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on 3 September 2011
Having read Alan Bissett's previous books I thought the subject matter of this book might be problematic for me as a season ticker holder at Celtic park. Delighted to say I was wrong - couldn't put the book down as was mesmerized by the tale of Alvin and his Falkirk mates en route to Glasgow Rangers' unsuccessful EUEFA cup final bid in Manchester. Alan captures perfectly the very essence of pack mentality and sensitively tackles the thorny issue of sectarianism in today's Scotland. The character development is fascinating with the plot flitting effortlessly between testosterone fueled bravado and soul crushing angst. A must read for all, not just fans of football - an intelligent, witty read.
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on 9 September 2016
Within the first ten pages we have inaccurate words to a song, followed by a so called Rangers fan on a supporters bus referring to everyone as a "hun" as if this was somehow a positive term for Bears! I am a middle aged man of the world who has supported Rangers all my life and never once have I heard this derogatory term being used by a fellow Rangers supporter to describe us!

And then we have the biggest travelling support the football world has ever seen (conservative estimates widely reported as between 200,000 and a quarter of a million) being downgraded to "150,000 glory hunters"!

No surprise that the author is a Scottish Nationalist whose prejudices and hatred of Rangers and anything Unionist distort his ability to remain anywhere close to reality! Considering Bisset's previous works have included a story about paedophilia, he would be better served writing about what he knows in the future, maybe a book about Celtic's disgusting past awaits us...
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on 14 October 2011
I normally take up to 2 weeks to read a book cover to cover. On this occasion I read Pack Men in three days. It grabbed me from the start though I was keen to get a copy as I had been one of the thousands that descended on Manchester that day. The characters came to life for me very quickly & I was able to recognise their traits in many of my own friends. After reading it, I gave the book to my mate who had travelled to Manchester with me but he didn't like it as much. As a result of enjoying the book so much I'll probably look to read more of Alan Bissett's work.
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on 11 November 2011
In Pack Men We are reintroduced to Alvin, a charcter from one of Bissett's previous novels, Boyracers. The book opens with Alvin on board a Rangers supporters bus en route to Manchester for the UEFA Cup final. What follows is a story of a man unsure of who he is, wrestling with issues of class, sexuality and sectarianism. The football, or rather the build up to the game, merely acts as the backdrop to Alvin's unfolding story.

Alvin has now graduated from university and is living in Edinburgh and the UEFA cup final is a convenient excuse for him to get together with old pals, Frankie and Dolby. Brian has emigrated and is cleverly replaced by Dolby's young son, Jack, ensuring the pack of 4 remains. Other members of the supporters bus also feature heavily in the story including the man mountain of testosterone Cage and the engaging Chrissie.

As we progress through the book it's clear each character has their own story to tell yet Bissett expertly entwines the characters stories around each other. This allows the book to unfold naturally, with each character given their place in the spotlight at the appropriate time.

From the 1st page of the book the issue of Sectarianism, quite literally, shouts out at us. Throughout the book the issue is debated, discussed and in some cases disregarded by each of the characters. Bissett's fresh approach to discussing this ever thorny subject, prevalent across Glasgow and other areas of Central Scotland, is to be commended. He opens up the debate in a much more honest, open way than others before him have. He is also quick to challenge our preconceptions of some of the supporters we encounter, dispelling the myth that all football supporters are knuckle dragging neanderthals.

It is however Alvin, struggling to come to terms with his own identity, who is the star of the book. As his story unfolds, with clever flashbacks to his student days interspersing the ever more chaotic scenes from Manchester, it becomes clear he has a secret he wishes to share.

This book is much more than a novel about a fan's trip to see his team play football. It will make you laugh, make you think and when you reach the last page you will hope it's not the last time you encounter Alvin and the boys from Falkirk.
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on 8 December 2013
Rather than having a purely Scottish, old-firm view of this book - I took it more as an example of the difficulties with male bonding. Particularly, the extension of friendships way past school days. At school, the most precociously confident, and the physically and mentally strongest rule the roost. As time goes by, other strengths come through, and many of those who took a back seat at school show their own strengths, and one way or another challenge their peers who had ruled, perhaps with fear, either mental or physical, when younger.

The pack mentality, and the difficulties in resisting such behaviour is well covered. Also, similarly, covered, was the mixing with the unknown during fresher days at university.

Some of us like football purely because we like football, and our team, chosen for a multitude of reasons (perhaps more so outside Scotland where there are often seriously strong pressures to follow just two teams) is followed mainly because it is more fun to have a close relationship and a shared history. As this book partly illustrates, there are many negative aspects to football support - not the fault of the game itself. It really is tribal, as Desmond Morris pointed out many years ago.

I did find the inclusion of childhood memories a little strange. The inclusion of sections about the sexual behaviour of the main character also seemed a little unnecessary.
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on 14 November 2015
Bought a used book which had the description of 'very good' for the quality, have to admit I'm a little disappointed. Quality is just average with a tea stain all the way through, if I had known I would have just paid the extra price and got a brand new one. However the book itself is pretty good
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on 12 June 2012
I was massively disappointed by this dry ride of a book. Its being sold as a story about friendship and football but it primarily concerns the main character's sexual identity and the spaces that arise between old friends whose lives have changed. You can see the twist coming a mile off and you won't care anyway because the main character is so unlikeable. And that's only one of the elements that doesn't ring true: the characters are paper thin and hail from Falkirk ("Fawkurt") not Glasgow, they don't appear to know the words to even the most simple Rangers songs and they don't actually attend the match.

More importantly, the book does not tackle the issue of sectarianism in any way as the characters are all idiotic bigots apart from the main character who is resolutely not a fan of the club and considers himself above it all. So there is no perspective whatsoever on the vast majority of the 200,000 supporters who travelled to Manchester, supported their club and behaved impeccably throughout. Or indeed the conflict that those decent supporters felt towards those that were intent on trouble and let the club and everyone else down. Quite simply this story could have been told around any football club or any game so framing it around Rangers FC and the 2008 UEFA Cup Final simply feels like a cynical, lazy, cash-in. Avoid.
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on 28 January 2014
Great read, I like the way it's laid out too, it seems to add extra punctuation, if that makes sense.
I bought this after hearing young Mr. Bissett recite "Vote Britain" I'm pleased to report his books are just as sincere yet down to earth and strraight to the heart as his performances are. This guy is going to go global.
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on 3 September 2011
Bought this book at Edinburgh Book Festival. Have read all Alan's books and once again I was not Disappointed. This book is about a group of Rangers fans heading to Manchester for the Europa cup final. It includes a cross section of Rangers supporters, with a cuckoo in the nest. You may think this book is aimed at Rangers supporters, but it is not, it is about much more than a football club and their fans. It includes many of the cast of Alan's previous book Boyracers. I recommend you all to buy this book, in fact buy all Alan's books. You will not be disappointed. Not that it matters, I am a Celtic fan and I loved this book.
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on 26 July 2012
I must admit, I am a big fan of Alan's work so I came to this prepared to love it. I was not disappointed. Even though I DETEST football. One of the few writers that can make me laugh and move me to tears in a matter of pages. Pretty racy stuff too, always a bonus! Wonderful.
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