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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent tale.
This is a story of the Newcastle I lived in during the 90s, the characters and places spring out of the page and I feel sure I know the characters.

The story is that of an a political idealist who becomes called to the church and who moves from a comfortable life in the south to a changing Newcastle in the 90s. His life there becomes intertwined with those of...
Published on 17 Jan 2008 by Tox

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A canny read in places!
This is a big book; perhaps too big. I live in Tyneside and so began reading with enthusiasm, able to recognise and visualise the places that are described and easily understand the dialect. I wasn't surprised to read that although this is his first novel, Kelly has previously written biographies. The story is structured around what seemed sometimes overly detailed...
Published on 24 Mar 2008 by ratstails


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A canny read in places!, 24 Mar 2008
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This review is from: Crusaders (Paperback)
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This is a big book; perhaps too big. I live in Tyneside and so began reading with enthusiasm, able to recognise and visualise the places that are described and easily understand the dialect. I wasn't surprised to read that although this is his first novel, Kelly has previously written biographies. The story is structured around what seemed sometimes overly detailed descriptions of the lives of the three main characters. I struggled through the book from about a quarter of the way in. I just wasn't gripped and his writing style made for slow reading. I confess that I skimmed through the section about the Labour MP through lack of interest that was making reading a chore. It turned out that the MP bore little relevance in the conclusion and overall thread of the story in any case.
I did enjoy parts of the book, although I feel it was unnecessarily long and would have benefitted from further editing. For me it was a bit like watching a film and spotting all the places I know, they were what kept me plodding through the book until the end, which suddenly built to a thrilling climax.
I would recommend this book to anyone familiar with the North East, who also has interests in religion and politics.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Length, Good Read, 8 Mar 2008
By 
G. J. Oxley "Gaz" (Tyne & Wear, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Crusaders (Paperback)
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I enjoyed this book, I really did. And the fact that it's mostly set in my native city of Newcastle upon Tyne (although in a fictional suburb) was a bonus.

But, I'm afraid it requires a good editing. This is ironic as the writer is actually an editor for Faber and Faber. Was someone too shy to advise him it needed cutting down?

David Peace claims it is 'The Great British Novel of this Decade', which is sheer hyperbole; it's nothing of the sort. What it is though is an old-fashioned thumping good read.

You'll know by now that it's main protagonist (Reverend John Gore) is a priest aiming to establish (or 'plant') a new church in a deprived area of Newcastle.

Kelly develops the three other main characters, Lindy, the local unmarried mother Gore falls for, a minor league, hard as nails gangster named Steve Coulson, and Martin Pallister, a lecturer turned Labour MP. He weaves their stories into Gore's life, however, and this is a big failing, he sets up Martin Pallister, spending no small number of pages establishing his back story, to very little effect.

However, I particularly enjoyed the character of local heavy Steve Coulson and his hard upbringing, although someone else has remarked that they found this to be set at soap opera level.

The writing is good throughout and even the young Tony Blair gets to make a cameo performance. And although it's a big book it didn't feel like a chore reading it.

So, I'd recommend this to everyone who likes something meaty. But be aware that the book doesn't have the gravitas to be the epic, profound novel about modern Britain (it's largely set in 1996) that the publishers desperately want it to be.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent tale., 17 Jan 2008
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Tox "Tox" (Leeds UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Crusaders (Paperback)
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This is a story of the Newcastle I lived in during the 90s, the characters and places spring out of the page and I feel sure I know the characters.

The story is that of an a political idealist who becomes called to the church and who moves from a comfortable life in the south to a changing Newcastle in the 90s. His life there becomes intertwined with those of his parishioners and he is exposed to violence and finds himself on the periphery as a gang war runs under the surface.

This is a great book and is worth the read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, gripping at times, 17 Jan 2008
By 
Stephen Newton (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Crusaders (Paperback)
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A big fat novel set in the north east of England as the Labour Party reinvents itself over eighteen years of Conservative government, Crusaders immediately brings Our Friends in the North to mind. But while there may be a must see TV miniseries here, this is a very different animal.

The early promise is a drama to illuminate the role of Christian Socialism in New Labour. Protagonist John Gore has been a party member since he was fourteen and moves to the inner city as a priest on a mission to plant a church; that is build something new in an apparently godless place.

Ten years on from Labour's 1997 election victory, Gore's suspicions of his local New Labour MP, Martin Pallister, are understandable but don't really ring true in context; especially as he is so very naïve in every other aspect of his life. It's hard to understand why Gore fails to grasp the opportunity to play a key role in the project, a failure that effectively lands him on the sidelines.

But Gore does have much else on his mind. The politics gives way to his affair with single mother Lindy Clark and his relationship with local gangster Stevie Coulson, who presumably sees donating to the church as a route to salvation.

Gore's descent into the criminal underworld enables Kelly to quicken the pace, up the drama and tension and provide the novel with a suitably violent and satisfying conclusion.

Overall, Crusaders is not as heavy as it first appears. It's an entertaining, at times gripping, read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Debut, 17 Jan 2008
By 
Roger Rebec "Roger Rebec" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Crusaders (Paperback)
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This is an excellent first novel. I really enjoyed the first half of the book. I enjoyed the second half only slightly less. This was due to my feeling less than warmly towards the Dr Martin Pallister character and the fact that the story ends on a considerably bleaker note for its main character than it had sounded at the beginning.
That said, there is so much to enjoy here that I feel almost churlish by withholding the fifth star! The story is extremely well constructed, beginning with the introduction of the main character and feeding in the three other main characters at well judged intervals. The transitions from present to past and back are very well handled and the characters appear as well rounded individuals. Being able to create characters that are believable people is a skill that not every novelist possesses. Since this is fundamental to writing an interesting and readable work of fiction, it good to have come across a new writer who really does have this skill.
This book will stand reading more than once and I shall go back to it expecting to enjoy it even more on the second reading. Now I know what happens, I shall be able to dwell more on the excellent background the author has provided. A rather dreary period of England's twentieth century history is extremely well brought to life.
I fully recommend this book and am looking forward to reading more of Mr Kelly's work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Our Friends in the Northeast, 21 Mar 2008
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wabrit (Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Crusaders (Paperback)
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Crusaders is a weighty tome, running in at over 550 pages, but it never outstays its welcome because the author has grounded his story in some solid foundations (notably the four very different central characters) and keeps the plot moving. The setting is Hoxheath, an imaginary deprived suburb of Newcastle, the time is the 1990s, when the Blairite revolution of New Labour is just around the corner and the old socialist roots of the Labour party are waking up to that fact. The book begins by focusing on the Rev. John Gore, who has volunteered to set up a new church, forsaking his comfortable if somewhat dull rural posting for something that perhaps will reawaken his old political radicalism in the context of his faith.

Slowly but surely the book moves the Rev. Gore away from centre stage to allow the other characters to take more of a central role. Richard T. Kelly has a penchant for not only mixing in different narrative voices, but also different time frames, so that we slowly get a picture of each character formed by an almost random selection of incidents from different periods in their lives. Fortunately the author is good enough in my view not to let this become confusing.

There's definitely a "state of the nation" feel to this book, but with a compelling narrative and believable characters I think it has a broad appeal,
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious, 6 Mar 2008
By 
kehs (Hertfordshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Crusaders (Paperback)
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This is a debut novel with an ambitious theme about an Anglican minister trying to start a church in a deprived area of Newcastle in 1996, but the story also harks back to the previous 20 years. It's a very clever theme and Kelly has certainly created a fascinating account of those times. Sadly, I couldn't warm to Kelly's writing style because I found it too stilted and difficult to get immersed in. All in all, well worth a read but not one that had me gripped.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, somehow timely remembrance of a more innocent 90s Britain now lost, 18 Sep 2008
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ghandibob (Swansea) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Crusaders (Paperback)
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Crusaders, quite nicely, is principally the story of John Gore, a young vicar sent to start a new church in a poor, council estate fuelled area of Newcastle in 1996. History is typically told through the courts of the capital, and recent history is recorded in the London newspapers, but with the story of John Gore, Richard T. Kelly has found a true and clear way to the story, to the feelings of those Tory death times. The story of Labour's ascent to power a not just of Tony Blair taking the middle class south east; it is the story of the North-East, of Scotland, of Wales stepping out of industrial bankruptcy and believing enough in a new future for the working class to vote, almost without exception, for the Labour candidate. As we enter a time of diminishment for the project, it is quite appropriate to revisit it's fertile beginnings.

Gore is sent back to his home town to start a new church in a bad part of the city, and we see him do this at the same time as Kelly takes us back to Gore's youth, struggling to reconcile his old Labour union grandfather with his new Tory Thatcherite father. This is the strongest part of the book for me; the search for spiritual and political meaning seems so real and John Gore is so true as a character, it's actually a shame when Kelly goes elsewhere. Which he does in order to give us Stevie, the local big man. Too much time is spent fleshing out the local gangster story here, and Stevie works so much better in the moment of Gore's new church. But it's a minor gripe. The book has some good jokes but it's the utterly convincing mind of Gore that really draws you in. A good man in a new time, trying to work out what to do next after the rule book he's spent his life learning has been torn up. It tells us about real life right now; it tells us about recent history right then. And it's charming.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A flawed but compelling debut, 5 July 2008
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amboline (York, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Crusaders (Paperback)
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It's unusual these days to find a novel with a sympathetic view of the Christian church. It's even rarer to find such a novel written by an avowed atheist. Richard T Kelly pulls no punches in describing the inconsistencies, failings and hypocrisies within the little Anglican community at the heart of his debut novel. But to his credit, he stops short of judging or grandstanding. The result is that the characters who form the emotional heart of "Crusaders" soon get under the reader's skin, even when Kelly's lack of direct "insider" experience shows through in the narrative.

This is an ambitious debut novel. The writing is sometimes a bit clunky - not all Geordies end every sentence with a hanging "but", and pretentious phrases like "from whence" pepper the narrative, which can be distracting. But it's clear Kelly is writing from the heart. His work shows an intimate understanding of the deprivations suffered by the north-east of England under Thatcherism, and a keen understanding of how social and political idealism sometimes has to clash head-on with day-to-day realities. His socialist poster-boy, Martin Pallister, gradually morphs into an oily businessman perfectly suited to Blair's right hand, while young vicar John Gore's idealism founders on the rocks of church politics, deprivation and his own weakness of will.

I found it hard to put the book down. Kelly's gift is creating characters who are authentic, well-rounded despite their inconsistencies. Most compelling is his portrayal of reluctant gangster Stevie Coulson: a warm-hearted thug whose many chances at redemption get frittered away one by one, bringing ruin to all those around him. The love-hate relationship between Coulson and the Rev. Gore provides a fierce, earthy tension that powers the novel along. Gore himself is spineless, a bit pretentious, hopelessly out of his depth when it comes to human relationships; the sort of central character whose most infuriating tendencies are what keep the reader hooked. He's also kind-hearted, charming, passionate, committed to the grim realities of his vocation, and far more willing than most of his congregation to put Christian forgiveness into practice. Where the novel does falter a bit is in Gore's developing sexual relationship with a member of his congregation. It's not that this is implausible - it fits totally in the context of the story - more that Kelly doesn't paint Gore as having the sort of moral hang-ups that 99% of Christian ministers would have in this situation.

Despite its flaws, this is an admirable debut from a novelist who clearly has a lot to say. An authentic voice for the social, moral and political dilemmas of turn-of-the-century Britain. It crashes to a thunderous climax, that's all the more shocking for its inevitability; and the main characters stayed in my imagination long after I closed the book. I'm looking forward to more from this promising author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Would have benefitted from some editing, 31 Mar 2008
By 
A Cerbic (Tyneside, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Crusaders (Paperback)
I approached this book expecting, as another reviewer did, it to be a sort of 'Our Friends In The North' which I really enjoyed when it was broadcast in the 90s. The book is dauntingly thick and could have easily omitted some of the peripheral characters with no loss to the plot. Martin Gore's parents for example were described in far too much detail for people who contribute nothing to the overall storyline. I imagine the author was trying to set the scene and offer some background to his main character but it was far too long. As for the Reverend himself, I could not warm to this character at all. He lacked any sort of spark and appeared staggeringly naive and an emotionally stunted ditherer. It was very difficult to relate to or care about him at all. The most interesting character for me was the local hardman, Stevie Coulson who at least had something about him and was more complex than the Reverend. Some of the characters did not ring true and I thought the author overdid it on the dialect front, in many cases getting it wrong which to a geordie like me is irritating and patronising; a headmistress would definitely use better grammar than Monica Bruce, even in Newcastle Mr Kelly! As would the aspirational sister, Susannah.He also used the word 'kidder' too much which did grate after a while. This overuse of the local dialect, I imagine could alienate a lot of potential readers who are not from Tyneside as even I found it quite wearing.

On the plus side - and it is a big one - I thought the story once it got going, was gripping, especially the bits about the underworld. I thought it was quite clever the way their stories were woven together and certainly ambitious for a first time novelist. Some reviewers have commented about the relevance of the local MP, Martin Pallister but I think his inclusion does bring something to the story, if only to offer and insight into the machinations of New Labour, an organisation very influential Tyneside. I have to say, despite its flaws, once I got into it I couldn't put it down.
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Crusaders
Crusaders by Richard T. Kelly (Paperback - 31 July 2008)
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