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on 2 April 2012
Doug Johnstone's previous novel Smokeheads was one hell of a read, a breakneck tear-up of a book following four blokes on a whiskey tour of Islay which descends into sex, drugs and extreme violence. Peat black and shot through with scorching wit, plaudits came in from all angles. So expectations were always going to be high for Hit and Run, his second outing on Faber and Faber's eclectic and rapidly expanding crime list.

Driving home from a swanky PR do in Edinburgh with his girlfriend and brother - everyone up to the eyeballs on pilfered narcotics and beetroot schnapps - Billy Blackmore drives through a pedestrian. Reporting it will mean lost jobs, arrest, maybe prison, so they do the only logical thing, take the body and dump it over the side of Salisbury Crags.

The next morning, bashed up and hungover, Billy finds himself dragged back to the scene in his professional capacity as trainee crime reporter on The Evening Standard. They've got a scoop and the story is going to be huge - Edinburgh's gangster number one has been found dead at the bottom of the Crags. Frank Whitehouse wasn't the kind of man to commit suicide so that only leaves murder and the police have plenty of suspects. The Mackies, a rival crime family looking to expand; Frank's psychotic brother Dean; or maybe the widow Adele, a bong-hitting femme fatale who soon has Billy's balls nestled in the palm of her hand.

Frank Whitehouse isn't the only person who took a knock in the crash though and as Billy's professional reputation is shooting up his personal life is fracturing. He is dogged by guilt about leaving the scene of the crime, and dosed up against the injuries which have got him passing out and smelling smoke. The closer he gets to Adele the more conflicted he becomes. But there's no time to reflect on any of that because the story has to be written and if Billy backs out of his scoop now how's that going to look?

Johnstone has written an elegant explosion of that `what if' moment which starts when someone gets behind the wheel drunk. It's something that happens all the time, and that's genuinely scary. If that all sounds a bit po-faced I can assure you the book isn't. Yes, it's dark and brutal as you would expect from Johnstone, stuffed with drugs, violence and some rather disturbing sex, but it's also very funny. Johnstone has a great ear for banter, and the relationship between Billy and his mentor Rose is really quite touching.

I absolutely tore through Hit and Run. Johnston knows how create pace and thrust in a book, his prose is crisp, his characterisation pin-sharp and even when he's handling a classic noir plotline like this his journalistic sensibilities keep everything credible. Scottish crime fiction is a tough playground right now but with Hit and Run Doug Johnstone proves he can hold his own with the best of them.
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on 2 July 2012
In this dark, violent and thoroughly enjoyable novel by Scots author Doug Johnstone, you get exactly what it says on the tin, or I should say cover.

Hit & Run tells the story of an accident, three young professionals on their way home in the early hours, drunk and off their heads with goodness knows what, when suddenly, boom, they hit a man in the middle of the road.

If the driver had then done the right thing, called the police and an ambulance, this would have been a short story. Thank goodness they didn't.

Do you ever, in the silent hours when you can't sleep, think back on your life and try to map out the precise choices and decisions that you made that brought you to where you are now? We think that we can plan out our lives, that we are in charge of the big decisions that ultimately determine our destiny, but are we? How would our lives be different if we'd gone home that night by bus or if we hadn't gone to that party or if we hadn't answered the phone that particular day?

Doug Johnstone examines in Hit & Run how one fateful act can alter the course of our lives forever, how one wrong decision made in a panic, can drastically affect everything that we know and hold dear from that moment on.

Hit & Run is mostly set in the small area of Edinburgh in and around the Scottish Parliament, Dynamic Earth and Arthur's Seat, well known by natives and tourists alike. He expertly brings together the genteel elegance of the city and its dirty underpants, one never far away from the other. There are suggestions of corruption at all levels in the city and as Billy, the main character, drives around from the rich to the mean streets, his guilt swelling like a mushroom in the dark, he takes on a one man crusade to sort out the moral and criminal mess that the accident has uncovered, a mess not of his making but one he powerfully released as if he had squeezed the trigger of a starting pistol.

Paired down to it's main components, Johnstone never loses his goal, doesn't get sidetracked into other character's lives even though this would have been easy to do and interesting for the reader. Billy is Johnstone's focus, his is the story to tell and as the clock ticks inside Billy's head, he launches himself down a path of destruction in a bid to make amends for one quick mistake.

Great reading so don't miss out on this one.
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on 24 May 2012
The book is well written and keeps the reader on the edge of the seat, or to put it bluntly to keep reading into the wee hours of the morning! The plot thickens with the soon to be (ex) girlfriend and the 'honour amongst thieves' to keep order in a seemingly dull and predictable modern life style. This is bound to be upstaged by intrigue, deceit and obvious mystique with the brother in the medical field. The hero prevails and the deceptor does the honourable act, albeit to his and his friends/colleagues detriment. A good read, with a feel-good feeling at the end. I would recommend the book for travellers who cant sleep on a plane or want a book to read at the beach and want enjoyable reading without it being too complicated or having to re-read a previous chapter to get back on track with the story line. It was uncomplicated enjoyable reading.
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on 5 December 2015
This is slightly unfair on the author because the last book I read was an absolutely superb read and everything else compares unfavourably. However I gave it 50% but just had to give up on it.

My issue here, I think, is that in ‘Hit and Run’ there was poor character development. I didn’t like anyone. I didn’t like the protagonist, I didn’t like his girlfriend or brother, I didn’t like the villains, and I didn’t even like ‘busty’ Rose. And I certainly didn’t like Adele, although she was the most interesting. It just seemed highly unlikely that a socialite, Sloane Ranger type of gangster’s moll would take a shine to a pill-popping junior reporter like Billy.

And because I didn’t like any of them, I couldn’t care less about what happened to any of them. I was mildly interested in how it would all pan out, but not enough for me to read the rest of the book.

Should I judge a book on just 50%? Is that fair? Shouldn’t I read the whole book in order to write a full review? Well, how much soup do you have to drink before you realise you don’t like it?

So apologies to Doug Johnstone, but I found the story lacking in spirit and bite.
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VINE VOICEon 23 May 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This novel is brilliant. There is no unnecessary description, and the dialogue is natural. I love the way the story gets straight to the point of whatever is afoot at the time. I almost read it in an afternoon.

At first I was amazed at the pill popping, but then realised that much of it was due to Billy's state of mind at the time, and also his easy access to various medications. He is so tortured by what has happened that he is gradually self destructing.

The story unfolds from a dramatic start and ends dramatically too. I couldn't put it down, as I wanted to know how on earth things would work out. I daresay it makes most readers wonder how they would react in a similar situation.

I liked the way the dog was woven into the story. The fact that he cared about it seemed to emphasise the fact that he was not the sort of person to hit and run.

I could picture the crag and the path, though perhaps if I actually went there it would look different. I think we all use bits of places we've seen in our lives, and fit them with descriptions we read in books.

I would definitely recommend this book.
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on 4 March 2015
Hit and Run is about a young journalist, Billy. Starting out in his career he becomes embroiled in a huge story, with a major twist at the end. Billy and his friends are involved in a car accident where the local crime lord is killed. Billy and the passengers in his car cover up the whole story… with disastrous consequences.
I found Billy to be very irritating, including his permanently taking of illegal substances – a part which seemed unnecessary to the plot and didn't add anything to the characters.
This should have been a great story – it’s what made me buy the book in the first place, plus the excellent reviews. But I found it lacking…especially the characters –in fact I found almost everyone unlikeable from drug taking Billy, his doctor brother (who supplied the drugs), his girlfriend and to the wife of the crime lord.
I think on the whole the book was unrealistic for me, and the inevitable ending was too fast and efficient.
I found it to be a ‘so-so’ read and alas, not one of my recent favourites.
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on 14 March 2012
A fast paced thriller with a good insight into how remorse about actions can tear you apart. As is usual with his books the dialogue is streaked with dark humour, the characters come alive and so does Edinburgh. I really enjoyed the book. With each book the writing gets better and he now has a place in tartan noir along with Brookmyre and McBride.
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on 12 March 2016
A rather clever shot of noir in the form of Hit & Run served as my introduction to the writing of Doug Johnstone and the premise made for an irresistible opportunity; the chance to witness the worst case scenario as a life spirals out of control, all from the safety of the readers seat! Meet trainee crime reporter Billy Blackmore, perhaps a tad naive and easily led but on the whole a decent young man and pretty nondescript. The event which wreaks havoc on his life is driving home tanked up to the eyeballs on a cocktail of booze and pills and doing just what the title implies. Big brother and junior doctor Charlie contributes the stolen hospital medical supplies, girlfriend Zoe and the perks of her job brings the free schnapps and things are going swimmingly until Billy swerves and hits a pedestrian. With the trio all sitting on new jobs calling the police will mean arrest, prison, career suicide and Charlie being struck off... When Billy reaches for his mobile to report the incident, Charlie swears blind that the man is dead and convinces Billy that keeping quiet and disposing of the body over the Crags is the best option.

Fast-foward to the following morning when Rose, Billy's mentor at the Evening Standard newspaper calls him with the scoop of the century and Billy finds himself being taken back to the scene of the crime and getting a lot more than he bargained for. When the dead man is revealed as local hard nut Frank Whitehouse and Billy find the body has been moved, hence was not quite as dead as Charlie thought, this sets in motion a chain of events fuelling a gangland warfare. Keeping quiet becomes the hardest thing for Billy to do as a combination of guilt and an array of substances see his life unravel. The repercussions make for the stuff of nightmares and will have readers hiding behind their seats!

The strength of the book is provided by the character of Rose, her concern and mothering of Billy undoubtedly adds to the feeling that he is a little boy way out of his depth and with her endearments and nicknames ranging from 'Kiddo' to 'Scoop' and comedy timing she is magic. The dialogue works well too and Rose will leave readers wincing as she comments to Billy:

"You're way too close to this whole thing, to the point where you're part of the story."

There isn't much to like about Zoe and Charlie and I suspect that it is Johnstone's intention to make his readers a little indifferent to the pair and hence empathise with Billy all the more. It is particularly hard to have sympathy for Charlie with his blasé attitude as his younger brother self-destructs. I thought the attachment which Billy formed with dog Jeanie made sense and served as a clever prop, highlighting the devotion and loyalty of a pets love in contrast to Charlie and Zoe merely watching their own backs. The scene of the action in the form of Salisbury Crags brings a sense of foreboding, that a life is on the edge of a precipice and could go either way.

At 250 pages Hit & Run is full of short, punchy chapters and Johnstone pitches his readers into the pressure cooker experience that Billy faces. This isn't subtle by any means but it is powerful and will leave your head buzzing and wondering if a clever game of manipulation has just played out. Full of drugs, sex and violence Hit & Run is fantastically funny and is a pleasure to read from the safety of your own home! All in all more than enough to see me back for more of what Doug Johnstone has to offer!

Review written by Rachel Hall (@hallrachel)
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on 5 September 2015
This is the first Doug Johnstone book I've read and it won't be the last! It starts off great and from there it keeps you guessing right to the very end. I think Mr Johnstone is one of the most descriptive authors I have ever read and this book is certainly up there with the best I've read this year. Smokeheads for me next I think. Nice work DJ, thanks.
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on 7 September 2015
Good read but the ending could have been extended like What happened next? I was a little concerned over the pill popping and the way the pills were obtained, but I guess those who want to end their lives this goes on. The storyline was very plausible with a few drinks and pills on board and totally unfit to drive but you do anyway only this ended in the car hitting and killing someone, panic sets in and the body moved, only for it to be discovered a fair distance from where it was dumped. At that point the big mystery deepens and the guy driving the car just happens to be a newspaper reporter and he is sent to cover the story of the body's discovery. There is a lot of soul searching etc going on before the eventual stand off between two rival gangs with the reporter already on site. The rest you will have to read yourself
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