Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words
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Gerard Brennan lives in Northern Ireland with his family and is currently studying for an MA in creative writing at Belfast University. Gerard has previously published several other works including a novella, The Point and contributed to a number of anthologies.
You can learn more about Gerard on his website.
Wee Rockets follows a gang of teenagers as they rampage through Belfast, Northern Ireland. The gang is led by Joe and his sidekick Danny as they undertake ‘petty’ crime. But Joe decides to step aside and Liam takes his place. However, Liam isn’t interested in small time crime that only generates beer money, his is a plan with much higher stakes.
This is a cleverly plotted story with many subtle and not-so-subtle aspects. First Wee Rockets is set just after The Troubles that so wracked the country. It is a strong, but not distracting backdrop. Almost everyone has problems as a result, be it bad relationships, unemployment or just plain boredom. In fact, pretty much every character in Wee Rockets is dislikable and flawed. The gang themselves have virtually no prospects in life, however they do not fight for them either – they take from others weaker than themselves, including their own gang members. Thinking about it this could be the case in any underclass society in a deprived area, not just Belfast.
There’s another element about the characters in that even the ‘good’ guys, those not in the gang, aren’t exactly whiter than white. One, Stephen, is so keen to rid the estate of the problem that he starts a relationship with one of the kid’s mothers.
As Wee Rockets progresses the behaviours worsen, from petty violence to assault and battery and to attempted murder. It’s not pretty, but it remains believable. That’s what gives this book real depth and interest. The dialogue is excellent, riddled with interesting, local dialect. The sense of place is equally powerful.
Here’s an example of the no-holds-barred narrative at the beginning of the story:
They spilled out of the alley and surrounded the blue-rinse bitch like a cursing tornado. She screamed, but they moved too fast for the curtain-twitchers to react. Broken nose bleeding, she dropped her handbag and tried to fend off the kicks and punches.
This is another piece of first-rate work from Gerard Brennan.
Rating: **** Four Stars