Allan Guthrie and 'Savage Night'
I've been getting down and dirty with Allan Guthrie's Savage Night these last few days (a good title, fitting a character's name in the book. Al tells me all his titles have been tributes to noir classics of the same name, in this case a 1953 book by Jim Thompson).
I got a brief taste of an underside of Edinburgh some years back, taking a touring production to a school on the East side. Our minibus drove from the school gates festooned with kids, banging on the windows breaking off the wipers and clinging to the outside.
That was tame though ... this is more like my old neighbours in Glasgow, with their tales of times in the high-security wing of Barlinnie, outings with razor gangs, deaths administered with single twisting punches to the gut (which reminds me why I quit the city). This novel takes the vendetta theme, families punishing each other, and twists it to fresh extremes - the vendettas are mistakes, and the likes of dismemberment, decapitation, defenestration all happen in the name of some tough love. Get a bite of it ... lock yourself into flailing minds as they face their dying moments!
The book has fine terse language, lots of well-played tricks of time and comedy, characters you're sad to see the end of, and a curious fractured chronology: we're placed in the book in the middle of one intense scene, then other scenes wrap themselves around it, forwards and backwards in time. As the line between life and death keeps getting crossed, this warping of time is a good fit for the book. It's a bit like being buried alive, a spadeful at a time, but then of course it's not because heck, you're just a reader and can break off for a pint or a cup of tea at any time.
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