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Monday 30 March 2020

‘The Man on the Street’ by Trevor Wood

Published by Quercus,
31 October 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-78747-836-7 (HB)

Just when you think you've encountered every kind of accidental sleuth the crime writing fraternity can invent, along comes another you'd never thought of, which knocks the entire concept out of the park.

Jimmy – he has a surname, but never admits to it if he can help it – is a homeless man. Yes, that's right. Jimmy is a veteran of the Falklands living rough on the streets of Newcastle. He suffers from PTSD and is also an ex-con with convictions for GBH and murder. Who on earth is going to believe that he witnessed a man being hit on the head and thrown in the River Tyne? Especially when he has learned not to trust the police, his mantra for survival has become not my fight, and he doesn't tell anyone what he's seen for several weeks.

But someone does believe him. Carrie's father has gone missing, and she puts out a call on social media, to which Jimmy's mate Gadge introduces him. And suddenly Jimmy is involved, whether he likes it or not.

The Man on the Street rapidly turns into one of those crime novels which is much more than just a crime novel – proving something every crime fiction fan knows: that you can do anything you like in a crime novel as long as there's crime as well. Without appearing to preach at all, Trevor Wood creates an almost filmic story of life on the streets – the joshing and abuse which mask loyal friendship, the wide variety of backstories which brought homeless people to where they are, the voluntary organizations which keep them alive and well. Most of all, the attitude of the more fortunate towards them; the surprise at the very idea that they might had once had responsible jobs, and even less likely, might actually have feelings. 

Wood has a sure hand with characters, homeless and not; and the backdrop to his story is almost tactile, so vividly evoked are the hidey-holes and secret places homeless people seek out. The plot, too, is a satisfying tangle of corrupt police, money-grabbing entrepreneurs and ordinary folk, some sympathetic, some rather less so. It all ends well, of course, but along the way Jimmy is beaten up, shot at, accused of murder and hardly ever believed or trusted: all in a day's unemployment to a homeless person resigned to being almost invisible except when a scapegoat is needed.

If something a little different is your bag, this is the novel for you. And Trevor Wood is certainly a talent to watch.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Trevor Wood has lived in Newcastle for 25 years and considers himself an adopted Geordie, though he still can’t speak the language. He's a successful playwright who has also worked as a journalist and spin-doctor for the City Council. Prior to that he served in the Royal Navy for 16 years joining, presciently, as a Writer. Trevor holds an MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) from UEA. His first novel, The Man on the Street, which is set in his home city, will be published by Quercus in Spring 2020. He is represented by Oli Munson at AM Heath.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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