Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Bang Bang, You're Dead by Nick Quantrill - a review

Nick Quantrill is one of those writers who inspires me to be a better writer. He is a writer's writer, if you like. His prose is tight, his characters solid. He writes without pretence. He writes with a sense of truth, of conviction, of honesty. When you read a novel by Nick Quantrill, you know he will deliver.

Fresh out of prison, Sam is back home and determined to turn his life around. Be the man his family needs him to be. But it’s not so easy going straight when you’re friends with Jonno. Drawn into a drugs deal involving petty local gangs, things quickly take a turn for the worse when he discovers the notorious Nolan brothers are involved. With simmering rivalries coming to the fore, Sam has to decide between new and old loyalties. And with old sores over his brother’s death being picked at, it’s not so simple. Especially when you have a gun in your pocket.

At the centre of Nick Quantrill's Joe Geraghty Novels - his debut, Broken Dreams, and the next Geraghty novel - The Late Greats - lies Quantrill's home city of Hull. Quantrill writes 'setting' as good as anyone I've read. To read a Quantrill novel is to tread the very streets of Hull itself. And it is to Hull Quantrill turns once again for his debut novella - Bang, Bang, You're Dead.

Bang, Bang, You're Dead is the story of Sam - a twenty something fresh out of prison. Life has moved on whilst he's been inside. As it does. But some things stay the same. The pain of his brother's death. It runs deep. And someone knows the answers. Sam's mates, Weasel and Jonno, they don't know. Nor does his brother's wife, now moved on and living with someone else. It seems no-one has the answers Sam is searching for. But that doesn't stop him.

We follow Sam as he attempts to stay on the straight and narrow, whilst trying to discover who left his brother to die of an overdose. But to find the answers to these questions involves Sam mixing with some pretty unsavoury characters. The Nolan brothers, for a start, with their car crushing business. When I say 'car' crushing - to be honest, they're a little more flexible in their use of their machinery than just using it to crush cars. And then there is Vinnie, Weasal's dad - a gentleman and a gangster.  And finally, Roberto Tardelli - a right nasty piece of work. Got the drug trade on the estate sewn up, he has. When Sam and Weasel and Jonno find themselves in the middle of this lot, decisions need to be made. Loyalties tested. But Sam has a score to settle, and not even the nastiest bastards in Hull are going to stop him from getting answers.

Bang, Bang, You're Dead is an absolutely cracking read. Quantrill tells the story through the eyes of Sam, with humility and compassion, yet pulls no punches. We feel Sam's loss, but Sam does not ask us to feel sorry for him. That is not an easy thing to pull off as a writer, and Quantrill does it expertly.

In his debut novella, it feels as if Quantrill has used the form to stretch out, to let loose. The dialogue still carries Quantrill's trademark terseness, but it is laden with anger and aggression. The violence in the book is necessary and brilliantly achieved. The plot is at one straightforward, yet emotionally intricate. And the pace of the whole thing is such that we tread the broken streets of Hull with Sam, by his side, looking for the answers that will bring peace to his troubled mind, the superb pacing of the whole leading to a climax and a twist I never saw coming from a million miles.

Bang, Bang, You're Dead is a brilliant example of top notch Brit Grit. Right up there with anything by Ray Banks or Allan Guthrie.

Bang, Bang, You're Dead is published for the Kindle by Byker Books, and is available in the UK here and in the US here

Nick Quantrill's other novels - The Late Greats and Broken Dreams are available direct from Caffeine Nights Publishing here and from Amazon here

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