This time, as my Guests' Crime Fiction Choices are more than adequately covering the many excellent short stories out there, I thought I'd recommend a stonker of a novel I recently enjoyed in just three sittings. Hence, the longer than usual write up...
Col Bury's Crime Fiction Choice #18 - MAXWELL'S SILVER HAMMER by Andy Rivers
To be honest, when I saw the title I wasn't overly enthused. Then I realised it was a song by The Beatles, which pricked my curiosity. I'm so glad it did, as I learned a lot from this book about characterisation.
Maxwell's Silver Hammer is a unique take on life in a tough northern city, in this case Newcastle, and is like no other novel I've read. It reminded me of 'CRASH', the Oscar-winning 2004 film, where several characters' stories were so effectively interwoven. Between sittings, I wanted to ditch everything and find out how the characters were doing.
Being a 'plot-driven' kind of writer myself (but that may change after reading this book), I was somewhat taken aback by Andy's no nonsense writing style and at how he, brashly, used the characters to drive the book forward. It was really intriguing to see how it all panned out, because the author, somehow, got me empathising and caring about the characters early on.
Another thing that struck me was, initially, flicking from one person to another - sixteen in total - I wondered if Andy had made a monumental mistake, because I'd always thought it best to have a protagonist, an antagonist and a few peripheral players. However, I'm pleased to say that Andy's prowess shined through and he came up trumps.
The plot is, paradoxically, both simple and complex. Simple in that, the basic storyline surrounds reformed tough guy, Billy Reeves, and his lifelong rivalry with Newcastle's top man, Vince Merry. When those closest to Billy are under threat, the beast within him is unleashed. Yet the complexity involves the skillful linking-in of all the characters, and you soon realise why each and everyone of them were relevant to the overall story.
With a fast pace, gritty edge, extremely strong sense of place and laugh out loud humour, and an ending that finally made me realise why the title was chosen in a 'goosebump moment', I implore you to buy this cracking book here.
I tip my hat to Mr Rivers.
Andy Rivers has been a Butlins barman, pretend chippieon a Spanish construction site, coach holiday rep, mobile sandwich salesman and outdoor traffic cone washer to name but a few of his eclectic 'career' choices. Originally from the East End of Newcastle he now lives in Oxfordshire where, as well as following Newcastle United around the country, he passes the time by indulging in his passion for ‘Professional Geordie-ism’ and lager. This is his first novel but he is also the author of ‘I’m Rivelino’, also published by Byker Books, a hilarious account of the thirty odd years of hurt he has suffered at the hands of the Magpies. With the royalties from this book he plans on buying a Ferrari and having a proper mid-life crisis.