Tuesday, 5 March 2013

INSIDE STRAIGHT by Ray Banks - a review

Graham Ellis is reliable, efficient, focused – the best pit boss Sovereign Casinos has, even if he does say so himself.

But rumours of mental instability, along with the fallout of a particularly bloody night on the tables, relegate him to day shifts at a low-rent Salford club.

There he catches the attention of local gangster Barry Pollard, who has every intention of making Graham his inside man and is about to make him an offer he can't refuse...

Ray Banks is, without doubt, one of the Godfathers of Brit Grit, so when those fine chaps at Blasted Heath offered me the opportunity of taking a look at his Banks’ new novel, I dropped pretty much everything.

INSIDE STRAIGHT is written in the same informal, paired down, humorous style that has made Banks so well respected in crime/noir circles. A sequel of sorts to Banks’ DEAD MONEY. One of the pivotal scenes in DEAD MONEY involves a vicious beating in a casino. INSIDE STRAIGHT is narrated by the Pit Manager on the night – Graham Ellis. 

A Pit Manager is a sort of Head Supervisor, an example of the casino jargon littered throughout the book. Banks once worked as a croupier himself, only adding to the authenticity of the book. 

The book is narrated in the first person by Graham Ellis. Graham is a fastidious, cautious, dedicated employee, not a character easy to warm to, but one difficult not to have sympathy with. After the fracas in the casino, described in DEAD MONEY, Graham has been transferred to a less salubrious gambling establishment in a somewhat dodgy part of Manchester. 

And he’s not happy. 

Graham’s relationship with his manager is just one of a number of relationships in which he figures in a subservient role. In all well-written books, the main character makes a journey of some sort. 

Graham’s journey, it seems, is to challenge this subservient role, to move from a boy to a man, to stand up to the dominant figures in his life.

Standing up to his manager is one thing, but when local gangster - Barry Pollard - approaches Graham to be his inside man for a planned robbery on the casino, Graham is in all sorts of strife. You see, Graham has a certain pride in his work. He loves his job. Not perhaps the place he is working in so much, but he has the pride of a job well done. 

Caught between his conscience and a psychotic gangster, Graham’s vulnerability is brilliantly explored by Banks. It left me wondering what I might do in Graham’s position. And to be honest, I’ve no idea what I would do. 

Men like Barry Pollard require answers – and there is only ever one.

There are twists and turns aplenty in INSIDE STRAIGHT. I was constantly attempting to second guess what Graham might do, and what the consequences might be. And I was constantly wrong.
INSIDE STRAIGHT is a brilliant addition to the Ray Banks pantheon, and I suspect any fan of the crime/noir genre will agree.

Highly recommended.

INSIDE STRAIGHT is avaiable to download in the UK here and in the US here

1 comment:

  1. Run, don't walk, to glom onto anything new Ray Banks publishes. It's always great stuff. I'd say the same thing for Ian Ayris' work as well. Loved INSIDE STRAIGHT!