Monday 2 November 2009

‘The most original book I have read this year’

That’s the heading for a 5-star review of Nicky Singer’s Knight Crew on ‘This is – and isn’t – a book about street gangs being drawn into knife crime, about warring factions on two tough estates; about a weird baglady. Yes, the kids are believable – the gang leader and his challengers; the geeky boy who shouldn’t be underestimated. But there is something else going on in this story – an astounding, highly original twist that gradually reveals itself – and soon you will realise this is a whole different story from the one you thought you were reading.’

A similar line is taken by Angela Kiverstein in the Jewish Chronicle: ‘Teenage passions are played out against a background of grim estates, gang feuds and knife crime and told in authentic street language. That’s the story on one level but, as the plot progresses, it becomes clear that something deeper and more extraordinary is going on. To explain would be to pre-empt the pleasure of discovery.’

A blog review of the book by David Hebblethwaite starts off by referring to the very thing the above notices want readers to discover for themselves; but really it doesn’t matter what your point of entry into the book is. Knight Crew ‘draws on one of the most fundamental of all British stories, a story which deals in archetypes. Nicky Singer has brought together the old and new to craft a fable that demonstrates the enduring relevance of even the most apparently well-worn legends, whilst asking questions about the world in which we live today.’

The above are good notices, but not yet good enough. For small presses especially, the amount of kissing, licking and generally leaning on people you have to engage in to get any attention for a book is usually out of all proportion to the actual results; but just occasionally someone will pick up the book and SHOUT, and kiss you back, and I’m still hoping for that.

(A PS to the previous post: I did once know the ghost writer of a celeb biography who, after the book was published and got some good reviews, decided that he did after all want his name on the title page. Too late, said the publisher: you signed the contract, you’re a ghost and you stay that way.)

1 comment:

David said...

Fascinating to see the different approaches people have to reviews, what does and doesn't constitute a spoiler. My approach to the book was definitely influenced by the fact that I first heard it described in terms of the aspect to which you (don't) refer (indeed, that was what attracted me to reading Knight Crew), so it seemed a natural starting-point for the review. Who knows how I'd have felt in other circumstances?

As for volubility: I can't speak for others, but personally I'm not the shouty type, even for the books I love the most (though I'll talk about them passionately, and I hope that comes through in the writing). But I'm sure Knight Crew will not be short of attention in a few months' time...