SLAMMER marks something of a stylistic departure from Guthrie's previous novels. Many of the hallmarks from prior books are still there -violence, humour, abnormal psychology- but handled in a more introspective and sombre way.
Previous books played around with different points of view, showing how each character would interpret events in a different way. For SLAMMER we spend the whole book in one character's head, and see how one person alone can interpret things in many different ways.
The character in question is Nicholas Glass, a young an inexperienced prison officer. He feels trapped in the job by the need to provide for his family, a simple enough motive that most of us can relate to at one point or another. Guthrie uses that point of empathy to draw us ever deeper into the maze of the plot, and of Glass's own mind. He feels isolated and alone, and see's that everyone in the prison is out to get him. The inmates hate him, and his fellow guards ridicule him. Everybody senses this weakness, and the sense of menace closes in around him like a noose. It's not long before he starts making the wrong choices under pressure, and if you're in an Allan Guthrie book, that's not the safest route to take.
Who can Glass trust? Who can the reader trust?
SLAMMER is a book that focuses more on the affects of trauma and violence than it does on the actions themselves. It's both playful and mature in equal measure, and it sets challenges for both the characters and the readers. But don't worry, if you're coming to this book looking for more of Guthrie's trademark dark humour, or sparks of grisly violence, you'll find more than enough of that here.
SLAMMER breaks a few moulds and creates a few new ones, and the result is one of the finest examples of Noir in recent years.