Monday, 24 October 2011

'SMOKE' by Nigel Bird - a review

'Smoke' is the first novella from the pen of the accomplished, Nigel Bird - critically acclaimed short-story writer extraordinaire, and proper nice bloke to boot.

Being familiar with Nigel's bitter-sweet short-stories, I was fascinated to see how trying his hand at a longer piece would turn out.  This novella is a little different from many of Nigel's aforementioned short-stories in that the writing voice is unashamedly Scottish.  And brilliantly so.  I think of all the UK short-story writers plying their trade at the moment, along with the inimitable Mr Paul D. Brazill, Nigel is the one writer that has most successfully found a voice for the US market.  That being so, I loved the fact he's returned to his Scottish roots for 'Smoke'.

'Smoke' centres around a lad called Jimmy.  Not a bad lad, but a lad who gets into the odd scrape every now and then.  In 'Smoke', one of these particular scrapes involves the psychotic Ramsay Brothers and their incredibly vicious, and incredibly well-written, dog-fighting competition, and also a one-armed, one-legged bloke in a motorised wheelchair, called Carlos.  The bloke is called Carlos, I hasten to add, not the wheelchair.

Carlos is the other central character - along with Jimmy - and provides the comic edge to what is a primarily gritty story.

The pace of 'Smoke' is first class, whizzing along like Carlos involuntarily descending a hill into traffic - a terrific scene in the book - and a definition of noir itself.  The characters in 'Smoke' are well-rounded, the dialogue top drawer, the ending a satisfying conclusion to a cracking tale.

'Smoke' is available on Amazon in the UK here and in the US here


  1. Great review of a really gripping novella. I hope Nigel never stops what he's doing.

  2. I've got this to read and Julie Morrigan's Heatbreaker. Some great reading ahead :)

  3. You're a delight, Ian. Great review.

    Interesting you mention the US-UK thing. I didn't really notice the difference between Smoke and Nigel's other work, then again I wasn't looking for it.

    I'd put Iain Rowan in that category of bound to catch on in the US too.

  4. so many thanks for that. not long till Abide With Me - that's on all our lists.