By MY Alam, published by Route
While this is the second book to feature anti-hero drug dealer Kilo from MY Alam, the great beauty of it is that it works as a stand-alone piece, yet you can almost feel the predecessor adding weight to the story. Red Laal is a fine novel, that stands tall on its own, but even if you haven’t read the previous book, Kilo, you can sense this latest book exists in a greater universe than the one you see on the page in front of you.
MY Alam is the pen name of Bradford university lecturer Yunis Alam. That he grew up in Bradford and knows the city like the back of his hand is enormously evident in Red Laal. A previously published academic work by Alam, Made in Bradford, in which he conducted no-holds-barred interviews with some of the city’s young Asian men is also evidenced in the book, so rich and deep is the texture of the world Kilo inhabits. Sometimes it feels as though you can touch the fabric of the world Alam has created.
Kilo is a drug dealer who has a conflict at his centre. He has a strong moral backbone that makes selling drugs troublesome for him. He doesn’t live in opulence with the earnings from his trade – which he clearly could do with more rigour and efficiency if he wanted to – but just earns enough to get by.
With a reputation for being a man who can ‘fix things’ he is called upon to help an ‘uncle’ rescue his daughter who has been led into a life of vice. Kilo taking on the job of helping the girl is the story’s first hint that the drug dealer may have something good at heart.
Helping the girl sets off a series of events that lead Kilo into ever more dangerous territory and a voyage of discovery.
A story that absolutely races along and grips like a vice, Pontefract-based publishers Route deserve credit for publishing this book so handsomely and Alam for creating a piece of work that is utterly shot through with authenticity.
The Fall and Rise of Gordon Coppinger
By David Nobbs, published by Harper
With 19 novels under his belt, Yorkshire author, TV writer and creator of Reginald Perrin clearly knows his business. His regular and amusing forays into social networking site Twitter reveal his wit remains as sharp as ever and in The Fall and Rise of Gordon Coppinger it is in evidence.
What is lacking, however, in this latest novel is an impetus and drive through the story. Amusing as the tale of Gordon Coppinger is, it feels more like a series of set pieces. Reading the book is a slightly frustrating experience in that it almost constantly promises to deliver something special, but never really lands the knock out punch.
Sir Gordon Coppinger is one of the wealthiest men in Britain. Admired by all, feared by many, but respected universally, his empire is solid in places, a house of cards in others. The story is about the downfall of this powerful man, who loses everything, but Nobbs uses it to also make comment – insightful, amusing comment – on the banking collapse and the state of the economy. In his hands it is amusing and some of the set pieces are geuninely laugh out loud. What it really needs, though, is something deeper underneath the laughs.