As Glasgow's best known hard man (albeit rehabilitated), there's no denying Jimmy Boyle's credentials when it comes to writing a novel such as this. But wielding a razor against unlucky opponents in one's youth isn't exactly a training for a writing career, and though Boyle has established himself as a writer of genuine sociological gifts, the novel is a whole different ballgame. Within pages of Hero of the Underworld, it's clear that Boyle has been able to parley his bloody experience into a taught and extremely well-written crime novel. After 10 years inside, the eponymous Hero is back on the streets. Coming to terms with a changed and dangerous new world of spivs, violent criminals, dead-end jobs and grisly accommodation, it's a Herculean effort just to survive. And when Hero finds himself organising a motley crew of former mental hospital patients to take a stand against the collected might of the underworld, the results are often surprisingly comic as well as tense. In fact, the blackly comic aspects of Boyle's debut novel are often the most beguiling surprise here: the authenticity of the tangy dialogue is something you'd expect as a matter of course. This tragi-comic chronicle of the disadvantaged handles its themes of danger and redemption with assurance and verve. --Barry Forshaw
"In the vain of Jonathan Swift with a touch of William Burroughs." - Steven Berkoff
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February 1999 : UK Paperback