeply on a Marlborough and craned his neck back to stare up at the sky, trying to enjoy the moment. All of his senses were sharpened but not in a good way. His nerves were shredded, every sound irritated him. The cold scratchy bricks on his bare arse cheeks chafed and Linda’s teeth, rather than stoking his lust as they gently nibbled and dragged back and forth assisting her lips, well, they just hurt. His semi had all but wilted to a five percent insult of an erection despite Linda’s finest efforts to revive it.

“Stop, hen, just stop there,” Stevie told her.

“What’s the matter, Stevie?” Linda looked up at him.

“Och, I’ve a lot on my mind, hen.”

“We could try something else?” Linda took a step to the wall, braced both hands on the brickwork and rotated her pelvis, presenting her peach of an arse to Stevie.

Stevie laughed, causing her to self-consciously straighten and cover herself over with her coat.

“Don’t ye fancy me anymore?” she accused him, looking ten percent hurt, ninety percent pissed-off.

“Och, it’s not you, it’s me, Linda,” Stevie offered, standing pathetically covering himself while his trousers lay around his ankles.

Linda poked a finger in his face. “Did you just say that? To me?” she screamed at him, overdramatically.

“I didn’t mean it like that, hen. I’ve really not been right.” Stevie had his palms open in a submissive gesture.

“Aye, well,” Linda told him, lighting a cigarette. “I’ve not got time for this. Gies a phone when it’s working again.” She jabbed a finger down at his crotch and departed, wobbling away on her fantastic legs and too-high heels.

Stevie sighed and lit another Marlborough. Holding the cig in his mouth he tucked away his soggy wee pal and did up his trousers. He’d been struggling badly to focus since he’d met with Hondo the previous day. Hardly sleeping at all the previous night, Stevie had tossed and turned, trying to figure out who and what he’d become. Had he really promised Hondo that he would help with Davie Diller?

Since he’d left the force, Stevie’s life had gone to shit. He’d lost and thrown away everything good in his life. The job, the house, his wife, their daughter; in an eighteen-month spell he’d lost the lot. Looking back, it was clear that in the months following his medical retirement Stevie had been badly depressed and in the darkest depths of PTSD. That one split second when the knife had slid into his thigh had changed his life forever and continued to define his actions now.



DS Miller had been standing bullshitting about football with the boy behind the desk in the Shell petrol station when the call came in. An informant of his had tipped him off a few days previously that a substantial deal was taking place in The Orb, and that Hondo would be there in person, holding product. The call informed him that the deal was on.

DS Miller contacted the station, looking for the DCI to get the go-ahead, but Dougie was still down at Wishaw General visiting that nephew of his, the laddie with leukaemia. That meant that it was the Sergeant’s call. Relaying orders for a few uniformed officers to liaise with him on Hamilton Road, DS Miller went directly there on foot. Accepting a stab-proof vest from the attending DC, DS Miller briefed each of the half dozen officers, instructing them to go for Hondo first and then arrest any stragglers.

Almost as soon as the team burst through the door of The Orb bar, DS Miller spotted Hondo holding court at the far end of the bar. Team-handed they dragged him and three of his cronies to the sticky floor, cuffed and searched him. Nothing.

Hondo laughed at them throughout. “Better luck next time,” the old man had sneered at DS Miller as he was released from the barely-on cuffs.

“Just wait the now,” Miller told his team.

Stepping outside, he radioed the station. Five minutes later the dog team arrived. The station dog, a massive German Shepard named Kaiser, sniffed from man to man, finding nothing. The handler proceeded to lead Kaiser around the pub whilst Hondo and his crew laughed to themselves. Suddenly the mutt had leapt over the bar and begun scratching and barking at the cellar door.

“If there’s nothing else Sergeant? “Hondo laughed and left the pub. DS Miller had no excuse to stop him leaving.

Opening the cellar door, Miller had shouted down into the darkness, “Up ye come.” Suddenly a man flashed through the open hatch. Bowie knife in hand, the suspect had plunged the eight-inch blade into Miller’s leg and ended his career in a spray of blood and violence.

When he’d still been on active duty, Stevie had scoffed at other officers who had succumbed to PTSD after an incident on duty. If they can’t cope wi’ the job, they should fuck off out of it had been his assertion.

Like most officers he’d worked with, Stevie had considered mental illness a preventable and controllable condition. Just cheer up. Just don’t think about it. Just work harder.

Now he knew better. Stevie had spent hours crying for no reason. He’d slept for days at a time, starved himself and ignored everyone. He’d tried to re-engage but couldn’t face the simple act of talking to another person. Hell, he couldn’t even look at his own wife without suffering a panic attack. His daughter had cried at him, begging him to pull himself together. Don’t you love us anymore, Dad? It had broken his heart. Inside he was screaming “Yes! Help me!’” Outside, he rolled over and went to sleep whilst his broken-hearted family packed their things and left him.

He drank and did drugs. He gambled, and then, finally, eventually, he faced the world again. The doc had given him pills that helped him to face people, but the guy who emerged through the black fog with a medicine cabinet full of anti-depressants at home and a bloodstream full of whiskey and Class-As wasn’t really Stevie Miller anymore. He just wore him like a suit.

Who he was now – no family, reeking of cigarettes, alcohol and bitterness – would have sickened DS Miller. But he was who he was. He didn’t know how to be his old self anymore. The guy who’d laughed freely with people, who’d spent all of his free time with his family. The guy who people knew would do what he said he would and could be relied upon to back you up. The husband, the father and the police officer were all long gone and all that remained, it seemed, was the piece of shit, alcoholic, coke-snorting doorman who’d sell out his best friend’s son for the favour of a petty local drug dealer.

The old DS Miller would have detested Stevie Miller, but not half as much as he hated himself. Just like his dick, he was about five percent of what he should be.


Fuck it. Stevie tossed the butt of his cigarette at the wall. Five percent’s better than fuck all. Hondo can go fuck himself. Young Davie was a bit of a player but that could be sorted. Davie had never hurt a soul. He didn’t deserve what was coming to him.


Stevie straightened himself and headed back to Angel’s to finish his shift.


Head Boy is available as a paperback and on kindle on Amazon US and UK

Tomorrow’s Chip Paper by Ryan Bracha – Review

Yet another Bracha book and yet more evidence that this is a writer to watch. Ryan is a perfect example of why the indie-publishing route is so valuable. A writer like Ryan needs time to experiment, express themselves and to develop. Traditionally, in the world of publishing (essentially the music biz with posh accents) predominantly only those projects deemed commercial or marketable rather than genuinely quality stories are given a whirl in the machine, with this sort of development time rarely being offered.

In Ryan’s debut, Strangers are Friends you haven’t killed yet, we saw a fearless and enthusiastic Bracha, publicly popping his writing cherry, making mistakes, taking chances and ultimately producing a flawed but utterly brilliant novel which whilst in need of a tighter flow, demonstrated creativity and characterisation of the sort that makes other writers up their game in response.

With Tomorrow’s Chip Paper, Bracha has become a much more skilled writer. Having lost none of the enthusiasm, imagination or his ability to effortlessly take risks that other writers would balk at, Ryan has produced a much more coherent novel and taken his skill to another level.

With each book he produces, Bracha develops this skill and constantly pushes himself to not only improve, but to continue producing some of the most imaginatively daring contemporary fiction on the shelf.
Like all the best authors, Bracha explores new ideas with each offering and refuses to constrain himself to one genre. Bracha’s golden goose is his capacity for originality and great characterisation as well as his talent for presenting those characters to us with all their flaws, without judgement, leaving it to the reader to determine their worth.

With the innate originality, vitality, humour and intelligence of his writing, Bracha is developing a varied and astonishing array of skills with which to present the complex, funny and engaging movies he clearly plays in his head.

Tomorrows Chip Paper, with writing tighter than a bulimic’s sphincter and the inventiveness of a college dorm panty-raider, is a massive step forward in Bracha’s development which left me anxious to discover what more this new force for originality is capable of producing.

I ploughed through this book in a day and a half and would recommend it to anyone who loves good storytelling.

You can find Ryan Bracha and his books here.


Somebody’s Hero (sequel to Naebody’s Hero) Excerpt

I’m currently hard at work on my fourth fiction novel, The man Who Sold His Son and will follow with a horror trilogy named dEaDINBURGH. after that the sequel to Naebody’s Hero is up. Here’s a cast list and a wee taster from Somebody’s Hero:
Copyright Mark Wilson 2013

Dramatis Personae:

Frank McCallum Jr (49 years old) – Former Royal Marine. MI5 agent, currently on loan to SvetlaTorrossian-Vasquez at the American National Security Unit (NSU).

Arif Ali (18 years old) – Former al-Qaeda recruit; currently of interest to British Intelligence.

Svetla Torrossian-Vasquez (45 years old) – Head of NSU, an American Intelligence agency which oversees all others.

Robert Hamilton (28 years old) – Hero.

Frank McCallum Sr (71 years old) – Retired Royal Marine Commando and British Intelligence legend. Born in 1930, joined Marines at 17 in 1947; joined MI5 at 21.

Mike O’Donnell (39 years old) – Joined the CIA at 25, joined Homeland Security at 30.

Kim Baker (57 years old) – Retired head of CTA. Rob’s Mentor.

Jack Foley (50 years old) – Head of CTA, Kim’s Successor in the position.

Chapter 1


The man was in his forties, wearing a suit, a nice pair of shoes and a small button on his lapel that said “Happy birthday, Daddy.” Arif couldn’t read the last three letters of ‘Daddy’ because the man’s suit had burned to the badge, obscuring the letters. Closing the man’s eyelids over his accusing eyes, Arif accidentally scraped some burnt flesh from the man’s face. His badly burned cheeks wobbled a little as Arif pulled his hands away.
Arif wiped tears from his face. He wasn’t crying, his eyes were reacting to the toxic fumes from the burning fuel. Scanning around, he saw body after body. Crushed, burned, maimed, decapitated, even bodies without a scratch on them, but dead all the same. Ruins of buildings and planes were almost indistinguishable. Fragile-looking and hideously twisted metal with splashes of American Airlines colour poked through and draped across rocks and bodies alike. The metal looked like Play-Doh. Arif never knew that metal could take such beautiful and horrific shapes.
He continued through the debris of masonry, and corpses, choking back his panic, forcing memories of blank eyed corpses from the pit away. It had been years since Rob Hamilton had saved him from the pits horrors but he could still see every detail, every face and twisted corpse when he closed his eyes. The horrors here and now were too much to bear as it was without conjuring up the decomposed face of his cousin Latif and all the other discarded people from that particular hell.
Arif heard a woman scream and ran at full sprint over dozens of burnt and crushed bodies to reach her. It was the first sign of life he’d come across. She was entirely engulfed in flame; like a living animal, clawing at her, savaging her, it consumed the desperate woman. Arif frantically searched around for something to use to put out the flames. There was only dust, rubble and death all around. He launched himself at her, taking her to the ground. Using his body to smother the flames he ignored the searing pain in the flesh of his chest, arms and hand and continued patting her until the last of the flames died. Turning her over, Arif found an eighteen year old face staring blankly at him. “Why do you hate us so much?” she asked him and then died in his arms.
Closing her eyes, Arif let his hands move gently to her shoulders, something in him didn’t want to let her go.
As his hands moved away, he saw that she had a new-born baby strapped to her chest in a harness and screamed. “I’m sorry.”

Arif jerked up from his bed and was on his feet and out of his bedroom door in seconds. Soaked in sweat he ran to the living room window and pulled back the curtains to scan the Battersea streets outside, verifying that his nightmare was just that. He heard his father come in behind him and felt the older man hook an arm around from behind to pull him close.
“Same dream again, son?” Azam asked.
Arif nodded.
It’d been six weeks since he’d helped prevent a massive terrorist attack by al-Qaeda on American soil, an attack that he’d been part of at every stage; until the final stages. He’d been home with his parents in London for two weeks and the dreams, the nightmares just kept coming to torment him. It didn’t seem to matter to his subconscious that he’d been a double-agent all along, that he had no intention of allowing his brothers to complete their mission; every time he closed his eyes to sleep he saw the buildings fall, the planes crash and the thousands upon thousands die. He could smell them burn, hear their screams and witness their disbelief. He could also see the accusation on their faces. You did this. It was torture, but maybe he’d earned it.
Azam turned his son to look in his eyes. “You stopped it son, you did the right thing…”
“Eventually.” Arif finished the sentence.
“Eventually or not, you saved lives in the end.” Azam gave his sons’ shoulder a little squeeze to reassure him.
“Yeah, I know, Abu.” Arif released himself from his fathers’ hold and stared back out the window.
“Have you spoken to Robert about your dreams, Arif?”
“Rob wouldn’t understand, Abu. He’s always so certain all of the time; I don’t think he ever doubts anything he does.”
“What about Kim, then? She’s been part of that world for almost her whole adult life.”
Arif nodded. “Yeah, maybe. Dad, I’m going for a walk, ok?”
“Ok, son. Bring some bread rolls home; I’ve some bacon in the fridge. Azam grinned at his son. They’d shared bacon rolls on a Sunday since Arif could chew. It was their thing and their one little rebellion.
“I will, Abu.”
“Son, you’ll get through this, you know.” Arif left without replying.

Arif left his childhood home, a little ground floor flat in Battersea, which still lacked a bath with running water and still had an ancient GLC oven next to the metal bathtub in the kitchen. The flat was small, cramped and hopelessly outdated, but it was the only place he and his parents had ever lived together and its’ smallness made him fell safe. Walking through Battersea Park, Arif passed a clump of bushes in which he and his childhood best friend, Billy McCall, had hidden in from a family of bullies. The memory made him smile, though it hadn’t seemed so funny at the time. Billy had left London to go to University up in Newcastle a few months before Arif had returned.
Arif had left Battersea to live in Pakistan with his cousin Latif when he was barely in his teens. After a short, happy few months, he’d been swept up in a series of horrific events which led him to meet Robert Hamilton and Baker and saw him recruited into al-Qaeda, then placed at the centre of the 911 plot. He was lucky to be alive and even luckier to have his soul intact after the horrors he’d been part of, mostly due to the presence of Rob Hamilton in his life.
Whilst most of the local community had been delighted to learn that Arif was alive and well, Billy, however, hadn’t been in touch despite Arif paying a visit to his parents’ home to ask after him. Billy’s mum had told Arif that she’d get her son to call him, but he hadn’t.
After an hour or so strolling around the park and people-watching, Arif took a seat on a faded green wooden bench and sighed heavily. He hated lying to his dad, but as much as he’d told his parents about his time away, he’d hidden twice as much from them. He’d never discussed Rob’s abilities, or Kim’s betrayal in using him to infiltrate al-Qaeda. Despite witnessing them first hand many times, half the time he wasn’t sure himself that Rob’s gifts were real. How do you describe a man who can fly, loft anything and never be harmed? Besides, Rob’s secrets weren’t his to tell to anyone.
He’d gotten over Kim’s manipulation and forgiven her for it. If he was being honest with himself, Arif knew at the time that he was being used and was more than happy to go along with it for the possibility of finding the man who’d massacred his family in Pakistan in an attempt to recruit Arif. Sitting watching the people and the world pass him by Arif felt like an old man inside, rather than the eighteen year old he was. The days when he and Billy ran and played and fought with the Sullivans in this park seemed so long ago.
His father had always told him that he had wise eyes. Even as a new-born I saw an old, wise man looking at me.” Azam had told him many times. Old, he could agree with, but wise? Not even close. The choices Arif had made, even the good ones, weighed so heavily on them that they threatened to crush him like one of the victims of his nightmares. He had to do something.
Arif had lied to his dad, when he’d asked about speaking to Kim. Arif had spoken to Kim on the phone many times in the few weeks since he’d returned to London. She did understand how he felt, better than anyone; and she knew how to help him do what he had to do. The decision had been made and all that remained was to tell his parents that he’d be leaving them once again and putting himself in harm’s way. This time, for the right cause, he hoped.

Chapter 2

Frank Jr

Frank left the sparsely furnished office and Svetla Torrossian-Vasquez behind as he passed through the heavy, oak double doors into the vast apartment beyond. Svetla’s headquarters took up the entire top floor of the Empire State Building and the immediate ten floors beneath. Those floors, unlike the one he was on at present, were mostly offices and storage. This floor, however, Svetla’s floor, was pure luxury.
Roman level luxury. Huge chez lounge, chairs, deep bathtubs, pristine kitchens, servants scurrying around and in and out of the rooms. Every wall was held original works of art by Michaelangelo, Botticelli, Da Vinci and a hundred other masters. Aged-looking vases, jewels and holy relics were displayed in opulent cases and racks around the vast rooms of the apartment. Glass cases and racks of weapons, both modern and ancient stood proudly in rows along the floor. Futuristic technology was everywhere, striking a stark contrast side by side with the array of historical items.
The apartment was an almost perfect physical representation of Svetla Torrssian-Vasques. It screamed look how powerful I am. Look how beautiful I am. Look how deadly I am. Frank noted every detail and laughed at how typically American the ostentatious luxury was. He hadn’t expected that of a woman like Svetla, but despite her European name and heritage, she was disappointingly American in her attitude after all. Change my suit? Okay then, but you won’t like what I choose, Boss.

Frank rode the…..floors down to ground level, fidgeting with the large manila envelope that Svetla had given him, and exited the building onto ….street. Lighting a menthol chesterfield, he made his way on foot back to the little apartment he’d been assigned on the upper West side. Frank hated New York, but the assignment to Svetla’s organisation had been just too tempting to refuse, despite several important things that he’d almost stayed in Britain for. The National Security Unit was the Intelligence agency established to rule all others. Homelands Security, CIA, CTA, all of them fed through and exited at the pleasure of the NSU. Svetla Torrossian-Vasquez oversaw the whole lot of it. In all honesty, after years of unchallenging off-the-books Ops with MI5, Frank had become bored with the predictability of British Intelligence and had jumped at the chance to take the secondment to the NSU.

End of Excerpt

Somebody’s Hero, the sequel to Naebody’s Hero will be published in late 2014 by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing.

Naebody’s Hero is FREE until October 5th and available now from Amazon UK and US