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Friday 17 October 2014

‘Blood City’ by Douglas Skelton

Published by Luath Press,
18 September 2013.
ISBN: 97801-908373-71-7

1980s Glasgow.  As a teenager, Davie McCall saw his violent father kill his mother.  Now he works for Joe the Tailor, a crimelord with morals, whose refusal to come in on a drugs deal has sparked a new level of violence in an already mean city.

This stylish thriller brings the Glasgow gang world to life.  The novel begins with the death of Davie’s mother, a motif throughout, which enlists our sympathy for him; we see, through his later  actions, that although he seems cold, he is capable of love, in spite of his father’s legacy of violence.  One realistic aspect of this novel is the way good and evil shifts between the characters; each has his or her own standard of morality, which may not be the reader’s.  Each one is individual: Polish Joe the Tailor, who lost his family to the Nazis; Audrey Burke, the young crime reporter, who’s considering risking a relationship with Davie; Davie’s friends Rab and Mouthey; Knight, the corrupt policeman and Donovan, his honest partner.  The author has captured the gradations of Glasgow speech to give each character an individual voice.  The plot keeps you on your toes, with cross, double-cross and several end twists, and the tenements and atmosphere of the city of Glasgow are a vivid presence throughout.  The book is violent, but not as twistedly so as, say, the ‘Wire in the Blood’ series.  Skelton has used his historical research to keep the violence plausible – in the characters’ reactions to guns, for example.  My one reservation was the ending, which read like the opening of the sequel.  Have faith, writers; if your story is good enough, we readers will buy your next book without being cliff-hangered. 

A stylish, atmospheric thriller which really brings the Glasgow gang world to life.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Douglas Skelton is an established true crime author, penning eleven books including Glasgow’s Black Heart, Frightener and Indian Peter. He has appeared on a variety of documentaries and news programmes as an expert on Glasgow crime, most recently in the Glasgow programme of ‘Gangs of Britain’ with Martin and Gary Kemp. His 2005 book Indian Peter was later adapted for a BBC Scotland radio documentary which he presented. His book Frightener, co-written with Lisa Brownlie, was instrumental in cleaning the names of two men wrongly imprisoned for mass murder and is currently being developed as a feature film. Blood City is his first foray into fiction.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

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