on 24 November 2012
To anyone who lived in Bellshill it is clear that is what Mark has done. The "lingo" is perfect for this book but not distracting. To have written it in any other way would have been completely wrong. Bit like writing The Help in the Queen's English, if you get my drift?
It is a compelling read. Admittedly, as a result, I read it a little too fast and will need to read it again, which will no doubt be as, possibly more, enjoyable (maybe not the perfect word in view of the highs and lows of the subject matter, but it'll have to suffice) as the first time.
The possibility of a liberal sprinkling of reality (written and so descriptive if it's not the case, it gives that impression) would be too much to bear if the real life person behind these words hadn't turned out so wonderful despite, and possibly, in spite of it! Yes I do know him but he's not a "friend".
The overwhelming lesson I took from it... Life is too short to waste. You certainly won't have "wasted" any of it reading this book. In fact you might even gain something valuable!
Good job Mark. I look forward to the next...
on 26 August 2013
This is the first novel by Mark Wilson, but as I came to his work late, it's the third of his that I've read. I'm a big fan of his stuff. Head Boy was (is) graphically and unashamedly nasty, Naebody's Hero was (is) a post modern and surprisingly down to Earth superhero tale, and Bobby's Boy is, well, I'll tell you.
Tom Kinsella is a friendly, intelligent and creative step-son in a family where his widowed mother allows herself to be downtrodden by her new husband Mel, after Tom's dad, the eponymous Bobby, dies in an accident at work. Tom is always told that he resembles his dad in so many ways, both physically and characteristically. He loves to write, to create, and to absorb popular culture at an incredible rate.
Every weekend his mum and stepdad will take his baby step sister out, leaving Tom to sit on the back step until they return (Mel will not allow the boy in the house for fear of having his house and personal possessions tampered with). One day, however, they don't return, having perished in a freak traffic accident, and Tom is sent to live with his foul mouthed, but affectionate uncle Alec. From here on in Tom is allowed to grow as a person, to let his creative streak loose, and to fantastic ends for the kid. He finds himself a familiar face around the Glasgow music scene, reviewing gigs and the like, meeting what would appear to be his soul mate, Cathy, along the way. Eventually as his work becomes notorious, the wider world beckons, as he embarks upon a worldwide tour with an unknown American band, who are supporting a more illustrious Rage Against The Machine. What comes next is a rollercoaster of emotions, fights, drinking, smoking, and soul searching, as Tom attempts to figure out once and for all who he is, and why he is.
Okay, let's get one thing clear. Mark Wilson paints great literary pictures. Every scene, every location, every conversation, and every emotion is visualised and deeply felt by you as the reader. He has this knack of giving each and every one of his characters an unashamed way of saying it like it is, of feeling things we have all felt at some point or another, and you can't help but feel for them with each peak and trough they encounter upon life's path. That's what he does best, he writes great people. He writes people that you care for, root for, and ultimately feel disappointed with if they let you down.
Bobby's Boy is no different. It has an obvious comparison to Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe's (in my opinion) masterpiece of cinema. It's a tale of little boy lost in the big bad world of rock and roll, who earns his stripes and finds his balls as he evolves from naïve small town teenager to world weary, wiser than his years teenager in only a short time. His long distance relationship feels the strains of jealousy and paranoia, and send him on a downward spiral, until a familiar face comes to the rescue (which, having read Mark's books backwards, I saw coming a mile off!).
Having read all of Mark Wilson's fictional work now, I really enjoy seeing what he's doing with his work. The peripheral characters that pop in and out of each other's story to give a sweet kick up the behind when things aren't going their way. The obvious affection for people like Uncle Alec, who will undoubtedly make reappearances in his future stuff. If he doesn't I'll go nuts.
The reason that this is a 4, and not a 5 star piece of work, and I sincerely hope the author will forgive me for saying so, is the centrepiece conversations. The ones where Tom is feeling so low that he might as well just end it all. Although they are well timed and well meant, I think that by the third or fourth one, it seemed everybody that Tom knew had an emotional anecdote which just so happened to relate to exactly how he was feeling, and made him reassess his life, leading on to another discovery about his personality. Individually, I loved them, as a collection it bordered on too many.
Overall then, Bobby's Boy is yet another literary triumph from Mark Wilson as far as this reader goes. I know it's his debut novel, and saying 'another' is a contradiction in terms, but I told you earlier on that this is the third of his books that I've read. Pay attention.
From this book to the second and third Mark's writing has evolved, which can only be a very good thing if you're picking Bobby's Boy up as an introduction to his work, because to be honest, this novel is pretty damned excellent. You have some shit hot reading ahead of you.
on 7 September 2015
Having read a number of books by Mark Wilson (the Deadinburgh Trilogy, and Head Boy spring immediately to mind, and knowing that Bobby’s Boy was part of the Lanarkshire strays collection I was expecting Bobby’s boy to carry on where Head Boy left off. (A Scottish gangster tale telling the rise of a young upcoming pyscho, taking on the established old school gangster family).
I was wrong.
Mark Wilson is nothing if not undefinable. He changes genre like I change my undies and he appears to do it with consummate ease.
Nothing Gangster about this book..and no ringed / zombies..this is a coming of age tale of love and loss, drink and drugs and rock n roll.
As usual I’ll try to summarise without the review turning into a plot spoiler.
The story revolves around a young boy’s (Tom Kinsella) sometimes tragic upbringing. Having to be moved into his Uncles care following the deaths of his father and later of his mother and stepfather.
Under the care of his, delightfully charismatic, Uncle Alec, Tom discovers his penchant for reading writing and Music and of how he has inherited these traits from his father (Bobby).
After building a reputation as a creative and honest music reviewer he is offered a long term job touring America and Europe with Rage Against the Machine and their support act Anal Seepage. Its Tom’s dream job. Unfortunately the job offer coincides with the flowering of his first true romance with his soulmate, Cathy.
After much soul searching and with Cathy’s full blessing he takes on the job and is taken from his humble background in Bellshill, Scotland to the big wide world. He becomes close friends with the members of Anal Seepage, in particularly with the understated, likeable Donny. At first Tom is understandably naïve and overawed but his penchant for the drink soon helps him bed in to the Rock n roll lifestyle and all the other temptations that a rock n roll tour would bring.
As with most people, the drink and drugs take their toll and Tom changes drastically, physically and mentally and this in turn has a destructive effect on his relationship with Cathy, who has moved on with her life adding new skills and new friends to her life (something Tom has great difficulty accepting in his then state).
Rather than deal with the situation in the way one would hope, Tom instead immerses himself even more into the rock n roll lifestyle and exacerbates the problems greatly. The situation with Cathy becomes drastic and she gives him an ultimatum to clean up his act of ship out for good. The good times with the band become dangerously violent and untenable and its hard to figure out how he will turn things round until he meets an unexpected old friend on the streets of Paris, whose wise words and compassion help Tom finally figure out the demons that are causing his destructive behaviour.
There are parts of this story that are unexplainable right to the end, where we have a customary Mark Wilson-esque twist.
It turns out that this was the authors first ever novel and given the other titles I have read by Mark Wilson I could imagine that if he wrote this tale now, it would take on a some slight changes of direction and the end would be slightly different ( I was actually slightly disappointed with the ending paragraph where he meets a stager on a bus) and this as well as some other slightly unconvincing coincidences (Toms sister meeting and marrying the son of a New York publisher his father had met and considered working for in his youth decades earlier), but that and any other coincidence is dealt with when we get to the end and discover the twist, but they did irk me a little as I went through. I also would have liked to have the likes of Uncle Alec’s back story to have been told in his own Scottish brogue..but that’s just me being pernickety.
Having been through quite a few of the problems Tom went through in this story (losing a father at an early age, suffering with consequential insecurities as a result, resoringt to drink and drugs through my late teens and half of my twenties) I found the book incredibly moving and at times painful. It got to the point where I bought into the story so much, I wondered whether it really was autobiographical. (A point a raised with the Author after I finished…but that conversation remains under wraps). That’s what Mark Wilson does. He creates worlds where you really buy into the characters and the worlds they live in. I would highly recommend this book to all. For a first novel it is outstanding. I can’t wait to read more by Mark Wilson.
on 26 August 2012
Bobby's Boy is an exceptional character driven story. One of the first thoughts of describing this novel as I read it was that through each page I felt a quiet about it. Sort of like the quiet in the woods when snow is falling. It is a story of a life that anyone of us could have and Wilson tells it with such an easy, almost biographical, manner that you don't realize how wrapped up in the story you are until you are at the end and wanting more. It was the "quiet" of this novel, the normality of the characters that make this novel work. As in real life it is the twists that we don't see coming that make this story compelling and sometimes heartbreaking.
I must confess some of the Scottish dialect had me running to Google to make sure I understood clearly what the characters sometimes were saying. But make no mistake, instead of this being a distraction it only gave the characters more depth and made me more interested. Tommy's career may be boring to some readers and the detail that Wilson goes into could be a distraction to some, but for me Tommy is a character that truly loves what he is doing and that joy is reflected in a flourishing life that I increasingly grew jealous of and then grew thankful that it wasn't me.
I could not post a review of this novel without mentioning the character of Uncle Alec, a hard edged, tough talking man. I found myself totally in love with him and the honesty that he maintained throughout the story. Through the toughness Wilson gives you a glimpse of the love this character has for family, friends and loving life in general and you realize there is a gentle man underneath who only wishes happiness for those he loves.
The more I read the more I fell in love with this novel, a novel of characters we all know in a world in which life is the unknown. I will definitely be reading this novel again. Job well done.