- Book: Breakers
- Location: Edinburgh
- Author: Doug Johnstone
A salutary story of being born on the wrong side of the tracks. This is Edinburgh with its classy New Town, its bourgeois houses, but this is also the city with a struggling underclass, and in parts of the city, there are young souls sucked into the swamp of violence and depravity. The city hides its underprivileged well….
The Wallace family, headed by mum Angela (she is in fact only the nominal head as she spends most of her time passed out taking heroin and under the influence of alcohol) is living in the last 2 standing but derelict tower blocks in Niddrie. Barry, the oldest son in this dysfunctional family unit is a nutter and criminal, shacked up with his sister Kelly, and a particular bully to younger half brother Tyler.
This is Tyler’s story as he straddles the demands of his birth family, looking after tiny sister Bean (Bethany), trying to keep his head above water as Barry exerts his nasty, manipulative control over the individuals in his family.
Tyler is coerced into criminal activity by Barry and largely acquiesces to protect little Bean. He does his best by her. One evening they break and enter a house and end up stabbing a woman. She is the wife of Edinburgh’s biggest crime lord (I would have thought a crime lord would have state-of-the-art protection and surveillance to scupper any random intruders?). The Wallace family is now clearly truly doomed.
Tyler is beside himself that things have got this far. He can see the writing on the wall. It is just happenstance that he comes across Flick from Loretto (one of the posh schools in Edinburgh) where she has been parked by her parents who are busy flitting around the world working in armaments and protection. The two, from very different social classes, have both lacked the nurturing care of parents and thus find a mutually supportive bond.
The author has a lovely linear way of writing, he moves effortlessly from one scene to the next. It’s quite cinematic. The thrum of the Wallace’s Skoda (a Skoda blends in well, apparently), as it patrols the well healed streets looking for new targets, forms the backing track… imagine the theme tune to The Sopranos and you have the feel of the wheels turning; the author’s words purr, broken by the sound of breaking glass as yet another burglary is underway. It is a poignant story.
Edinburgh gets a good look in and if you know the city, you will find plenty of familiar places to get you in the mood for literary wanderlust.