The Deadman's Pedal by Alan Warner
In The Deadman's Pedal Alan Warner returns to the Port, a fictionalised version of Oban and the setting of his acclaimed debut Morvern Callar. This new novel traces the development of confused adolescent Simon Crimmins, from the tail-end of his childhood through to becoming a man. This is well-worn ground for fiction and although Warner writes with precision and flashes of artistry, but there is very little that's new in Simon's story.
The provincial setting, Simon's employment as a rail driver, and issues of class add a specificity and authenticity to events, but as readers we are always on the outside. Very rarely are we given access to the deeper motivations and struggles Simon is dealing with and as a result he can often read as a shallow and two-dimensional protagonist. This is generally a problem. It wouldn't be such a big issue if the novel's other characters were further developed, but again their interesting aspects are mostly hinted at, rather than fully developed. Warner has clearly opted for restraint in The Deadman's Pedal, but to such an extent the work cannot flourish, leaving the reader frustrated and detached. [Ryan Rushton]