3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
An indomitable spirit!,
This review is from: The Glasgow Curse: My Life in the Criminal Underworld (Paperback)
A powerful and harrowing account of a man whose immersion in the Glasgow underworld was practically sealed before he was born, the twin victim of the two main Glasgow curses, social degradation and (resultant) alcoholism. The writer paints a vivid picture of a too often hellish childhood marked by neglect and early exposure to extreme violence. Batted between relatives with alcohol issues and an innate disregard of the law, he soon finds himself placed in a strict children's home, setting up a pattern of institutional confinement and disrespect for authority for many years to come.
The book is very well written with tight descriptive passages and strong imagery throughout coupled with a spare prose style which makes it easy to follow the many characters and complex events described. Despite its subject matter, the book is not without humour or warmth, and it is rare to encounter a character to whom Lobban does not extend some sympathy, and his descriptions of roaming free as a child are sure to have a universal appeal.
There is plenty of insight into the wild, risky and often depressing daily life of a career criminal at a particular time in Glasgow's history, but equally there are wider issues raised, particularly in relation to the Scottish prison system. Descriptions of life in the solitary wing of Peterhead Prison in particular are genuinely shocking. The fact that the infamous institution only recently closed its doors can now be seen for what it really was, a victory for human rights and social justice.
Myths have now been woven around the many people and events that were to influence Lobban's life at the height of his criminal career, and it now seems impossible to untangle the full truth of the machinations of the Glasgow underworld at that time, even with the honest accounts of many of the people involved. Nevertheless, Lobban presents himself very well - he makes no (futile) attempts to justify his most extreme behaviour, simply to explain what happened, nor does he wallow in self-pity even while describing enforced conditions that would undoubtedly diminish most people.
Indeed it is hard not to be moved at times. Through his darkest hours, Lobban's story is one of endurance and an independent spirit burning against all odds. As such, the book maintains a ring of authenticity throughout. Perhaps the flip side of the Glasgow Curse is the Glasgow Gift, an indomitable human spirit able to survive the ongoing assaults and brute realities of a savage city, unseen - or ignored - by many of its more fortunate citizens.