The stories in this collection are all set on The Longcroft Estate, a fictional (but totally believable) council estate in the North of England. The first, A Good Day, centres on a junkie who becomes suspicious of his new neighbours and thinks he sees a chance to make some skag money. But when he pokes his nose - or rather, his crowbar - in where it doesn't belong he gets far more than he bargained for. The central character comes straight out of the Frank Gallagher school of scumbags who by rights we should hate, yet somehow end up loving. Don't be fooled, though, this story deals with some deadly serious and disturbing themes.
Community Spirit is the second story. Tracy, like so many people these days, is in debt to a brutal loan-shark. Eeking out an existence on a grim estate, she's stuggling to make the repayments and facing a looming deadline that must be met or she risks violent consequences for her and her young son. In other words, Tracy is in deep trouble. But she's not going to give up without a fight. Well-written and bleak, but not without an all-important spark of hope, Community Spirit is a tale for our recession-hit times.
Sant saves the best for last with Rowan's Folly, the longest of the three tales. Again, we're introduced to a broad cast of characters, most of whom deftly walk that fine line between lovable scallies and straight out scumbags. The hero - for want of a better word - of the piece is Andy Rowan, an honest guy who's about to make a big mistake by getting mixed up with the wrong woman. This is a tightly written piece with a great little twist in the tail. It's also peppered with references to the previous stories, giving a nice cohesion to the collection.
Sant is a writer to watch and this is a gem of a collection, mixing serious social commentary with coal-black humour. I'll definitely be looking out for the next instalment.