Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Book Review- Bobby's Boy. by Mark Wilson

Having read a number of books by Mark Wilson (the Deadinburgh Trilogy, and Head Boy spring immediately to mind, and knowing that Bobby’s Boy was part of the Lanarkshire strays collection I was expecting Bobby’s boy to carry on where Head Boy left off. (A Scottish gangster tale telling the rise of a young upcoming pyscho, taking on the established old school gangster family). 
I was wrong. 

Mark Wilson is nothing if not undefinable. He changes genre like I change my undies and he appears to do it with consummate ease. 

Nothing Gangster about this book..and no ringed / zombies..this is a coming of age tale of love and loss, drink and drugs and rock n roll.

As usual I’ll try to summarise without the review turning into a plot spoiler.

The story revolves around a young boy’s (Tom Kinsella) sometimes tragic upbringing. Having to be moved into his Uncles care following the deaths of his father and later of his mother and stepfather.

Under the care of his, delightfully charismatic, Uncle Alec, Tom discovers his penchant for reading writing and Music and of how he has inherited these traits from his father (Bobby).

After building a reputation as a creative and honest music reviewer he is offered a long term job touring America and Europe with Rage Against the Machine and their support act Anal Seepage. Its Tom’s dream job. Unfortunately the job offer coincides with the flowering of his first true romance with his soulmate, Cathy. 

After much soul searching and with Cathy’s full blessing he takes on the job and is taken from his humble background in Bellshill, Scotland to the big wide world. He becomes close friends with the members of Anal Seepage, in particularly with the understated, likeable Donny. At first Tom is understandably naïve and overawed but his penchant for the drink soon helps him bed in to the Rock n roll lifestyle and all the other temptations that a rock n roll tour would bring.

As with most people, the drink and drugs take their toll and Tom changes drastically, physically and mentally and this in turn has a destructive effect on his relationship with Cathy, who has moved on with her life adding new skills and new friends to her life (something Tom has great difficulty accepting in his then state). 

Rather than deal with the situation in the way one would hope, Tom instead immerses himself even more into the rock n roll lifestyle and exacerbates the problems greatly. The situation with Cathy becomes drastic and she gives him an ultimatum to clean up his act of ship out for good. The good times with the band become dangerously violent and untenable and its hard to figure out how he will turn things round until he meets an unexpected old friend on the streets of Paris, whose wise words and compassion help Tom finally figure out the demons that are causing his destructive behaviour.

There are parts of this story that are explainable right to the end, where we have a customary Mark Wilson-esque twist. 

It turns out that this was the authors first ever novel and given the other titles I have read by Mark Wilson I could imagine that if he wrote this tale now, it would take on a some slight changes of direction and the end would be slightly different ( I was actually slightly disappointed with the ending paragraph where he meets a stranger on a bus) and this as well as a couple of  slightly unconvincing coincidences (Toms sister meeting and marrying the son of a New York publisher his father had met and considered working for in his youth decades earlier), but that and any other coincidence is dealt with when we get to the end and discover the twist, but they did irk me a little as I went through. 

Having been through quite a few of the problems Tom went through in this story (losing a father at an early age, suffering with consequential insecurities as a result, resorting to drink and drugs through my late teens and half of my twenties) I found the book incredibly moving and at times painful. It got to the point where I bought into the story so much, I wondered whether it really was autobiographical. (A point a raised with the Author after I finished…but that conversation remains under wraps). That’s what Mark Wilson does. He creates worlds where you really buy into the characters and the worlds they live in. I would highly recommend this book to all. For a first novel it is outstanding. I have no doubt that .Mark Wilson is one of the most vital writers in the UK at present, I can't wait for his next project.

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