Jones, Bruce Kennedy and Allison, Eric - 'The Last Straight Face'
The story begins with a nameless protagonist leaving Strangeways prison after serving a term for attempted robbery. His sentence was extended for possession of a quantity of heroin - something which he would never touch - and he is keen to know who 'fitted' him up and why. He is very aggressive in his approach to people he knew before he went inside and he appears to be a career criminal, having served time in prisons up and down the country and reform school since when he was a child.
When leaving prison one is given a £50 grant but our hero has money coming to him from practically every every 'bent' person he meets. He desperately wants to see his ex-wife and his two twin children, but is absolutely horrified when he goes to their address and discovers that they moved out and disappeared the previous day. He then discovers that his nephew, who he thought was a good kid, had become a junkie and was then shot dead. The police apparently believe he was shot because of his uncle. He is traumatised by all of this and at first thinks of killing himself but then resolves to find his children and his wife and discover why they disappeared. As perhaps an antidote to the stress he feels, he often daydreams of happier times he has spent with many of his current circle of friends at penal institutions up and down the country.
Our nameless hero tours around Manchester and its suburbs, changing vehicles and living accommodation and generally watchful of the police or 'filth' as he calls them, whom he believes have set him up with the reputation of being a 'grass' to his mates. A mate he enlists to help him, ends up getting killed and the story becomes even more of a page turner. The authors plant a couple of good red herrings which threw me off the scent and the story ends at a good point.
The language and slang used in this book is very raw and in your face and perhaps a shock to the uninitiated, but I thought it sounded realistic and appropriate to the subject. It is a first book by this duo of crime author Bruce Kennedy Jones and former career criminal Eric Allison who is now The Guardian's prison correspondent. They are working on a sequel, FAT BLACKMAIL, which I look forward to reading.
Read another review of THE LAST STRAIGHT FACE.
Terry Halligan, England