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The Devil's Own?
on 15 September 2009
Joolz Denby is a Bradfordian who has been around on the poetry scene since the late seventies. Her poetry is a bit of an acquired taste and I feel this novel comes into the same category. What I like about her writing is a straightforward honesty - she doesn't pretend to be part of the literary intelligentsia. Her writing is colloquial and full of energy and passion. She has a strong, evocative voice, her occasional purple passages are fun to read - though they are probably not meant to be other than serious.
I liked this book. The overwhelming theme is alienation. Billie is alienated from her family, joins various likewise-minded groups of rebels, and finally becomes an honorary member of the Devil's Own biker group. This seems a remarkably staid and conventional group - though it's leader Carl is seen as a dangerous character he doesn't do much hell-raising. But they don't these biker people, do they? If it's more a matter of looking menacing in leather we aren't given the real goods. Or perhaps she cleaned it up for nervous members of the general public?
Back in fiction-land Billie, as we are informed in her prologue, is a murderer. She lets us know how this happened towards the end of the book - as a coup de foudre it is somewhat underwhelming, though I was, just, able to go along with it and its aftermath.
Overall this is sparky and bright and full of contention. I'm not surprised that it didn't win any prizes - the subject matter could have been treated with more realism, I feel. But the Billie herself is a strong realisation. Her mind is an open book to us, and though there are some passages when the pace flags, on the whole, I enjoyed the book.