During the sizzling hot summer of 1976 in Liverpool, teenager Tommy Dwyer is rapidly approaching adulthood and dealing with the usual coming of age issues: temptation, gang violence, murder and helping to prevent the flooding of the streets with illegal drugs.
This is a nostalgic dark thriller about growing up in working class suburb of 1970s Liverpool. It’s very much a period piece set in the long hot summer of 1976 and the period detail is very carefully and affectionately done. A world before ordinary people had computers or mobile phones and when kids saved up or nicked things to sell to buy vinyl records with a single pop song. Apropos of which one of my few criticisms of this book is its endless references to pop songs of the time. Perhaps if I’d been in Liverpool to appreciate these numbers or had ever shared the Liverpool adolescent’s musical tastes I’d have found the references triggered important memories in some kind of “a-la-recherche-du-temps-perdu-eating-madeleines” fashion but as it was I didn’t have that and it seemed a bit artificial.
It’s not written as an autobiography but one doesn’t have much doubt reading it that the author and the protagonist are pretty much the same person with the same history. Not a very edifying history for the most part although it’s told with such conviction that I found myself quite identifying with the protagonist despite his mindless dabbling in petty crimes and now I’m rather wondering whether there will be a similarly autobiographically inspired sequel about his later life in a Liverpool prison.
Because there are more serious crimes too. A couple of people are killed. Others narrowly avoid this. There are real threats and some real violence and not the cartoon kind but the kind that real gangs go in for in inner cities. No spoilers here but I loved the twist at the end.