Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Genre: Coming of Age
Approximate word count: 40-45,000 words
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John Carnell used to write comic books for Marvel. He then created his own comic series followed by working on two movies. More recently John has written a screenplay, developed mobile apps, and published his first novel, Thugs Like Us.
You can learn more about the author on his blog.
Based on a true story, Thugs Like Us, is set in the late 1970’s Britain. Jimmy is a troubled teenager. He lives in a dead end seaside town and believes life holds nothing for him other than a life of substance abuse and sex. Then Jimmy’s brother goes AWOL from the army and plans a robbery which potentially gives Jimmy a way out.
This is a decent story of a teenager living on a rundown council estate in a difficult period of British history. The scenes are played out against a backdrop of the rise of punk, a cultural reaction to the grey days of the time. The story unfolds through the eyes of protagonist Jimmy. The reader feels his angst at a life being wasted – he knows it and can do nothing about it. He and his friends, not the greatest of influences, pass the time by taking drugs, getting drunk, and getting into fights. Jimmy is a troubled soul, with a difficult home life and unable to form relationships with the opposite sex.
Thugs Like Us is apparently based on a true story and it certainly feels like the reader has dropped into a series of events in Jimmy’s life. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. The characters are reasonably well drawn, particularly Jimmy himself who has a strong voice.
The writing is gritty, the language harsh and fits well with the period. The setting itself is strong, life on the estate is believable. There is a sense of humour running through the story which helps lift it from simply being a bleak tale. The ending is drawn together well, giving Jimmy a potential future but still a challenge ahead.
As a reflection on a period of history it is well done. Overall, a pretty good and relatively well written story.
Rating: *** Three Stars