Were back in Scotland’s second city again, following our brief visit late last year, when we reviewed Jeremy Vine’s debut The Diver and The Lover, which told the story behind the painting of Dali’s Christ of Saint John of The Cross and how it came to end up in the city’s famous Kelvingrove Art Museum in 1952. But, for this month’s second book review we jump two decades on to the summer of 1973, and “The Dear Green Place” as it is affectionately known, according to Wiki , is baking in an unusually tropical heat. (Although for someone who lives less than two hundred miles from the city as the crow flies, any time the temperature goes above fifteen degrees in these parts, we think we’re in the tropics). The city is rife with drugs, drink, and poverty, while the new music scene which is sweeping the nation has also landed in Glasgow. In the midst of all this, a gritty and hardened local “Polis” detective is up to his oxters in blood, sweat, booze, bank robberies and walking a fine line between both sides of the law. The book is Bobby March Will Live FOREVER by Alan Parks and published in paperback by Black Thorn Books (www.blackthornbooks.com) on the 25th February.
There’s a heatwave in Glasgow and to add to the city’s problems a young girl Alice Kelly has gone missing. The whole force is put out on the streets to find her, all that is except Harry McCoy. He’s had a run in with his current boss Raeburn, a real brown noser whose doing all he can climb the ladder, and thus Harry is dispatched to investigate the death of local Rockstar Bobby March, who died as a result of an overdose in a city centre hotel. On top that an old colleague has asked Harry to find another young runaway, his niece, as a favour. While McCoy is also looking over some bank robbery cases for his partner “Wattie” Watson, whose now shadowing Raeburn instead of Harry. Talk about rain and pouring, although that is something that is not happening in Glasgow, the mercury is rising and so is the temperament of the city’s residents, fuelled by the press who want blood and the police bigwigs who want results fast. But when Raeburn makes a costly mistake, which threatens not just Harry but Watson’s career, McCoy must use all his cunning and every snout to bring things to a satisfying conclusion, but can he do it in time…
I haven’t been in a pub in seven months and that alone was a once off. All in all for most of us here in Ireland and the UK, it’s been nigh on a year since we were in a pub. As for a real hot sweaty smoky bar, it’s been 17 years. That’s when the smoking ban in Ireland (29th March 2004) came into effect. Yes, it was for the benefit of all our health, but there are some things that you just miss. I did smoke a celebratory cigar last year for my roundy birthday and at a Spanish wedding at the behest of the groom, two years before that.
This is what reading Alan Parks novel did for me. He brought me back to the days of my youth. Jeez, I sound a hundred (I’m in my late forties, early fifties… Covid years). But from page one I was transported back to a time when string vests, bell bottoms, paisley ties and underwear, along with a cigarette hanging off the end of your lip was cool… I was four when this book was set, but like most of us I can remember things from those days that you don’t see now, white dog poo and cultural references such as Tufty, an animated squirrel, used to teach us kids how to cross the road. Along with other things that the PC brigade has run out of town. But it is just so lovely to be able to immerse yourself in a sweet sweaty memory, while being engrossed in a gritty and gripping mystery, unaided by modern technology.
As for Harry, he’s of the Gene Hunt school of policing (Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes TV series), although there’s now’t to say he and DCI Jim Taggart the lead character from long the running Glasgow based British TV series “Taggart” are that far removed either, in both tenacity and geography. McCoy is of a time when men were cops, female police officers were glorified tea makers and eye candy used to brighten up the offices. While criminals were respectful and knew when the game was up, and both sides of the law used violence in equal measure to achieve an end result.
The writing is superb and Parks in-depth knowledge of Glasgow life, local humour and idiosyncrasies shines through the heat haze coming off the Clyde. Yes, there’s a lot of strands running through the book and Harry has his hands full, but law enforcement officers, even today with all their computers and technology are under the cosh when it comes to staying on top of their every increasing case load.
The gripping reality of the story left me almost having to wipe the city from my shoes every time I put the book down, along with trying to get the taste of it from my mouth and senses. Something only really allowed by calls of nature, sleep, and the body’s need for sustenance.
This is Scottish author Alan Parks (@AlanJParks) third Harry McCoy Novel, the others are Bloody JANUARY (2017) and February’s SON (2019). His fourth The April DEAD is due out later this year. Before becoming a crime writer Parks worked in the music industry for twenty years managing up and coming bands, before moving into the creative side of the business, working with the likes of New Order, All saints and Enya. Bloody JANUARY was shortlisted for the ‘Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere’, while Bobby March Will Live FOREVER was nominated for an ‘Edgar’ award and selected by The Times as one of their ‘2020 Books of the Year’. Parks still lives and works in Glasgow.
My advice is to pour yourself a large scotch, order online or download Parks first three books. Then prepare to be transported into the past of your youth or your parents’ formative years and walk the sultry streets of 1970’s Glasgow with Harry McCoy and the host of very lifelike and believable characters summoned by the excellent penmanship of Alan Parks.
Reviewed by Adrian Murphy
This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.