There’s a long tradition of put-upon underdogs being guided towards success and self-enlightenment by an older, more experienced mentor, but Mark MacNicol successfully reconfigures the traditional template over the inhabitants of a troubled Glasgow housing scheme. When we first meet Tam, he’s a self-conscious, self-depreciating walk-over — within the first chapter, he gets beaten up by a drunken rival for a work colleague’s affections.
In an attempt to overcome his debilitating panic attacks, Tam puts himself under the wing of local widower Pat, a man with a dark, gang-related past who nevertheless provides Tam with an invaluable psychological technique that genuinely enables him to turn his life — and relationships with women — around. Yet, as he’s rapidly encouraged down a path of violent retribution among various city scheme gangs, Tam realises that the price for his new-found confidence is higher than he’s willing to pay. MacNicol’s debut, self-published novel is workmanlike in its prose, but truly shines in its authentic, character-filled dialogue, and grips the reader thanks to the shifting central relationship between the self-analysing but ultimately good-hearted Tam and the brutally psychopathic Pat — a genuinely memorable addition to literature’s long list of dangerous Glasgow hard men. [Paul F Cockburn]
Out now. Published by Two Fit Poles, Cover price £7.99http://www.coconutbadger.com/novels.html