Thursday, 7 October 2010

'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' by Andy Rivers - a review

 The Blurb
'After Billy Reeves had survived a poverty ridden and violent childhood in Newcastle, he thought he had it all; a loving family, money and respect.  But a face from the past with a point to prove and muscles to flex is out to bring his world crashing down around him.

After turning down the offer of a job with Tyneside's most paranoid and psychotic gang lord, he's faced with bent police, a corrupt judge, an army of bouncers and the knowledge that if he makes one wrong move in this game of cat and mouse his family will end up imprisoned, abused, or worse.

Billy is going to have to work very hard just to keep everyone he cares about alive, and that means the gloves are coming off . . .'

'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' was published in July of this year, and is the first novel from Byker Books emprasario, Andy Rivers.  Andy describes his Byker Books publishing house as

'. . .  a group of people from the North East of England who aren't that enthralled by reading the memoirs of someone who was briefly on a crap reality show and, after bitching for some years, actually decided to get off our arses and do something about it. We want to use it to promote writers who are ignored elsewhere, writers who don't fit into rigid 'genres', writers who are new and uncertain, writers who hail from working class backgrounds but most of all, writers who live in the real world and know that it's not fair.'

Needless to say, 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' very much fits this bill.

The book is set in Newcastle, in the north east of England, over a peiod of twelve days, each chapter representing a day.  The story opens with Billy facing local gangster, Vince Merry, in a dark alley.  The next chapter flashes back three weeks and begins to re-tell how Billy and, indeed, Merry, came to be facing each other in the alley.  And it is in this re-telling where Rivers diverts from the dusty path of conventional story-telling. each character relaying their own part in the story in a first person narrative.  In fact, there are places in the book where up to four characters share the same page, each giving their take on the particular situation they find themselves in.

This technique, reading almost like a transcript from a play, has both advantages and disadvantages.  It took a couple of pages to get used to, to be honest, but once gripped by the intensity of the prose, the intensity of the interrelated thoughts and feelings of each character, I became mesmerised.  Each character has a motivation, a purpose for being there.  From hardmen like Billy and Merry, to Billy's mother, Billy's wife, and most importantly, Judge Maxwell, we are dropped into the inner world of each participant.  The advantage of this technnique is that the reader becomes immersed completely in the characters and the unfolding of the plot, replete with the inherent conflicting motivations and misunderstandings.  The disadvantage is that there are no secrets for the reader, no big reveal.  That said, Rivers allows the plot to unfold in such a way, the twist at the end was one I had not expected.  I suspect I had become so engrossed in the characters, I could no longer see the wood for the trees, as they say. 

All in all, even though Rivers has taken a risk in the way he has chosen to tell this story, there is no doubt he has pulled it off.  A cracking piece of Brit Grit.

Reviews for 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer'
'Great writing, great characters.  No punches pulled in this novel!' - author of 'Run for Home' Sheila Quigley

'A belter of a book that packs more punches than a Saturday night out on Market Street.  Gangsters, guns and gadgies galore, Andy Rivers weaves a cracking plot through the Byker badlands like a Geordie Elmore Leonard and is one of the few writers I know who can type while wearing boxing gloves.  I had two black eyes before I'd finished Chapter Three.  A thumping debut from a barnstorming new talent' - author of 'The Burglar Diaries' Danny King

'Gritty, wise-cracking and bone-crushingly good' - author of 'The King of America' Rod Glenn

'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' has been nominated for 'The People's Book Prize' - a national competition aimed at recognising talented new authors.

Take it from me, Rivers deserves this one!

To register to vote for 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' click here

'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' is available from Amazon here (UK) and here (US)

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review, Ian, of a top notch book I read in three sittings.